Pamela Karlan, Stanford Law School professor and co-director of the school's Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, was one of three legal scholars who testified in front of the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday that President Donald Trump has committed impeachable offenses in his efforts to pressure Ukraine.
"Based on the evidentiary record, what has happened in the case before you is something that I do not think we have ever seen before: a president who has doubled down on violating his oath to 'faithfully execute' the laws and to 'protect and defend the Constitution,'" she said in her opening statement. "The evidence reveals a president who used the powers of his office to demand that a foreign government participate in undermining a competing candidate for the presidency."
Karlan was called by the Democrats to testify, along with Harvard University professor Noah Feldman and University of North Carolina professor Michael Gerhardt. All three agreed Trump's actions with Ukraine met the legal standard for impeachable offenses.
"Everything I know about our Constitution and its values, and my review of the evidentiary record, tells me that when President Trump invited — indeed, demanded — foreign involvement in our upcoming election, he struck at the very heart of what makes this country the 'republic' to which we pledge allegiance," she said. "That demand constituted an abuse of power."
Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University who was invited to testify by the committee's Republicans (and testified during former President Bill Clinton's impeachment hearings), disagreed, stating that "the current legal case for impeachment is not just woefully inadequate, but in some respects, dangerous, as the basis for the impeachment of an American president."
In Karlan's opening statement, she compared Trump's now infamous July 25 phone call with the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, to the president responding to a U.S. governor's request for disaster assistance with a request for a political favor in exchange for relief funds.
"Imagine living in a part of Louisiana or Texas that's prone to devastating hurricanes and flooding. What would you think if, when your governor asked the federal government for the disaster assistance that Congress has provided, the President responded, 'I would like you to do us a favor.' I'll meet with you and send the disaster relief once you brand my opponent a criminal.'?" Karlan said. "Wouldn't you know in your gut that such a president had abused his office, betrayed the national interest, and tried to corrupt the electoral process?"
Karlan made headlines for firing back at Rep. Doug Collins, a ranking committee member from Georgia, after he suggested that the law professors "couldn't have possibly actually digested" a report on the House Intelligence Committee's impeachment hearings.
"I would like to say to you, sir, that I read transcripts of every one of the witnesses who appeared in the live hearing because I would not speak about these things without reviewing the facts," Karlan retorted. "I'm insulted by the suggestion that as a law professor I don't care about those facts."
Karlan was blasted for making a comment about Trump's son, Barron Trump, during the hearing to make the point that the president cannot be treated like a king. She later apologized for the comment.
Karlan has taught at Stanford since 1998 and is described in her university biography as "one of the nation's leading experts on voting and the political process." Her primary scholarly interests are in the areas of constitutional litigation and the law of democracy. She is also the co-author of several leading casebooks, according to her biography.
She's been on lists for possible Supreme Court nominees. In 2009, The New York Times described her as "a champion of gay rights, criminal defendants' rights and voting rights ... considered brilliant, outspoken and, in her own words, 'sort of snarky.'"
Karlan has served as a commissioner on the California Fair Political Practices Commission; an assistant counsel and cooperating attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund; and a deputy assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. During her time at the Department of Justice, she received the department's highest award for employee performance for her role on the team responsible for implementing the Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Windsor, which ruled a section of the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.
In October, Karlan argued in front of the Supreme Court that federal civil rights law protects employees from job discrimination because of their sexual orientation.
Before her teaching career, Karlan served as a law clerk to Justice Harry A. Blackmun of the U.S. Supreme Court. She received her bachelor's, master's and juris doctorate degrees from Yale University.
On Thursday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House of Representatives would begin drafting impeachment articles against Trump.