Stanford Law School professor Pamela Karlan, one of three witnesses called by Democrats to testify on the first day of the House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment inquiry, once admitted to despising President Donald Trump so much that she crossed the street rather than walk by one of his hotels.
In a 2017 American Constitution Society panel discussion — which also included former Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol and was moderated by the Washington Post‘s Ruth Marcus — Karlan repeatedly launched into rants about Trump’s “outrageous” behavior both before and after he was elected, repeatedly saying that he “worries” her and questioning whether he is able to tell the difference between truth and falsehood.
She shared the anecdote about avoiding the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC, in her very first statement for the panel. “I came in from the airport yesterday and I got off the bus from Dulles down at L’Enfant Plaza and I walked up to the hotel and as I was walking past what used to be the old post office building and is now Trump hotel… I had to cross the street, of course,” she said.
“Are you staying there?” Neil Siegel, a fellow panelist, asked.
Karlan responded, “God, no! Never!”
Karlan went on to characterize Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump as “inexperienced and loopy” and criticized Trump for his lack of public service experience prior to becoming president.
“This is the first time in our country’s history that we have elected a president who, before he became president, had never served in public service for a minute, a second, a nanosecond of his entire life, and we are reaping the whirlwind of that,” she said.
At one point, Karlan claimed President Trump does not believe in democracy, citing his opposition to Hillary Clinton.
My candidate for norm that has been violated that is the most critical is the norm of a belief in democracy. We have a president who fundamentally doesn’t believe in it. How do we know this? I’m going to look back to the campaign… threatening to put your opponent in jail when you’re running. Saying that you will only accept the result of the election if you win. Believing that, despite all of the evidence, you won the popular vote because there’s massive vote fraud. Creating a commission to look into voting in the United States that is so stacked with people who have already announced that they think that there are huge numbers of unqualified people voting, as opposed to being worried about the number of qualified people who can’t vote. Not believing in the rule of law– [MODERATOR: “So-called judges…”] “So-called judges.” I mean, we have a president who, for the first time, at least in my lifetime, does not even give lip service to the idea that this country is a democracy and that people should participate in the government. And that you need a free press. So instead of the Declaration of Independence, we now have “We hold this alternative reality to be self-evident.” And that really worries me. Because I think when the elite tells the people, ‘Don’t believe in democracy,’ it’s very hard to pull that back. And that’s the norm, just the belief that this country is a country of self-government, that has been blown through by this president and that, I think, has to be reclaimed. [emphasis added]
Karlan also questioned whether President Trump can clearly distinguish between “truth” and “falsity.”
“Do you think the president even knows that there is such a thing as the truth? What worries me here is, you talk about, ‘Well, people say things they know to be false,'” she stated. “What worries me with him is I don’t think the category of truth vs. falsity necessarily is something baked into him.”
At one point, began singing lyrics from the Broadway musical Candide and explained, “I burst into song all the time, and the thing that worries me is we’ve got a president who wants to sing ‘Tomorrow Belongs to Me’ [from Cabaret].”
Karlan also claimed President Trump has “sexually assaulted more women than 99.99% of all of the people who have entered this country illegally.” The aside came in the middle of a monologue where she expressed fear that Trump’s opponents may never reach a “red-light moment” to end his term in office.
“Every day Trump says something outrageous and people go, ‘ah, at least it’s not as outrageous as the day-before thing.’ I remember this during the campaign, where he would say things, and you would think, ‘okay, that’s the end.’ When he mocked John McCain for having been shot down. When he made fun of the reporter with the disability. When the infamous tapes about grabbing women came out, and you kept thinking– [KRISTOL: “The Mexican judge”] The Mexican judge, the rapists — Donald Trump has sexually assaulted more women than 99.99% of all of the people who have entered this country illegally. By himself, he’s done more. And people have stopped — think about it, because it’s just like every day it’s a new one. And I worry about that, because I think that may stop us from ever getting to the red-light moment.” [emphasis added]
The Stanford Law School professor also insinuated that President Trump is trying to “destabilize the courts” to shift blame if a major terrorist attack happens on his watch.
“What worries me is, imagine that the next disaster is something like the [Oklahoma City] bombing. He’s gonna claim it was Muslims. And there’s gonna be backlash and there’s gonna be all kinds of problems there. Look at the fact that we haven’t had a mass terrorist attack in the United States, but we’ve had some pretty serious crimes since he’s become president, and look at how long it took him to say anything about the stabbing of those two men on the metro train in Portland… Part of why he’s trying to destabilize the courts is so there will be somebody else to blame rather than him if something goes wrong.”
Karlan made headlines for her heated testimony Wednesday, castigating House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Doug Collins (R-GA) in her opening statement and invoking the name of Trump’s teenage son Barron for a dig against the president. Among her reasons for proceeding with impeachment, Karlan cited Trump’s campaign-trail joke that “Russia, if you’re listening,” should find and publish the deleted emails of Hillary Clinton from the unsecured homebrew server which handled her communications while Secretary of State.
According to FEC records, Karlan donated $1,000 to the presidential campaign of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) in July. When pressed on that fact by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Karlan vented during another lawmaker’s time: “I have a constitutional right under the First Amendment to give money to candidates. At the same time, we have a constitutional duty to keep foreigner from spending money in our elections.”