WASHINGTON - Fox News' senior judicial analyst, Andrew Napolitano, said Thursday that the summary released by the White House of a July 25 phone call between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky demonstrates "both criminal and impeachable behavior" by Trump.
Though the president has said it was a "perfect call" and that the summary exonerates him, Napolitano said in an opinion piece that the call showed that Trump was guilty of violating campaign finance law, bribery and intimidating witnesses.
The former New Jersey judge's opinion made a social media splash because he works for a cable news network that is home to pro-Trump media figures like Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Jeanine Pirro and the hosts of "Fox & Friends." The article repeated several points Napolitano has made on air since the scandal broke.
Napolitano has bucked his conservative colleagues before, particularly with his view that special counsel Robert Mueller also revealed impeachable offenses.
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"The criminal behavior to which Trump has admitted is much more grave than anything alleged or unearthed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and much of what Mueller revealed was impeachable," Napolitano wrote Thursday about Trump's call to Zelensky.
The call is at the center of an impeachment inquiry after a whistleblower complaint accused Trump of "using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election." Trump is alleged to have used approved military aid as leverage to demand that Ukraine investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, who has generally led in Democratic primary polling.
Though the president and his defenders have denied evidence of a "quid pro quo" in the phone call, Napolitano said that Trump's request for a "favor" after Zelensky spoke of his need for anti-tank missiles was a "clear unmistakable inference" that approved military aid "would be held up until the favor was delivered."
"The favor he sought was dirt on Biden," Napolitano said.
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Napolitano also said the "president need not have committed a crime in order to be impeached, but he needs to have engaged in behavior that threatens the constitutional stability of the United States or the rule of law as we have come to know it."
The judge decried Trump's verbal attacks on the whistleblower and "suggesting that the whistleblower and those who have helped him are spies and ought to be treated as spies were in 'the old days' (Trump's phrase) - that is, by hanging."
He called Trump's "allusions to violence are palpably dangerous" and said they "will give cover to crazies who crave violence, as other intemperate words of his have done."
And he said that Trump's retweet of a pastor's suggestion that impeachment could lead to civil war was "a dog whistle to the deranged."
Napolitano expressed shock that Trump would try to engage a country to interfere in the 2020 election immediately after Mueller's investigation, which outlined a "sweeping and systematic" Russian campaign to sway the 2016 election.
"Now he has attempted in one phone call to bring the Ukrainian government into the 2020 election! Does he understand the laws he has sworn to uphold?" Napolitano asked. "It was to remedy just such reckless, constitutionally destructive behavior that impeachment was intended."
Napolitano's opinion sparked the ire of many Fox News viewers as well as Fox News contributor and former U.S. Attorney Joe DiGenova who called Napolitano "a fool" during an appearance on "Tucker Carlson Tonight."
"Nothing that the president said on that call or what we think he said on that call constitutes a crime," DiGenova said. "And even if he had said you're not going to get the money it would not be a crime."
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump Ukraine call 'criminal and impeachable,' Fox's Napolitano says