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More than 500 legal scholars sign letter saying Trump committed 'impeachable conduct'

(CNN) More than 500 legal scholars signed on to a letter published Friday accusing President Donald Trump of having "engaged in impeachable conduct" in his dealings in Ukraine.

"There is overwhelming evidence that President Trump betrayed his oath of office by seeking to use presidential power to pressure a foreign government to help him distort an American election, for his personal and political benefit, at the direct expense of national security interests as determined by Congress," they wrote. "His conduct is precisely the type of threat to our democracy that the Founders feared when they included the remedy of impeachment in the Constitution."

The letter comes after four other legal scholars testified at the first House Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing Wednesday, with three of them making the case for impeaching Trump.

The dozens of academics -- hailing from a variety of educational institutions including Yale, Columbia and Rutgers -- said in the letter that they were not taking a stance on whether Trump committed a crime.

"But conduct need not be criminal to be impeachable," the group added. "The standard here is constitutional; it does not depend on what Congress has chosen to criminalize."

They pointed to treason and bribery as the two potential charges prompting impeachment "because they include conduct undertaken not in the 'faithful execution' of public office that the Constitution requires, but instead for personal gain (bribery) or to benefit a foreign enemy (treason)."

The scholars cited Trump's phone call asking the Ukrainian President for a "favor," his and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney's public statements about the call, Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani's role pursuing Ukrainian investigations, and testimony from top US diplomat in Ukraine Bill Taylor and US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland that Trump held military aid and White House visits as incentives for Ukraine to launch investigations into his political rivals.

The group highlighted impeachment as a key check against "conduct that corrupts elections."

"Corrupting elections subverts the process by which the Constitution makes the president democratically accountable," the scholars wrote. "Put simply, if a President cheats in his effort at re-election, trusting the democratic process to serve as a check through that election is no remedy at all. That is what impeachment is for."