House Judiciary Committee Releases Impeachment Report

The House Judiciary Committee moved one step closer to impeachment.

Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee released its report on the basis for impeachment of the President, which at the same time addresses the procedural complaints that the White House and Republicans on Capitol Hill have been making about the impeachment process:

WASHINGTON — House Democrats released a report on Saturday intended to lay out the legal and historical underpinnings of their case for impeaching President Trump while also countering Republican accusations that the investigation of the president’s conduct in office has been unfair and illegitimate.

Democrats have accused the president of abusing his power by trying to pressure the Ukrainian government to announce investigations into his political rivals. They also claim that Mr. Trump obstructed the congressional inquiry by blocking witnesses from testifying and refusing to provide documents.

The 52-page report by the Democratic staff of the House Judiciary Committee argues that the framers of the Constitution intentionally provided a way to remove the occupant of the Oval Office for just such misconduct.

“A president who perverts his role as chief diplomat to serve private rather than public ends has unquestionably engaged in ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’— especially if he invited, rather than opposed, foreign interference in our politics,” concludes the report, titled “Constitutional Grounds for Presidential Impeachment.”

On Monday, the committee will formally receive the evidence against Mr. Trump in a public hearing. Democratic and Republican lawyers for the House Intelligence Committee, which spent two months investigating the president’s actions, will testify and answer questions, the committee announced on Saturday.

Lawyers for the Judiciary Committee will also testify at the hearing as the panel’s 41 members begin a weeklong debate on whether to approve articles of impeachment. An official working on the inquiry, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss it publicly, said the presentations by the lawyers on each side, Barry H. Berke for the Democrats and Steve Castor for the Republicans, will serve as the “opening arguments.”

Representative Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, issued a statement on Saturday calling on Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York and the chairman of the committee, to postpone Monday’s hearing after Democrats on Friday night sent to lawmakers flash drives containing documents relating to the inquiry.

“It is impossible for judiciary members to sift through thousands and thousands of pages in any meaningful way in a matter of hours,” Mr. Collins said in a statement, noting that Republicans had been demanding access to the documents for weeks.

(…)

The report — which echoes a well-regarded 1974 document created by the same committee during the debate about whether to impeach President Richard M. Nixon — is an attempt to provide Democratic lawmakers with the constitutional rationale to support impeaching a president for only the third time in American history.

Both the 1974 report and the new one trace the origins of impeachment from monarchical England, where it was developed to hold the king’s ministers to account, to colonial America, where the framers of the Constitution believed it was a necessary remedy to ensure that the leaders of the new republic did not corrupt it for their personal benefit.
Both reports primarily focus on how to define “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors,” the offenses enumerated by the Constitution for impeachment.

But the current document is clearly meant to be a road map for Democrats, tracking closely with the allegations they have already made about Mr. Trump’s conduct. It lays out several offenses that could form the basis for articles of impeachment, including bribery, which is specifically cited in the Constitution.

“Impeachable bribery occurs when the president offers, solicits, or accepts something of personal value to influence his own official actions,” the report states. “By rendering such bribery impeachable, the framers sought to ensure that the nation could expel a leader who would sell out the interests of ‘We the People’ for his own personal gain.”

The report also makes the case for impeaching a president who abuses the power of his office through actions that are legal but not motivated by the national interests — a not-so-subtle nod to allegations that Mr. Trump’s decision to hold up Ukraine’s military aid was intended to help him personally

“At minimum, that duty requires presidents ‘to exercise their power only when it is motivated in the public interest rather than in their private self-interest,'” the report argues. “A president can thus be removed for exercising power with a corrupt purpose, even if his action would otherwise be permissible.”

Saturday’s report is also a legal rebuttal to the repeated attacks on the impeachment inquiry by Mr. Trump and his Republican allies in Congress. They have accused Democrats of orchestrating a “sham” impeachment that ignored historical traditions and did not provide the president with the right to defend himself.

More from The Washington Post:

The House Judiciary Committee released a report Saturday afternoon making the legal case for why President Trump’s conduct rises to the level of impeachment as Democrats race to finish the inquiry before the end of the year.

The 55-page document lays out the constitutional arguments Democrats will make in drafting articles of impeachment against the president and seeks to undermine Republicans’ main talking points against it.

“The [Framers’] worst nightmare is what we are facing in this very moment. President Trump abused his power, betrayed our national security, and corrupted our elections, all for personal gain. The Constitution details only one remedy for this misconduct: impeachment,” House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said in a statement accompanying the report.

Democrats on the Judiciary Committee contend that the framers of the Constitution, in writing the terms of impeachment, meant to capture circumstances unforeseen, so it was left intentionally vague.

Although there are several provisions in the Constitution on impeachment, Article II, Section 4, only states, “The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

What constitutes such action is not defined within the document.

The Judiciary Committee report determines that the “Framers principally intended impeachment for three overlapping forms of Presidential wrongdoing: (1) abuse of power, (2) betrayal of the nation through foreign entanglements, and (3) corruption of office and elections.”

(…)

The Democrats’ analysis also addresses the most common complaints from the White House and Trump allies about how the impeachment inquiry has been conducted.

It notes that Trump has objected that many of the witnesses who testified before the House Intelligence Committee lacked firsthand knowledge of the events in question but wouldn’t allow those in his administration with firsthand knowledge to participate in the investigation.

White House counsel sent a letter to Nadler on Friday night declining an invitation to participate in the proceedings.

The Democrats also write that they cannot “accept at face value President Trump’s claim that his motives were not corrupt.” Trump has insisted his motives were not corrupt.

It also concludes that an “attempted” offense, even if it was not carried out, is still impeachable.

“A President cannot escape impeachment just because his scheme to abuse power, betray the nation, or corrupt elections was discovered and abandoned,” the report says.

The report released on Friday draws heavily from the testimony presented last week by three law school professors who argued, quite convincingly that the Presidents actions with respect to Ukraine clearly constitute offenses that the impeachment provisions of the Constitution were meant to address.

Indeed after those hearings, the hearings last month before the House Intelligence Committee, and the conclusions reached in the Committee’s report on those hearings, the conclusions in the report are essentially axiomatic. As the evidence has mounted against the President, it has become obvious that the House was headed down the road of considering Articles of Impeachment for the fourth time in American history and voting on them for the third time in history and the second time in the past twenty years. To do any less would be a dereliction of the duty that the Constitution gives the House of Representatives in these matters.

With respect to the Ukraine matter, the evidence is crystal clear. Beginning at nearly the same time that President Zelensky was elected the new President of Ukraine, the Trump Administration, at the apparent direction of the President working through his private attorney Rudy Giuliani, was seeking to put pressure on the new government. That pressure was directed at getting Zelensky to agree to launch an investigation aimed at finding compromising information about a political rival as well as information that would supposedly corroborate a discredited, Kremlin-based, conspiracy theory dealing with Ukraine’s role in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election.

When Congress authorized millions of dollars in defensive military aid for Ukraine to deal with the Russian-backed civil war taking place in the nation’s eastern region, that opportunity presented itself. Contrary to the wishes of Congress, the President placed a hold on that aide without explanation and then sought to tie the lifting of that hold and any progress with regard to the relationship between Washington and Kyiv and made clear to the aforementioned investigations. This was made clear in both the President’s July 25th phone call with President Zelensky and other communications with his government, including contact initiated by and through Giuliani. As I’ve discussed elsewhere, this constituted a violation of both the Constitutional understanding of “bribery” as that term is used in the impeachment clause and of a number of existing provisions of Federal law.

Tomorrow, the Committee will hear from the majority and minority counsel of the House Intelligence Committee, who will discuss and answer questions regarding the reports that were issued by the Committee and by the Republican minority. From there, the Committee will move forward with drafting Articles of Impeachment, which it could end up voting on as early as the end of this week. From there, the matter heads to the House floor and an expected floor vote before Congress breaks for the holidays on December 20th. This is really happening, folks, and it couldn’t happen to a more well-deserving guy.

Here’s the report:

Judiciary Committee Report … by Doug Mataconis on Scribd

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Impeachment, Law and the Courts, Politicians, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. JKB says:

    Democrats have been making accusations against Trump for three years now. So now they may vote on “written accusations”. Do they dare submit them to an adversarial proceeding in the Senate? Articles of Impeachment passed on party lines with some Democrats likely voting against, isn’t really saying much other than that the House of Representatives is broken

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  2. An Interested Party says:

    Articles of Impeachment passed on party lines with some Democrats likely voting against, isn’t really saying much other than that the House of Representatives is broken.

    Actually what it says is that Republicans are too afraid to oppose him openly but they’re still disgusted with him and his actions…

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  3. Joe says:

    @JKB:

    Do they dare submit them to an adversarial proceeding in the Senate?

    I am going to with a hard “yes” on that one.

  4. Jax says:

    @JKB: Yes. And the whole point will be to get it on the official record that Mitch McConnell’s Senate is putting party over country.

    My irony meter is running pretty high right now. All of these Republicans who were absolutely certain Clinton should be impeached for a consensual blow job and obstruction of justice are totally ok with treason and obstruction of justice, as long as it’s their party doing the treasoning.

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  5. rachel says:

    @JKB:

    Democrats have been making accusations against Trump for three years now.

    Is that all? Boss Tweet has been a vile, chiselling, disloyal crook his entire adult life.

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  6. Jax says:

    @rachel: And his family before him. Not one lick of military service in the lot of them. Bars and brothels. (many eyerolls)

  7. Andrew says:

    Republicans seem to think that House hearings keep the House from doing anything else.
    Republicans think their base are idiots.
    No facts being used, just attack the process, continue to rip apart government employees, and shame Democrats for being mean.