House To Move Forward On Articles Of Impeachment
In the wake of yesterday's hearing, the House of Representatives is taking the inevitable next step.
In the wake of yesterday’s hearing in which the House Judiciary hearing heard from a group of legal scholars regarding the history and meaning of the impeachment provisions of the Constitution and its application to the facts of the charges against President Trump, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced this morning that the House would be proceeding with the drafting of Articles of Impeachment:
WASHINGTON — Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Thursday that the House of Representatives would begin drafting impeachment articles against President Trump, pushing ahead with a rapid timetable that could set the stage for a vote before Christmas to charge him with high crimes and misdemeanors.
Wrapping her announcement in the words of the Constitution and the nation’s founders, Ms. Pelosi said it had become clear over the course of two months of investigation that Mr. Trump had violated his oath of office by pressing a foreign power for help in the 2020 election. Allowing Mr. Trump to continue in office without remedy, she said, would come at “the peril of our republic.”
“His wrongdoing strikes at the very heart of our Constitution,” Ms. Pelosi said in a formal address lasting less than six minutes, delivered against a backdrop of American flags from the hallway outside her office in the Capitol. ”Our democracy is what is at stake. The president leaves us no choice but to act because he is trying to corrupt, once again, the election for his own benefit.”
Ms. Pelosi’s announcement came as the House Judiciary Committee laid out next steps for its formal impeachment proceedings against Mr. Trump. The committee said it would convene a hearing on Monday morning to allow its lawyers and those for the Intelligence Committee to formally present the evidence in the inquiry. The witness lineup suggested the panel could consider both the president’s dealings with Ukraine and whether he obstructed justice in trying to thwart the special counsel’s investigation in whether the Trump campaign had a role in Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
Democrats familiar with the matter believe the Judiciary panel is on track to begin publicly debating and voting on articles by the end of next week, despite uniform Republican opposition. That would lay the groundwork for a possible vote to impeach the president by Dec. 20, the final day Congress is scheduled to be in session this year.
In saying that she was instructing “chairmen” to draft the charges, Ms. Pelosi left open the possibility that the other five panels that have investigated Mr. Trump and his administration — including the Intelligence Committee that drew up the Ukraine report and the Ways and Means Committee that has pressed for the release of the president’s tax returns — could also play roles, a break with past practice.
During her news conference, Ms. Pelosi framed the case against Mr. Trump as much broader than an isolated pressure campaign on Ukraine. She described an “aha moment” when she and other Democrats came to the conclusion that Mr. Trump’s treatment of Ukraine was part of a larger pattern of deference toward Russia, a leading American adversary.
“This isn’t about Ukraine; this is about Russia, who benefited by our withholding of that military assistance,” Ms. Pelosi said. “So sometimes people say, ‘Well, I don’t know about Ukraine, I don’t know that much about Ukraine.’ Well, our adversary is Russia. All roads lead to Putin. Understand that.”
On Wednesday, Mr. Nadler’s team made clear it was considering building charges going beyond the Ukraine matter, related to obstruction of the House’s inquiry. A lawyer for the chairman, Norm Eisen, also asked the witnesses to evaluate whether possible obstruction of justice by Mr. Trump laid out by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel who investigated whether the Trump campaign had ties to Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, was also impeachable. Democrats may ultimately decide to keep the case more narrowly focused on Ukraine.
The Washington Post, meanwhile, reports that Democrats are considering a number of charges against the President:
House Democrats are considering articles of impeachment against President Trump that include obstruction and bribery but are unlikely to pursue a treason charge as they weigh how to illustrate that the president’s activities involving Ukraine were part of what they see as a pattern of misconduct, according to congressional aides.
Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee and Intelligence Committee, which this week released a report of their findings from a two-month-long impeachment investigation, have said that they believe Trump’s actions vis-a-vis Ukraine meet the definition of bribery, one of the crimes the Constitution identifies specifically as an impeachable offense.
Central to the Intelligence Committee’s findings is that Trump compromised U.S. national security when he held back diplomatic engagement and congressionally approved military aid from Kyiv, until Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky committed to publicly announce he was launching investigations into a debunked conspiracy theory surrounding a hacked Democratic National Committee server and of the son of former vice president Joe Biden, who is running to replace Trump in 2020.
Biden’s son Hunter Biden sat on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma for five years. Before his arrival, Burisma’s owner had come under investigation for corruption.
Democratic leaders say they have overwhelming support in their ranks for articles dealing with the core of Trump’s conduct regarding Ukraine, two Democratic leadership aides said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to talk candidly.
The aides, who are familiar with internal discussions, also expect at least one article concerning the Trump administration’s obstruction of Congress, although it’s not known how broad those charges will be.
Aides cautioned that the situation remains fluid and that discussions about the articles are ongoing.
Several members of the Judiciary panel are also eager to make reference in the articles to the president’s alleged efforts to obstruct justice in former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia probe, arguing that Trump has repeatedly solicited or welcomed foreign interference in his election bids.
Speaking with reporters Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) insisted that Russia was an integral factor in the president’s alleged misconduct regarding Ukraine, because when Trump decided to withhold military aid to Kyiv, it was the Kremlin that benefited.
“Russia. It’s about Russia,” Pelosi said. “All roads lead to Putin. Understand that.”
But Democrats have yet to commit to including articles of impeachment that directly address Trump’s alleged ties to Russia that were detailed in the Mueller report, or settle on how they will organize and draft their various grievances against the president. Pelosi refused to answer reporters’ questions about plans for specific articles Thursday, as well, noting only that impeachment was now an imperative.
“I’m really sorry the president made this necessary,” Pelosi said. “If we do not act on this, the message to any future president . . . would be, ‘You can do whatever you want.’ ”
Here’s the video of the Speaker’s remarks. You can also read the transcript at the link:
Naturally, President Trump responded to both yesterday’s hearing and this morning’s announcement via his favorite medium:
After yesterday’s Judiciary hearing, the hearings last month before the House Intelligence Committee, and the conclusions reached in the Committee’s report on those hearings, this announcement is basically an inevitability. As the evidence has mounted against the President, it has become clearer and clearer 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 have been a dereliction of the solemn 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, including in detail in this morning’s post about yesterday’s hearing, 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.
The interesting part of today’s announcement is the fact that it raises the possibility that the Articles of Impeachment sent to the House will ultimately cover more than just the Ukraine scandal. As I’ve argued before, there is a good reason for the House to also consider adding other matters for the Senate to consider in its trial on the impeachment charges. This includes obstruction of justice in connection with the Russia investigation, the payoffs to Trump’s former mistresses on the eve of the 2016 election, the Emoluments Clauses issue, and the fact that the Trump Administration has obstructed justice by denying Congress access to documents and witnesses. As I’ve said before, if we’re going to impeach the President we may as well include everything and let first the Senate and then the American people, and ultimately history, be the judge.
This announcement also seems to confirm that the House will move forward with plans to hold a floor vote on Articles of Impeachment before breaking for the holidays. This would mean a Senate trial starting in January that could last for most of the month and, perhaps, even into early February. This would pose problems for the Senate Democrats running for President, which presently consists of Senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, and Michael Bennet, but that concern is secondary to the far more serious duty of considering whether the evidence warrants removing the President from office.