“We do not take this action lightly,” Jerrold Nadler intoned at the House Democratic presser unveiling two articles of impeachment against Donald Trump. Nadler, Adam Schiff, and three other chairs of House committees made their statement, in which Schiff claimed to be “reluctant” to impeach Trump until very recently. Voters might have a very different takeaway from the past three years of statements by Schiff and other House Democrats, but this at least was inevitable at some point:
The House Democratic chairs who led the investigations against the President formally unveiled the impeachment articles at a press conference on Tuesday morning, an announcement that marks the culmination of an intense, fast-moving investigation into the President’s dealings with Ukraine.
“Today, in service to our duty to the Constitution and to our country, the House Committee on the Judiciary is introducing two articles of impeachment, charging the President of the United States Donald J. Trump with committing high crimes and misdemeanors,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said at that news conference.
Democrats charge that Trump abused his office by pressuring Ukraine to investigate his political rivals ahead of the 2020 election while withholding a White House meeting and $400 million in US security aid from Kiev. And they say that Trump then obstructed the investigation into his misconduct with a blanket blockade of subpoenas and refusing to allow key senior officials to testify before Congress.
Tuesday’s announcement sets the stage for a dramatic impeachment vote on the House floor next week, after the House Judiciary Committee debates and approves the articles beginning on Thursday.
The obstruction charge in particular will be very tough to sustain in the Senate. Schiff claimed that Trump’s refusal to cooperate in the probe and orders to underlings to ignore subpoenas would “decimate Congress’ ability to conduct oversight of this president or any other in the future.” That’s a nonsense argument, thanks to the tactical decision by Schiff and Nadler not to take the Trump administration and its subpoena targets to court to enforce their summons. Why not go to court and get the third branch involved in this dispute before simply claiming that their subpoenas are somehow unchallengeable?
House Democrats argue that they have to act quickly to impeach Trump before the next election because of the threat he poses to it, but they never even attempted to enforce those subpoenas. As such, it sets no precedent whatsoever except to suggest that future presidents have no right to challenge the validity of congressional actions, which really would be a violation of the constitutional balance of powers between the three branches. Had they paid any attention to Jonathan Turley’s testimony last week, they would have recognized that risk. Even some Senate Democrats will likely be loathe to vote in support of that article, especially given that it would have applied to Barack Obama’s handling of Congress’ probe into Operation Fast and Furious. Schiff’s setting a precedent that a future Democratic president facing a Republican House might very much regret.
As Jazz noted earlier, both articles of impeachment are vague, reflecting another weakness of their case. They have uncovered no statutory crime, and apparently thought better of trying to distort the definition of bribery to fit Ukraine-Gate. That vagueness will make it difficult for Senate Democrats to sell these as serious articles, especially given the circus that produced them, but even more difficult to sell to voters.
And despite rumors that House Democrats might bolster their case by hearkening back to their previous impeachment cause, there’s no Mueller to be found, the New York Time notes. Their moderates balked at expanding impeachment even further than it has already gone:
The Democrats indicated that they would forgo another possible article under discussion in recent weeks that would have charged Mr. Trump with obstruction of justice based on his attempts to thwart Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russian election interference in 2016. That decision reflected a calculated move by Democrats to push forward with a narrow case against Mr. Trump based on his dealings with Ukraine, after some of their moderate lawmakers in conservative-leaning districts signaled they would not support a broader set of charges.
Most oddly, despite having six House Democrat leadership figures at the dais, none of them took questions at the end from the media. Why not? Perhaps because their answers, much like the impeachment itself, would be pre-ordained … and ultimately irrelevant once this gets to the Senate and Republicans take charge of the process.