Saturday, November 23, 2019

To Impeach Trump, No Need to Stop at Single Count

      No sensible prosecutor would start a criminal case by limiting the case to only one of several charges supported by the evidence, but that is what House Democrats have chosen unwisely to do in their impeachment inquiry against President Donald J. Trump.
      Following instructions from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the House Intelligence Committee devoted four days of public hearings this week [Nov. 19-22] only to a single charge against Trump, phrased alternately as bribery or extortion. The Intelligence Committee's Democrats guided eight witnesses in all through the details of Trump's decision to withhold military aid to Ukraine in order to pressure Ukraine's newly elected president to open an investigation into Trump's political opponent, former vice president Joe Biden.
      The nonpartisan political reform group Common Cause marked the end of the initial impeachment hearings last week [Nov. 21] by trying to remedy the Democrats' short-sighted decision with detailed drafts of nine articles of impeachment against Trump. The coauthors of the 64-page report, Common Cause president Karen Hobert Flynn and vice president for policy Paul Seamus Ryan, sought to bolster its credibility by noting that the group urged caution on impeachment even as Democrats and anti-Trump partisans clamored through most of the past three years to put him in the congressional dock.
      House Democrats have yet to draft articles of impeachment, but the Democratic majority seems certain to approve at least one article once it is drafted and approved by the House Judiciary Committee. Through four days of hearings, the Intelligence Committee Republicans showed no sign of wavering in their unquestioning defense of Trump.
      From the Ukraine episode itself, the Common Cause report fashions four separate articles of impeachment charging Trump with abuse of power, bribery, obstruction of justice, and campaign finance violations. The withholding of military aid amounts to abuse of power, according to the report, while the pressure on the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky for an investigation amounts to solicitation of a bribe. 
      Trump obstructed justice in the Ukraine inquiry, the report argues, by directing executive branch officials not to comply with congressional subpoenas and by intimidating those witnesses who did agree to testify. Trump is also obstructing justice, the report contends, by soliciting political contributions for U.S. senators "for the purpose of obtaining [their] acquittal votes in an impeachment proceeding."
      As for the claimed campaign finance violations, Common Cause has already filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) charging Trump with seeking a prohibited contribution from a foreign government — specifically, the requested investigation of the Bidens. The request itself amounts to a violation, the report argues, with or without a quid pro quo and even without an investigation undertaken.
      As a fifth article of impeachment, Common Cause proposes to fashion an obstruction of justice charge against Trump in regard to the Russia investigation. The report details the 10 separate instances of obstruction that special counsel Robert Mueller cited in his report while constrained from bringing an actual criminal charge.
      The bill of particulars, quoted directly from the Mueller report, include the firing of FBI director James Comey, the efforts to have Attorney General Jeff Sessions take charge of the investigation, and the never-acted-on instruction to White House counsel Don McGahn to fire Mueller. The report notes that Mueller specifically denied having exonerated Trump in regard to obstruction.
      As a separate article, Common Cause suggests that Trump could be impeached for abuse of power in connection with the Russia investigation and likens that article to charges approved by the House Judiciary Committee against Nixon in 1974 and included in the Clinton impeachment in 1998. Trump abused power, the report contends, by such actions as pressuring Comey to end the investigation of national security adviser Michael Flynn and "dangling the possibility of pardons" for under-investigation aides, including Flynn, ex-campaign chair Paul Manafort, and fixer-lawyer Michael Cohen.
      As a seventh article of impeachment, Common Cause urges that Trump be charged with accepting foreign and domestic emoluments in violation of an explicit constitutional command through his continued ownership interest in the Trump Organization and the patronage by favor-seeking foreign governments and domestic political groups. The report acknowledges litigation over the issue and points to the courts' reluctance so far to adjudicate the dispute as evidence that it is up to Congress to act.
      As two final articles of impeachment, Common Cause calls for Trump to be charged with abuse of power by failing to take steps to protect U.S. elections from foreign interference — indeed, by actively soliciting such interference in his 2016 campaign. The group also proposes to use the hush payments to porn star Stormy Daniels as a basis for a ninth article charging Trump with campaign finance violations by failing to report the expenditure.
      For each of the articles, Common Cause suggests language along these lines. Trump, the articles recite, "has undermined the integrity of his office, has brought disrepute on the presidency, has betrayed his trust as president and has acted in a manner subversive of the rule of law and justice in the United States to the manifest injury of the people of the United States."
      Nine articles of impeachment would be a bridge way too far for House Democrats, but surely the four suggested Ukraine-related articles could be drafted without further hearings or the obstruction of justice count in regard to the Russia investigation as well. It bears noting that Nixon and Clinton both faced multiple articles of impeachment; Trump deserves nothing less.

No comments:

Post a Comment