If the House Democrats believe that simply two articles of impeachment will in any way deter Donald Trump from future misconduct and crimes, they’re kidding themselves.
Yet, there was House Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler declaring Tuesday morning while unveiling the articles, one for Trump’s abuse of power and a second for his obstruction of Congress, “We must be clear: No one, not even the president, is above the law.” That was followed by House Intelligence Committee Chair Rep. Adam Schiff making it clear why the breakneck speed to impeach Trump, “The argument, ‘why don’t you just wait?’ comes down to this: Why don’t you just let him cheat in just one more election?”
Let’s be blunt: These two articles alone will not achieve either of those goals. We all know that Trump will not be convicted and removed in the Senate, meaning Trump will claim exoneration and be even more emboldened to engage in wrongdoing. Thus, these articles of impeachment are the House Democrats’ only chance to make a compelling case to the public why Trump’s conduct “is a clear and present danger to our free and fair elections and to our national security,” as Intelligence Committee lawyer Daniel Goldman testified Monday at the House Judiciary impeachment hearing.
And the best way to do that is to make the case to the American public through not two, but several articles of impeachment that lay out the details and full scope of Trump’s misconduct. The goal being to move public opinion so that Trump becomes so toxic that even some members of the GOP will no longer defend him and possibly even support his ouster. Yes, It’s a long shot, but just two articles is a “no shot” if the goal is to truly deter Trump from future crimes.
And I can tell you firsthand that is not just my view, but the unanimous response of Democratic callers to my SiriusXM radio show over the past few weeks. Without a single exception, everyone I spoke with wanted the House Democrats to include separate articles of impeachment that detail Trump’s specific acts of misconduct.
For example, a stand-alone article that accuses Trump of committing bribery. As the House Judiciary Committee’s 55-page report released Saturday made clear, “Impeachable bribery occurs when the President offers, solicits, or accepts something of personal value to influence his own official actions.” Trump clearly solicited something of personal value from Ukraine’s President Zelensky—an investigation into his leading 2020 Democratic rival Joe Biden—in return for “official actions” of a White House meeting and releasing congressionally approved military aid to the Ukraine which Trump had personally put on hold.
Then there are 10 instances of possible obstruction of justice detailed in Robert Mueller’s report released in April. This report concluded that based on the evidence gathered, Mueller’s team couldn’t conclude “that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice.” And Mueller told us point-blank when he testified on July 24, the day before Trump called Ukraine’s President Zelensky and solicited help for his 2020 campaign, that there was a legal basis to further investigate Trump’s possible obstruction of justice. The most compelling exchange on this point came when Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) asked Mueller, “Does your report state there is sufficient factual and legal basis for further investigation of potential obstruction of justice by the president?” To which he responded, “Yes.”
As numerous fellow progressives have also made clear to me, and I agree, there should be an article of impeachment focused solely on Trump’s violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which bars a president from receiving anything thing of a value from a “foreign state.” Trump’s businesses receiving payments from foreign countries while he's in office, which is the subject of a federal lawsuit, must be condemned by Congress—or at least put to a stand-alone vote.
There should also be a dedicated article detailing Trump’s apparent violation of two campaign finance laws. First, Trump soliciting something of value from the Ukrainian president—opposition research—is on its face a felony in that Trump knowingly and willfully violated campaign finance laws that bar seeking such help from foreign nationals. And possibly even a separate article for an earlier campaign finance violation involving Trump, along with his former lawyer Michael Cohen, who is now in prison in part for this scheme, payment of “hush money” shortly before the 2016 election to two women he allegedly had affairs with to keep their stories out of the press. (Judge G. Thomas Porteous Jr. was impeached and removed by the U.S. Senate in 2010 in part for conduct that pre-dated his time as a federal judge arguably setting a precedent that misconduct an officeholder engages in before being sworn in can be the subject of impeachment.)
The benefits of including these additional articles ensures that the American public sees the full scope of Trump’s wrongdoing. It also importantly sends a clear message to Trump and future presidents about what constitutes impeachable conduct.
Add to that, this would force congressional Republicans to go on record voting to defend (or condemn) Trump’s specific actions and possible crimes as articulated in each separate article. This could possibly have moved some Republicans to support impeachment of Trump in the House on certain articles and even some GOP Senators to vote to convict. In any event, Republicans would have to consider the political backlash to publicly defending Trump’s numerous instances of misconduct.
But by limiting the scope to “abuse of power” and “obstruction of Congress,” the House Democrats have sent the message that these are the only actions of Trump that are wrong. And by framing this as they have, it sounds like they are accusing Trump of process violations—not conveying the true threat to our nation that Trump’s actions pose.
The warning of House Judiciary lawyer Barry Berke at Monday’s impeachment hearing is one we must heed: “If, in fact, President Trump can get away with what he did again, our imagination is the only limit to what President Trump may do next.”
Yet, the House Democrats limiting the articles to just these two has increased the likelihood Trump will get away with his wrongdoing. And alarmingly at the same time, deflating many progressives who have long fought for House Democrats to finally begin impeachment proceedings. Both are dire developments going into the 2020 election for those who want to defeat Trump.