WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 30, 2019) – A broad coalition of advocacy groups submitted a letter to the House Judiciary Committee this afternoon expressing concerns with the timeline, scope, and public strategy regarding its impeachment inquiry.
Last week, the Judiciary Committee explained in a federal court filing that the committee “is conducting an investigation to determine whether to recommend articles of impeachment”–i.e., an impeachment inquiry. No floor vote of the House is needed for the Committee to open an impeachment inquiry; the Nixon impeachment inquiry was also initiated at the Committee level.
The letter, written by the nonprofit legal advocacy organization Free Speech For People, was delivered to Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler and Vice Chair Mary Gay Scanlon this afternoon. It is co-signed by allied groups By The People, Courage Campaign, CREDO Action, Democracy For America, Empire State Indivisible, Indivisible, Lawyers For Good Government, Mainers For Accountable Leadership, March For Truth, Progressive Democrats of America, and Women’s March. The coalition said that while the House Judiciary Committee’s announcement is an important step in the impeachment process, the Committee’s timeline, scope, and public strategy appear insufficient to the gravity of the task.
“Based on what we understand of the Committee’s plans, the impeachment inquiry risks taking far too long. That is in large part because the Committee appears to be unnecessarily creating complex schedule dependencies,” the coalition letter says.
The letter recommends the Committee set a concrete date for its final vote, as well as schedule a series of preparatory hearings leading up to it. It urges the Committee to “stick to its schedule in the face of delay or obstinacy from the White House, Justice Department, or President Trump.”
The coalition also recommended the Committee broaden the scope of its investigation beyond the offenses outlined in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report. “Impeachment is not primarily about the punishment of crimes, but rather the prevention of tyranny,” the letter says. “President Trump has repeatedly engaged in autocratic abuses of power that are outside the purview of the Mueller report. And while the evidence for some of this misconduct might benefit from confirmatory witness testimony, most of it has occurred in public—from the president’s own mouth or Twitter feed.”
The letter details four categories of impeachable offenses not covered in the report: (1) abuse of power by directing law enforcement to investigate and prosecute political adversaries and critics, and to undermine the freedom of the press, (2) corruption of the electoral process, (3) abuse of office to propagate racial hostility, and (4) corruption and self-enrichment in violation of the Constitution.
The coalition also insisted the Committee make a clear public statement that it has officially begun an impeachment inquiry, free of qualification or contradiction. The letter says: “Preparing the American public for the impeachment process—to understand what the Committee is already doing, and where it is going—is critical. But due to the muddled rollout, many Americans may not even realize that the Committee has, in fact, begun an impeachment inquiry. When Chairman Peter Rodino launched an impeachment inquiry regarding President Richard Nixon on October 30, 1973, there was no ambiguity; it was reported exactly as such on the front page of the next day’s New York Times.”