We launched our impeachment campaign on January 20, 2017, the day of President Trump’s inauguration, because of his immediate and serious violations of the Constitution’s anti-corruption emoluments clauses. We welcome yesterday’s action by the House of Representatives specifying rules for its ongoing impeachment inquiry. However, we continue to be concerned that the House’s process is deficient in two respects.
First, while nothing in the resolution limits the scope of the impeachment inquiry, we remain concerned that the House plans to focus exclusively on the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence’s investigation regarding President Trump’s improper and unlawful interactions with the Ukrainian government. While this is surely an impeachable offense, it cannot be the sole focus of the impeachment effort; as we wrote to the House Committee on the Judiciary just five days after Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president (but long before that call was made public), the impeachment inquiry must address a broad range of misconduct, including abuse of power to target political adversaries, critics, and the press; corruption of electoral processes; abuse of office to promote discrimination, hostility, and unlawful violence; and corruption and self-enrichment, as well as obstruction of the administration of justice and Congressional inquiries, and misuse of armed forces and abuse of emergency powers.
Second, we remain concerned that the House’s process lacks urgency. The president’s continued and escalating attacks on freedom of the press, Members of Congress, and American values represents an ongoing threat to the security of the country against tyranny. The Committee on the Judiciary and House leadership should set an outer bound date certain for the Committee’s final vote on whether to approve articles of impeachment to the full House. Meanwhile, the Committee should announce a schedule of a series of preparatory hearings leading up to the final vote, either as a whole or by a subcommittee, devoted to the sub-topics such as constitutional grounds for presidential impeachment as set forth by the Framers and historical practice, and grounds for impeachment besides those involving Ukraine or the Mueller report. The House should not rely on courts to enforce subpoenas; if it takes months to resolve disputes to enable a witness’s testimony, it is not worth treating such testimony as essential for the impeachment inquiry, and House committees should simply draw adverse inferences regarding documents or testimony that the White House, the Department of Justice, or President Trump block.
We and our allies will continue our fight to ensure that the impeachment inquiry reflects the breadth of Trump’s misconduct and is completed with the urgency that the moment demands.