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Kilgore writes: "The buzz-phrase of choice in the lengthy and fractious debate among Democrats over what to do now about Trump's serial misconduct has been 'initiating impeachment proceedings.'"

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York. (photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York. (photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

House Democrats Can Impeach Trump Any Time They Want

By Ed Kilgore, New York Magazine

13 August 19


he buzz-phrase of choice in the lengthy and fractious debate among Democrats over what to do now about Trump’s serial misconduct has been “initiating impeachment proceedings.” That’s what many Democrats want to do, and a smaller but more powerful number of Democrats who happen to run the U.S. House of Representative don’t want to do, at least right now.

But as Andrew Prokop lays out in a particularly useful Vox “explainer,” there’s no required procedure for “initiating” impeachment “proceedings.” All the Constitution prescribes are a vote on Articles of Impeachment, which in turn triggers a Senate trial about the contained list of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Everything else is, well, optional, as the last two impeachment drives illustrated:

The Nixon inquiry was an intensive, lengthy investigative effort that proceeded alongside the special prosecutor’s continuing grand jury investigation into the Watergate break-in and cover-up and a Senate select committee inquiry into the matter. The House Judiciary Committee opened it in October 1973 (after the Saturday Night Massacre), the House voted to back it in February 1974, and it lasted until July 1974. Major new revelations about the scandal kept breaking throughout that period, and eventually, the committee got to review secret information from the grand jury probe.

The Clinton inquiry, meanwhile, was essentially just a decision about whether to impeach the president based on the findings of independent counsel Ken Starr’s report (which alleged Clinton committed perjury and obstruction of justice to try to cover up his affair with Monica Lewinsky). That impeachment inquiry was officially opened in the Judiciary Committee after votes by the committee and then the whole House in October 1998. The committee held a few weeks of hearings and heard witness testimony (including from Starr), but it wasn’t really a new investigation, and it was over by mid-December.

That House Republicans decided to formally “open” a discussion of Clinton’s possible impeachment was a matter of choice. So, too, is how House Democrats do and don’t proceed against Trump. They can just at some point decide the case for impeachment is strong enough to go ahead with it, and do so, with or without the additional preliminaries that Clinton’s tormenters deployed, though no one was in doubt whatsoever where that “inquiry” was destined to conclude.

One implication of that reality is that the timeline most of us have in the back of our minds for an “impeachment inquiry” is, well, kind of made-up and artificial. No formal investigations, hearings or legislative throat-clearing are, strictly speaking, required. So House Democrats could impeach, or at least hold a vote to impeach, Donald Trump whenever they wished without much in the way of preliminaries. That might not be politically prudent, but like the decision to impeach itself, that’s a judgment, not a rule.

As Prokop further explain, some Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee are using this ambiguity to blur the distinction between impeachment “inquries,” and, well, what the Committee is already doing:

[S]ince special counsel Robert Mueller’s congressional testimony in late July, there has been a rhetorical shift from several members of the Judiciary Committee — to try to redefine their existing probe as that much-demanded impeachment inquiry.

For instance, on Friday, July 26, Nadler told reporters that, as part of a lawsuit seeking Mueller investigation records, his committee would tell a judge they’re considering whether to use “a constitutional power of the utmost gravity: recommendation of articles of impeachment….”

At that press conference, his fellow committee members went further. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA) characterized the committee’s probe as “an investigation to see if we should recommend articles of impeachment” — an investigation that started “months ago.”

“A lot of people believe we’ve been in an impeachment inquiry ever since we started looking into high crimes and misdemeanors,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) said, while clarifying that his own preferred word choice was “impeachment investigation.”

Raskin also made a point that’s becoming increasingly popular among impeachment-curious Democrats — that “there’s no formal or statutory or House rule for how an impeachment inquiry is to begin.”

This argument, which basically holds that an “inquiry” is an “impeachment inquiry” if it later leads to articles of impeachment, has a convenient ex post facto quality for nervous Dems. It reminds me of C.S. Lewis nifty scenario, in his novel The Great Divorce, wherein souls in hell can ride a bus to heaven whenever they want. If they choose to stay in heaven, then that sojourn in hell was for them purgatory. Where you are is all a matter of where you wind up.

Now there are those (notably the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent) who argue that a formal launching of “impeachment proceedings” would significantly strengthen the House’s legal case in court for commanding obedience to subpoenas, since no one doubts impeachment is a constitutionally sanctioned exercise of legislative powers. But then again, in theory at least, the House could argue in court that any investigation of presidential misconduct is potentially an “impeachment proceeding” or “inquiry,” making its subpoenas a command performance no matter what ultimately happens.

In any event, earlier this week Nadler insisted that impeachment is already on the table – his own table, anyway:

Nadler said his next steps with the probe will be twofold:

In the courts, the committee is hoping for rulings on getting Mueller’s grand jury material and compelling testimony from recalcitrant witnesses by “the end of October” or “shortly thereafter.”

But he’ll also have “hearings in September and October with people not dependent on the court proceedings” — that is, witnesses who will agree to testify. Then, he said, “If we decide to report articles of impeachment, we could get to that in the late fall, perhaps — in the latter part of the year.”

And if he and his boss Nancy Pelosi determine that articles of impeachment are still a bad idea politically, then maybe the House never really walked down that path to begin with.

Now you see it. Now you don’t.

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-40 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-08-13 13:45
It is probably true that the House can do whatever it wants. It can pass any sort of bill it wants. Probably if a Bill of Impeachment were scheduled for a vote all democrats would vote for it even out of party loyalty

There's no requirement that the Senate has to act on such a Bill of Impeachment. McConnell has already hinted that he'd just ignore it. An impeachment is only an indictment or a recommendation that a trial take place. It is not a conviction of guilt. Prosecutors throw around false charges all the time just in order to scare peple or make the new. Mueller did this with a lot of his prosecutions.

They don't go to trial and they are quickly dropped down the memory hole. If that it the legacy Democrats Schiff and Nadler want for this congress, then so be it. No one can stop them. But they are sure making the demo party look bad.

If they just had a real crime, then they would not look so bad. But they can't seem to find one.
+31 # johnescher 2019-08-13 17:21
How about putting kids in cages?
+10 # forestwalker 2019-08-13 18:14
If it helps dump Carrot Head I'm all for it. If not, bad idea. Emotionally I love it, but strategically it might not achieve what I'm after. I think if it was me, I'd work on getting someone elected. Not as easy as some think. He has $105M in his coffers. He has the Republican army, tight, organized, one mind focused, more than willing to play dirty. No opponent yet. Plus voting Republicans are, what? 94% behind him. I think it's a very serious problem. The planet can't afford another 4 years of CH.
+16 # HarryP 2019-08-13 18:23

Impeache the sumbitch and in the process spell out his high crimes and misdemeanors. The list is too long to go into detail. Put to list a few: Putting toddlers in cages would certainly qualify. 12,000+ lies. Emoluments. Spending money without Congressional authority. Inviting the Russians to participate in the election. Other campaign violations (payments to Stormy, et al.,) Ten-fold obstruction of justice, etc. etc. etc.

We can only hope that Moscow Mitch will “just ignore” the trial in the Senate. That would be great. The trial would be before the Dems where Red Square Donnie’s sins will be laid bare before a global audience.

After that, Senate conviction, as the Constitution tells us, will come with “the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.” With no Reps in attendance, it could be unanimous.

Are you ready for President Pence?
+8 # lfeuille 2019-08-13 23:36
Defying court orders, campaign finance violations, obstruction of justice (at least 10 counts, inciting neo-nazi and white nationalist violence to start with plus whatever the house investigations turn up.
-3 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-08-14 07:59
HP -- normally an investigation takes place when a crime is discovered. For Nadler, he's already decided to impeach/indict and now he wants to look for a crime.

Putting kids in cages is legal. It is only the use of the word "cage" that sounds illegal. US law requires that kid of parents who are confined in jail must be taken over by the DHS and put into foster homes or some government run facility. Obama did it. Bush did it. All presidents have.

A court has thrown out the emoluments case saying the constitution did not intend to preclude as president someone who runs businesses. Federal prosecutors have ruled out the Stormy payoff.

The problem is that what Nadler and Schiff are doing look political. They appear to be dirt digging on Trump. Next thing we know, they will be getting Russian Dirt on Trump or some other country's dirt on Trump. Then we'll have to drag Mueller off the shuffle board court to investigate the Russia-Nadler collusion.

I wish Demos would just stop this and get on with doing their jobs in congress. Impeachment does not help Sanders or any progressive. It helps the establishment Hillary democrats.
+4 # HarryP 2019-08-14 20:49

Jim Hightower is in the habit of saying that the scary thing is not what some people do that’s illegal, but what they’re doing is legal. The legality of putting toddlers in cages and have older children tend to them, living in filth, being mocked and abused, and, yes, dying should be enough to have your hair stand in end. That, at the very least, is a misdemeanor of the first order. And the jailing of their parents is a crime. You don’t arrest people looking for seeking political asylum. It’s against the law. The jailing of these children amounts to kidnappjng and abuse. How much cruelty are you going to defend?

Morality not being your strong suit, you then turn to the Constitution. Except that you’re wrong. It’s just another case of an ostensibly “strict constructionist ” (mis)interpreta tion of the very words of the Constitution. We’ve had a ton of presidents who had been businessmen. No problem there. Trump is a case of a grifter who is taking bribers - aka emoluments - from foreign governments. And he readily solicited help from a foreign government to subvert the Constitution.

Hell, Trump's bromance with Kim constitutes a case of treason - seeing that the US is still at war with North Korea (since 1950.)

Nadler and Schiff won’t have to dredge up reasons for impeachment. Even the wishy-washy first column of the Mueller report could be a starting point. Volume Two, covers a dozen examples of obstruction of justice.
+1 # WBoardman 2019-08-13 20:44
This such a wobbly sad piece of non-analysis.

For a sharper picture of the same situation,
try this from July 10:
+1 # logical1 2019-08-14 00:00
I see it as just impeach to put it on record. No details, no reasons. Just get it over with.
We know senate will not do sh_t with it anyway.
After reading this, I think House should wait until a month after November 2020 elections then impeach for the new Senate to try the orange guy, though he will not be Pres anymore,
we hope and pray.
+2 # treerapper 2019-08-14 00:06
Whether or not the Senate and their chinless wonder leader table the bill or not should not be the guiding principal. And it's principal that's at stake here.n Given the extent of criminality, lies, violations of Constitutional law, e.g. the Emoluments Act for one, it should become part of historical record that the House passed a Bill to Impeach this vulgar.piece of crap criminal.

It's not my preference. I'd like to see the creature indicted by, at the very least, New York State for all the criminal activities he has conducted in that State for decades. Remember Al Capone - he was a virtual blood bath but they got him on tax evasion. Did that matter> No. Point is they got him.

But, the important issue is that initiating impeachment proceedings does not preclude indicting so, for the record, why not proceed with both.
-4 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-08-14 08:17
There's a really great article by Ray McGovern on Constoritumnews .org --

"Rich's Ghost Haunts the Courts"

Ray presents the right way to approach the subject matter of the article above. All the "loose talk" about impeachment really is doing a lot of damage. The case McGovern reviews is that of Butkowsky versus NPR. Butkowsky became convinced Seth Rich was the DNC leaker and paid for Rich's family to hire an investigator to discover the facts. NPR was one of the most vicious in trying to suppress the story about Seth Rich and the DNC emails. NPR slandered Butkowsky and now he's suing.

The judge in the case is demanding that NPR produce its "sources" for its Seth Rich reporting:

"Judge Mazzant ruled that NPR had stated as “verifiable statements of fact” information that could not be verified, and that the plaintiff had been, in effect, accused of being engaged in wrongdoing without persuasive sourcing language."

Nadler and everyone on this board who makes charges should be forced to provide sources. I'm not saying this about the author above but rather about Nadler and Schiff. When they get into court -- in the Senate -- sources will be required and it the sources are political and not verifiable then the case will fail.

Butkowsky's attorneys are demolishing the Russia-Assange- DNC leaks theory by demanding that everyone who makes these claims actually show their proof.
0 # chapdrum 2019-08-15 13:02
Right. That would be much easier than (pardon the segue) ending our helplessness before the corporation (itself). The corporation is an artificial construct - it has zero basis in palpable reality.
+1 # seeuingoa 2019-08-15 18:53
Trump should have asked for
political asylum in North Korea
when he met Kim Jung Un in Hanoi.

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