This original article was posted to the Free Speech For People blog by Legal Director, Ron Fein.
Recently, the Deputy Attorney General appointed Robert Mueller, a longtime career prosecutor, as a special prosecutor (technically, “special counsel”) to investigate potential criminal violations, including obstruction of justice, by the Trump campaign or administration. But we still need to press forward with the demand that the U.S. House of Representatives launch an impeachment investigation, for three main reasons.
1. The special prosecutor’s investigation will be narrower than an impeachment investigation.
Under the Constitution, Congress may impeach the president for “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” The phrase “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” is not precisely defined, but includes grave abuses of public power or violations of public trust.
The special prosecutor’s investigation is more limited. He must focus on violations of federal criminal statutes. Not all “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” violate specific federal criminal statutes. For example, there are several federal criminal statutes defining obstruction of justice. But there are other impeachable forms of obstruction that may not be covered by those criminal statutes—such as firing the official overseeing the investigation. Similarly, violating the Constitution’s Foreign Emoluments Clause was specifically cited by the Founders as grounds for impeachment. But it’s not covered by a specific criminal statute.
2. The special prosecutor will be constrained by the rules of federal court.
The special prosecutor must focus on criminal violations that he can prove in federal court. This involves issues that are simply irrelevant to a congressional impeachment proceeding. For example, the Federal Rules of Evidence contain detailed rules about when documents can, and cannot, be used to prove a point in court. If Mueller finds a bombshell document that doesn’t fit into one of the hearsay exceptions, he can’t use it in court. That means he can’t even bring the charge. He could get stalled trying to work around this technical problem.
The House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment investigation is not subject to the Federal Rules of Evidence. It can consider whatever evidence the committee finds appropriate.
3. The special prosecutor’s investigation will be conducted in secret.
We will likely not know anything of the special prosecutor’s investigation, except through leaks and rumors, until it finishes, which could take years. A congressional impeachment investigation, by contrast, will be conducted in the open, laying forth the evidence for the American public as it develops.
Bottom line: Mueller’s appointment is a significant development. But Congress must not use it as an excuse to shirk its duty to conduct an independent impeachment investigation. These are parallel, complementary tracks, and we cannot let Congress hide behind the special prosecutor.
Citing Interference with a Criminal Investigation, Violations of the Domestic and Foreign Emoluments Clauses, Over One Million People Are Calling on Congress to Start an Impeachment Investigation Now.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – A petition calling on the United States House of Representatives to start an impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump has garnered nearly 1.1 million signatures. Launched on Inauguration Day and led by two public interest organizations — Free Speech For People and RootsAction.org — ImpeachDonaldTrumpNow.org is calling on Congress to start this investigation based on the President’s direct and ongoing violations of the two anti-corruption provisions of the U.S. Constitution and based on the President’s apparent interference with a criminal investigation by firing FBI Director James Comey.
In addition to the nearly 1.1 million signers, nine communities — including the City Council of Los Angeles, California — have passed resolutions calling for this impeachment investigation, and many other communities are expected to vote on such resolutions in the coming weeks.
“All across the nation, Americans are rising up to defend our Constitution and our democracy at this critical moment in history,” says John Bonifaz, the Co-Founder and President of Free Speech For People, which, along with RootsAction, is leading the Campaign to Impeach Donald Trump Now at www.impeachdonaldtrumpnow.org. “President Trump must be held accountable via the impeachment process for violating the anti-corruption provisions of the U.S. Constitution and for engaging in obstruction of justice. No one is above the law, not even the president of the United States. Now more than ever, we must stand up and demand that Members of Congress uphold their constitutional responsibility and start an impeachment investigation of this president.”
“When we launched this campaign on Inauguration Day, some people said it was ‘too soon,’” said Ron Fein, Legal Director at Free Speech For People. “They’re not saying that anymore.”
“Our petition insists that the President must not be above the law,” said Norman Solomon, national coordinator of RootsAction.org. “The petition campaign addresses Trump’s flagrant violations of the Constitution’s emoluments clauses that forbid financially profiting from the presidency. And we are also responding to recent indications that President Trump has interfered with a criminal investigation in an effort to obstruct justice. A resolution for an impeachment investigation in the House is needed.”
“This is a remarkable milestone for more than 1 million Americans to sign any petition, let alone a petition calling for the impeachment of the president of the United States,” said Ben Clements, Chair of the Board for Free Speech For People. “These million signers represent the millions and millions more quickly becoming a majority of all Americans who have had enough of watching Congress do nothing to stop the most corrupt presidency in our Nation’s history. It’s time for Congress to stop watching this national train wreck and do its job; it’s time for impeachment.”
Impeach Donald Trump Now, a non-partisan campaign led by Free Speech For People and RootsAction.org, is pressing for an impeachment investigation of President Trump, based on his direct and ongoing violations of the U.S. Constitution’s Foreign Emoluments Clause and Domestic Emoluments Clause, as well as based on the President’s apparent interference with a criminal investigation by firing FBI Director James Comey. To join our campaign, read our proposed Impeachment Resolution, or to learn more, visit: www.ImpeachDonaldTrumpNow.org.
Free Speech For People is a national non-partisan non-profit organization founded on the day of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. FEC that works to renew our democracy and our Constitution for the people, not big money and corporate interests.
RootsAction.org is an online initiative dedicated to galvanizing Americans who are committed to economic fairness, equal rights, civil liberties, environmental protection — and defunding endless wars.
To download a PDF of this release, click here.
Today, following remarks from Rep. Al Greene calling on Congress to impeach President Trump, our campaign passed the one million signature mark!
We thank each and every one of our supporters for standing with us since Inauguration Day! Together, we will defend our constitution.