Ben Clements and Ron Fein in the Boston Globe: The case for starting impeachment hearings against Trump

In an op-ed in the Boston Globe (online and print), Ben Clements and Ron Fein argue the case for starting impeachment hearings. They rebut a common argument against impeachment by explaining how impeachment actually works:

It’s time to begin impeachment hearings against President Trump. The political-media establishment continues to insist that Congress shouldn’t rush to impeach, but that’s a straw man. Nobody seriously argues that the House should vote now whether to impeach. Instead, it should begin as every impeachment proceeding has begun: with impeachment hearings.

Impeachment is a three-part process. The second and third steps — a vote to impeach in the House of Representatives, and then a trial in the Senate — are specified in the Constitution. But congressional impeachments always begin with a critical first step: The House Judiciary Committee investigates whether to recommend articles of impeachment to the full House. The committee subpoenas documents and testimony, prepares legal analyses, and holds hearings. Through this investigation, the committee determines what the president has done, and whether it constitutes grounds for impeachment.

We can learn from the Nixon impeachment process. The Judiciary Committee didn’t sit around waiting for the Watergate special prosecutor. Instead, it started its impeachment inquiry on Oct. 30, 1973 , before the new special prosecutor was even appointed. In fact, the committee didn’t receive a report from the special prosecutor until March 1974. If Congress had waited for that report before even starting, Nixon might have remained in office for another year.

Click here for the full op-ed.

Will Bunch for The Philadelphia Inquirer: The huge problem with Mueller’s Trump-Russia probe that no one talks about

In an article for The Philadelphia Inquirer, Will Bunch calls for Congress to launch an impeachment inquiry into the President, in parallel with the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Bunch notes Congress has delegated its responsibility to hold the President accountable for his impeachable offenses to Mueller, stating, “Congress and other key players have used the Mueller probe as an excuse for inaction on the dangers posed by Trump.” Bunch further states that reticence from Congress to begin an impeachment inquiry, only furthers the lawlessness of the President, and removes a critical check on the balance of power in our government.

Continue reading…

Trump Reportedly Ordered Michael Cohen to Lie to Congress

According to a bombshell new report by BuzzFeed News, President Trump personally ordered his former attorney, Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress about Trump’s efforts to pursue a real estate deal in Moscow.

As background, throughout the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump denied any efforts to pursue deals in Russia. In 2017, Michael Cohen testified to Congress that efforts to seek a Trump Tower in Moscow had ended in January 2016. But in fact, the Trump Organization had been actively pursuing a Trump Tower Moscow deal through June 2016. In November 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty to making false statements to Congress.

The new report from Buzzfeed adds that Trump personally instructed Cohen to lie to Congress in order to hide Trump’s involvement. Furthermore, the evidence is not limited to Cohen’s testimony. To the contrary, Cohen simply confirmed what was already known:

The special counsel’s office learned about Trump’s directive for Cohen to lie to Congress through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents. Cohen then acknowledged those instructions during his interviews with that office.

Instructing a witness to lie to Congress is an impeachable offense (as demonstrated, e.g., in the second article of impeachment against Richard Nixon) and may involve multiple federal crimes (e.g., conspiracysubornation of perjury, and witness tampering).

The House Judiciary Committee should launch an immediate impeachment inquiry. Our system of constitutional democracy is in danger and further delay is irresponsible.

The Atlantic: Impeach Donald Trump

The March 2019 issue of The Atlantic features an important piece by historian Yoni Applebaum, in which he lays out the case for why we must begin the impeachment process against President Trump.

Applebaum details Trump’s many constitutional violations in his article:

…[Trump] has mounted a concerted challenge to the separation of powers, to the rule of law, and to the civil liberties enshrined in our founding documents. He has purposefully inflamed America’s divisions. He has set himself against the American idea, the principle that all of us—of every race, gender, and creed—are created equal.

Appelbaum rebuts many common objections to impeachment in his piece. He argues that impeachment is not an partisan issue, but rather individuals from both sides of the aisle have spoken out against Trump’s unconstitutional actions, and those who have worked closely with the president express the most alarm. Applebaum also addresses the trepidation Congress has expressed in beginning the impeachment process, choosing to “outsource its responsibilities to federal prosecutors.” But we cannot wait for judges or the Mueller Investigation:

Only by authorizing a dedicated impeachment inquiry can the House begin to assemble disparate allegations into a coherent picture, forcing lawmakers to consider both whether specific charges are true and whether the president’s abuses of his power justify his removal.

Trump has violated the Constitution repeatedly and profoundly. Regardless of politics, impeachment is a constitutional process designed by our nation’s founders for precisely this purpose:

[The founders] created a mechanism for considering whether a president is subverting the rule of law or pursuing his own self-interest at the expense of the general welfare—in short, whether his continued tenure in office poses a threat to the republic. This mechanism is impeachment….

Impeachment is a process, not an outcome, a rule-bound procedure for investigating a president, considering evidence, formulating charges, and deciding whether to continue on to trial.

Applebaum concludes his powerful piece with a call to action for Congress:

Today, the United States once more confronts a president who seems to care for only some of the people he represents, who promises his supporters that he can roll back the tide of diversity, who challenges the rule of law, and who regards constitutional rights and liberties as disposable. Congress must again decide whether the greater risk lies in executing the Constitution as it was written, or in deferring to voters to do what it cannot muster the courage to do itself. The gravest danger facing the country is not a Congress that seeks to measure the president against his oath—it is a president who fails to measure up to that solemn promise.

Read the article in Atlantic Magazine here.

Want to get involved in the movement to hold President Trump accountable to the law? Click here to take action!

Inspector General: GSA Ignored Constitutional Problems with Trump Hotel Lease

The Office of Inspector General of the General Services Administration issued a scathing report on “Evaluation of GSA’s Management and Administration of the Old Post Office Building Lease.” As the Inspector General concludes, GSA lawyers essentially ignored a glaring constitutional problem with leasing this federally-owned building to the Trump Organization.

As background, the GSA administers the lease of the federally-owned Old Post Office Building to the Trump International Hotel. The Domestic Emoluments Clause of the Constitution provides: “The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be increased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.” (This is a separate provision from the Foreign Emoluments Clause, which applies to presents and emoluments from foreign governments and their instrumentalities.)

The problem is that the GSA leases the building to the Trump Organization, which is owned by the president. To make matters worse, the GSA’s lease contract includes standard language providing: “No . . . elected official of the Government of the United States . . . shall be admitted to any share or part of this Lease, or to any benefit that may arise therefrom . . . .” After Trump entered office, the GSA announced that it had concluded that this clause somehow did not apply, on the bizarre theory that since the Trump Organization nominally transferred management of the LLCs and corporations that operate the hotel to Trump’s sons, Trump will not “benefit” from the lease during his term in office. The GSA’s decision not to enforce the unambiguous term in the lease contract is a government benefit and domestic emolument.

The Inspector General’s report notes that the lease “raised issues under the Constitution’s Emoluments Clauses that might cause a breach of the lease; however, GSA decided not to address those issues.” GSA’s own lawyers recognized the constitutional problem early on, but “the attorneys decided to ignore the emoluments issue … without conducting any research of the two Emoluments Clauses or checking for any OLC opinions.”

President Trump has been enriching himself from public resources since the moment he took office, and unfortunately in this case, federal government lawyers sworn to uphold the Constitution enabled his profiteering. Congress must begin an immediate impeachment inquiry.