Pelosi moves Trump impeachment forward, setting up a Christmastime vote
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Thursday that congressional Democrats will proceed with drafting the articles of impeachment against President Trump. “Sadly, but with confidence and humility, with allegiance to our founders and a heart full of love for America, today I am asking our chairmen to proceed with articles of impeachment,” she said. “I commend our committee chairs and our members for their somber approach to actions which I wish the president had not made necessary.”
Pelosi invoked the Constitution and intentions of America’s founders while explaining her reasoning. The core issue of the impeachment inquiry is Trump's dealings with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, and whether Trump withheld congressionally appropriated military aid in order to pressure Zelensky into opening up investigations that would benefit him politically.
“In the course of today’s events, it becomes necessary for us to address, among other grievances, the president’s failure to faithfully execute the law,” Pelosi said. “When crafting the Constitution, the founders feared the return of a monarchy in America. And having just fought a war of independence, they specifically feared the prospect of a king-president corrupted by foreign influence.”
She also invoked Wednesday's testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, during which four law professors spoke to investigators. The scholars "illuminated without a doubt that the president’s actions are a profound violation of the public trust," Pelosi said.
The four witnesses were Noah Feldman, Pamela Karlan, Michael Gerhardt, and Jonathan Turley. The first three professors spoke during Wednesday’s session at the Democrats’ request, while Turley was called by the panel's Republicans.
Feldman, Gerhardt, and Karlan supported the Democrats’ push for impeachment, offering analyses of how Trump's conduct had violated the constitution. Feldman, who teaches at Harvard University, argued that Trump should be held accountable to maintain the government's system of checks and balances.
“If we cannot impeach a president who abused his office for personal advantage, we no longer live in a democracy,” he stated. Gerhardt, an instructor at the University of North Carolina, agreed, stating: “If what we are talking about is not impeachable, then nothing is impeachable.”
The trio agreed the Ukraine situation is a blatant display of corruption. Feldman illustrated the difference between negotiation on the country’s behalf and acting for selfish reasons — taking on a key argument that Trump has tried to levy in his own defense, that presidents have the right to make foreign policy.
“There’s nothing wrong with someone asking for a favor in the interest of the United States of America. The problem is for the president to use his office to solicit or demand a favor for his personal benefit,” Feldman asserted. “That’s the definition of corruption under the Constitution.”
Stanford scholar Karlan stated that Trump’s actions were the definition of bribery, regardless of what is in law books. “When you ask for private benefits in return for an official act, or somebody gave them to you to influence an official act, that was bribery,” she said. Like Pelosi, Karlan believes the Ukraine situation is the type of corruption the founding fathers were “especially concerned” about.
The Trump-era impeachment process has been a speedy one. Democrats want to keep the momentum going by conducting a vote before they go on holiday break Dec. 20. As The Washington Post pointed out, the fast pace could be due to an unwillingness to impeach a president during an election year. Turley, the Republicans' lone witness, cautioned Democrats against rushing to impeachment before having completed a thorough investigation.
The Judiciary Committee will now draft articles of impeachment, thought to center around the charges of abuse of power, bribery, and foreign interference, per the Times. The measure is all but guaranteed to pass the House, thanks to the lower chamber’s Democratic majority, moving the impeachment process to the Senate. It will be left up to the upper chamber to put Trump on trial and decide if he will be removed. Given Republicans' control of the Senate, Trump's removal is extremely unlikely.
Only two other presidents, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, have been impeached. Neither of them was removed from office either. As Mic previously explained, two-thirds of the Senate, or 67 senators, must vote in favor of removal. There are 53 Republicans and 45 Democrats in the Senate, with two more independents who caucus with Democrats. That means the odds of removal are, as Baltimore Law School professor Kimberly Wehle put it, “close to impossible.”
The president seemed confident in the outcome based on tweets he shared following Pelosi’s announcement.
Brad Parscale, Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, also brushed off the Democrats' efforts.
“Impeaching the president has always been their goal," Parscale said in a statement. "So they should just get on with it so we can have a fair trial in the Senate and expose The Swamp for what it is."