After a brief and biased “inquiry,” House Democrats have put forward two articles of impeachment against President Trump, the first charging him with abuse of power and the second alleging obstruction of Congress.
Neither article holds up under scrutiny.
The abuse of power President Trump supposedly committed was an attempt to coerce Ukraine into opening an investigation to benefit himself. Hunter Biden, son of former Vice President and current presidential candidate Joe Biden, sat on the Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma’s board despite his lack of qualifications.
You may recall that Joe Biden had previously bragged publicly about arranging for a Ukrainian prosecutor who had been investigating Burisma to be fired.
Even if Joe Biden’s actions as Vice President had nothing to do with his son’s involvement in Burisma, he should have recognized they created an appearance of impropriety and a clear conflict of interest.
In a phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky, President Trump said, “Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it . . . It sounds horrible to me.”
Note that President Trump did not ask President Zelensky to find the Bidens guilty of anything, but to find the truth of the situation.
If the Obama Administration can prevent an investigation by forcing out a prosecutor, the Trump Administration should be able to give the green light to reopen an investigation.
I do not think the President’s request constituted an impeachable offense. In any event, does the simple fact that Joe Biden is a presidential candidate give him or his family immunity from investigations? That would give anyone running for president or their families a get out of jail free card.
Further, Democrats claim President Trump tied investigations to military aid to Ukraine, but this aid was not actually halted even though Ukraine has not opened an investigation. President Zelensky has also said he felt no pressure to open the investigation.
Congress instructed the President to ensure Ukraine was solving its corruption problems before releasing the money. President Trump had the right to do so.
Further, it should be remembered that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election, even if not to the extent of the Russians. To verify, one only needs to read the op-ed in The Hill by the Ukrainian ambassador to the United States in August 2016. That ambassador was not recalled from Ukraine until July 2019. Clearly, Ukraine’s corruption issues are still lingering well into 2019.
People may not agree with how President Trump has interacted with Ukraine, but they should express their disagreement through the policy process in Congress or the ballot box. No evidence of “abuse of power” has been produced to justify the penalty of impeachment and removal from office, which no president has suffered in our history.
Nor do the Democrats have grounds to impeach President Trump on obstruction of Congress.
As a Member of Congress, I want to maintain our prerogatives. That is what the Framers counted on when they designed the Constitution. They knew that the people in each of the three branches of government would be jealous of their own powers and ready to check the others if they stepped out of their bounds.
President Trump and the current Democratic House are engaged in the same contest as George Washington when he claimed executive privilege over documents the House wanted to see. That back and forth has continued. The difference this time is that Democrats in the House want to jump to impeachment over various less severe remedies.
When President Obama’s administration failed to produce documents we asked for, House Republicans held then-Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress and went to court to enforce subpoenas. We did not move to impeach President Obama.
Democrats have short-circuited the process by racing to impeach. Subpoenas from other investigations are still being sorted out in the courts. In fact, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg recently temporarily blocked a subpoena of President Trump’s financial records.
In the impeachment investigation, the Democrats are not waiting to determine if their subpoenas are lawful. I believe their speed is due to political considerations, not constitutional questions.
Lowering the threshold on what is impeachable may come back to haunt Democrats. I still believe the standard tug of war between branches should be resolved through the courts, legislation, and other commonplace tools, but if this Congress brings impeachment out of the toolshed for historically predictable disagreements, then a future Congress may be reluctant to return it.
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