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By Hans von Spakovsky & Thomas Jipping | The Daily Signal
Does an impeachment inquiry require a vote of the full House of Representatives? President Donald Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., maintain that it does. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., claims that it doesn’t.
Pelosi is correct that the Constitution doesn’t explicitly require it. It simply gives the House the “sole Power of Impeachment.” But the gravity of even considering impeachment, fundamental principles of fair and impartial justice, and preserving our republican form of government, do require it.
Pelosi alone announced on Sept. 25 that the House was opening an impeachment inquiry, directing six different committees to investigate the president. This is radically different, and much more partisan, than how this serious step was taken in the past.
In 1974, like today, a Republican was in the White House and Democrats controlled the House. On Feb. 6, the full House voted 410-4 to authorize an impeachment investigation of President Richard Nixon by the Judiciary Committee. Similarly, on Oct. 8, 1998, the full House voted 258-176 for the Judiciary Committee to open an impeachment investigation of President Bill Clinton.
Pelosi’s claim that there is no “House precedent that the whole House vote before proceeding with an impeachment inquiry,” therefore, is simply false.
Other than declaring war, there is no more serious undertaking by the House of Representatives in our constitutional republic. Why? Because through impeachment, the House is charging a president with misconduct so serious that he should immediately be removed from office. In other words, the House is effectively seeking to neutralize the choice—and the votes—of the American electorate.
That is an extraordinary action, especially in a system of government based on the people electing their own leaders. And it’s also the reason that impeachment alone cannot remove the president; that requires conviction by two-thirds of the Senate (67 senators). Neither of the presidents who were impeached—Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1999—were convicted and, therefore, stayed in office.
In an Oct. 3 letter, McCarthy asked for a vote of the full House. He reminded Pelosi that the Judiciary Committee report on the Clinton impeachment investigation said:
“Because impeachment is delegated solely to the House of Representatives by the Constitution, the full House of Representatives should be involved in critical decision making regarding various stages of impeachment.”
An investigation to determine, in the words of the Clinton resolution, “whether sufficient grounds exist” for impeachment should be authorized by the body with the “sole Power of Impeachment”—the House of Representatives. Moreover, such a resolution should, as it did for the Clinton impeachment investigation, outline the rules under which it will be conducted.
McCarthy asked important questions that Pelosi’s announcement did not answer. Will the ranking minority member of the investigating committees have the authority to issue subpoenas and to question witnesses, or simply be ignored by the majority? Will the president’s lawyers be able to attend all hearings and depositions; to present evidence; to object to the admittance of evidence; to cross-examine witnesses; or to recommend witnesses to be interviewed?
As McCarthy says, if Pelosi says “no” to these questions, then she will be “denying the president the bare minimum rights granted to his predecessors.” Doing so would indicate that Pelosi and these committees do not intend to provide the fundamental due process rights we extend even to those accused of wrongdoing in our courts.
All Americans have an interest in the integrity of our government and the legitimacy of its actions. Departing from precedent; single-handed directives; freewheeling roving investigations by multiple committees; and running roughshod over the minority undermine that interest.
On the other hand, that interest is served by the entire House considering and authorizing an impeachment inquiry; a transparent investigation; authority for both the majority and minority committee members to investigate, subpoena, and call witnesses; and outlining the scope of the investigation.
America’s Founders did not put impeachment into the Constitution as a partisan tool to be used for overturning an election. How this process is conducted today will reveal who in the House of Representatives agrees with them.
Hans von Spakovsky is an authority on a wide range of issues—including civil rights, civil justice, the First Amendment, immigration, the rule of law and government reform—as a senior legal fellow in The Heritage Foundation’s Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies and manager of the think tank’s Election Law Reform Initiative.
Thomas Jipping is deputy director of the Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies and senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation.
The Unfairness of the Left’s Impeachment Push Against Trump
By Rep. Andy Biggs | The Daily Signal
President Donald Trump talks to reporters Friday on the South Lawn of the White House before boarding Marine One and traveling to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
What would you do if you were prosecuted and the prosecutors never named the alleged crime? Or if they kept changing the rules by which they were prosecuting you?
How about if the prosecutorial team suggested you be arrested and held in solitary confinement before they even stated the charge? In fact, what if they repeatedly admitted that their attacks were motivated solely by the fact that they don’t like you?
Now, I ask every fair American to consider what the Democrats led by House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and the radical four leftist House freshmen are doing to President Donald Trump.
The day after the 2016 presidential election, the Democrats began talking about impeachment. They haven’t let up since. The fact that they stated their intent to pursue impeachment before Trump was even in office reveals that they are motivated by hatred.
Democrats have spent the past three years chasing their dream of impeaching the president, which is an American nightmare of divisiveness. They stated no charge. They have flitted around like a moth drawn to the light.
First it was the Russian collusion narrative. Democrats forced multiple investigations, which all failed and embarrassed them. They should have felt shame for the evaporation of this fairy tale, but we still hear Democrats say that there is actual proof that Trump colluded with the Russians to influence the 2016 election.
Then it was the crazy obstruction of justice allegation based on the non-collusion fact. They were cornered into arguing that the president must prove his innocence, not that the impeachment-mongers had to prove obstruction. Imagine asking a judge to overturn the U.S. Constitution like that.
Then it was the July 25 telephone call with the Ukraine’s president. This thing unraveled fast. Day One, they claimed Trump had threatened President Volodymyr Zelenskyy eight times. When that wasn’t true, as shown by the White House transcript of the call, Democrats and leftist media types went on a coordinated kick, claiming the president is a mob boss and his threat was implicit or not overtly stated after all.
When Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian foreign minister said there was no pressure, it wiped that narrative, too.
Next, Democrats all got on the same page by claiming there was a cover-up by the administration because the call between the two world leaders, which contained pointed criticism of other leaders, was classified.
Well, that approach was also met with derision because all of the documentation pertaining to that phone call was released with other documents. Hard to cover up something you were open and transparent about.
And that brings us to the leftists’ point person on the legislative harassment of the president: Rep. Adam Schiff. Unlike a real impeachment investigation or a court of law, Schiff inexcusably fabricated and publicly read a transcript of the call in question. Let’s make it as clear as possible: There wasn’t anything true in his statement.
Then Schiff followed up the whole thing with a secret hearing last week in which he tried to prevent the public from hearing the truth from the witness who was giving testimony to committee members.
Unlike a real impeachment inquiry, the president doesn’t get counsel, Republicans are precluded from calling witnesses, and no charges have been lodged by the pro-impeachment mob.
Again, imagine you were being attacked in this way. You probably would join the president and me in calling for a censure of the ringleader and demanding that he be removed from his position of leading this coup attempt.
You can’t carry on a case in court with these types of anomalies, so why should these opponents of the president be allowed to overturn the election of 2016?
Rep. Andy Biggs a Republican, represents Arizona’s 5th Congressional District in the U.S. House. He is chairman of the House Freedom Caucus and serves on the Judiciary and Science, Space and Technology committees.
A READER”S COMMENTS:
I wasn’t a Trump supporter in 2016. I wasn’t a Clinton supporter either…I haven’t voted in Federal election since the 1st Bush election. I am a Native American an unlike Warren my father was full blooded Lakota Sioux. I am retired and live in MN. I have tickets to see Trump rally in Minneapolis on the 10th. The House is out of control. The majority of those in my small commuter town within driving distance to the Twin Cities is backing Trump. They are tired of Democrats lies and the obvious smear campaign that they have chosen to follow. They would vote for Donald Duck because they are voting against the horrid democratic socialism that is being pushed by them. I can’t find one specific charge that the President would be impeached for? Enough is enough vote against the Democrats in MN!!!!!!!
Source: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
There have so far been two hearings in the House Democrats’ effort to impeach President Donald Trump over the Ukraine matter. Both have been held in secret. One was last Thursday, the other Friday, and the public does not know what was said in either. Two more are scheduled for this week, and they will be held behind closed doors, too.
The hearings are part of an effort to remove the president from office. There could not be a matter of more pressing public concern. There could not be a matter in which the American people have a greater stake. And yet the public has no idea what is being discovered.
Last week’s sessions weren’t just secret. They were super-secret. The first hearing, in which the witness was former Ukraine special envoy Kurt Volker, was held in what is known as a SCIF, which stands for sensitive compartmented information facility. It is a room in the Capitol, built to be impervious to electronic surveillance so that lawmakers can discuss the nation’s most important secrets without fear of discovery.
The second hearing, in which intelligence community inspector general Michael Atkinson testified, was also held in the SCIF.
Were highly classified matters discussed at the Volker and Atkinson hearings? Apparently not. Neither interview was classified. And even if some classified information were involved, it would be astonishing for Democrats to believe they could attempt to remove the president on the basis of information that is not available to the public.
The secrecy, decreed by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, has taken Republicans by surprise. Some are now speaking out about it.
“Adam Schiff is running an impeachment inquiry secretly, behind closed doors, and he’s making up the rules as he goes along,” said Republican Rep. John Ratcliffe.
“These proceedings should be public,” added Republican Rep. Jim Jordan. “Democrats are trying to remove the president 13 months before an election based on an anonymous whistleblower … and they’re doing it all in a closed-door process.”
“This is nothing more or less than a show trial for the media,” said Rep. Devin Nunes, the ranking Republican on the Intelligence Committee, noting that with secrecy rules in place, the public knows only what is leaked to the press. “The Democrats leak what they want to leak to build narratives.”
Of course, that is not how Democrats would describe it. For his part, Schiff has said that secrecy is needed to protect the identity of the CIA whistleblower who started the entire process. “The whistleblower has the right in the statute to remain anonymous,” Schiff said recently, referring to the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act, which lays out the process through which intelligence community whistleblowers can file complaints.
In fact, the law says: “The inspector general shall not disclose the identity of the employee without the consent of the employee, unless the inspector general determines that such disclosure is unavoidable during the course of the investigation.”
First, the inspector general is the only official specifically prohibited from disclosing the identity. And second, even if the statute’s use of “investigation” refers to the inspector general’s probe, the fact is, the whistleblower is now part of an impeachment proceeding. Disclosure is, in fact, unavoidable; Democrats cannot keep entire hearings secret, keep vital information away from the American people, in the name of preserving the anonymity of a whistleblower.
Yet that appears to be what Schiff and his Democratic colleagues are doing. This week the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, was scheduled to be interviewed, but the State Department nixed his appearance at the last minute. That session was set to be held behind closed doors. Also this week, lawmakers will interview former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovich — behind closed doors. Republicans can complain, but Democrats, in firm control of the House, can do as they like. (An inquiry to Schiff’s office went unanswered.)
The Democratic drive to impeach President Trump over Ukraine is the first impeachment proceeding solely about foreign policy. The exercise of foreign policy sometimes involves secrecy. The imposition of secrecy was an enormous problem in public understanding of the Trump-Russia affair, which ended with the special counsel unable to establish that there had been any conspiracy or coordination involving Russia and the Trump 2016 campaign. In that investigation, the public would have been better served by more disclosure, more quickly.
Now, the American people deserve to know precisely why one party in the House proposes to remove the president. They deserve to know the facts behind the Ukraine matter. It is simply inconceivable that a party could seek to remove a president but say to the American people, in essence, “Trust us, we’ve got good reason.”
The impeachment proceedings should be opened up — now.
Byron York is chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner.
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Author: Frances Rice