House Panel Votes to Approve Articles of Impeachment

While President Trump has not yet officially been impeached, that historic outcome has become even more likely as the House of Representatives prepares for a full vote on both of the articles that have been presented by the House Judiciary Committee. The full votes on both articles will be held sometime next week, probably Wednesday, and are likely to pass along party lines. Republican members of Congress have shown absolutely no cracks in their resistance to impeachment, as every Republican representative has voted against the process since it began several weeks ago and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated that he expects no Republican senators to vote to remove President Trump from office.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Chairman Jerry Nadler, and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff presented the Articles of Impeachment during a press conference on Tuesday, with formal charges including Abuse of Power and Obstruction of Congress. Democrats opted to keep the focus of impeachment narrow in order to build the strongest possible case in a short period of time; although the Mueller Report outlined several instances of potential obstruction of justice, which has been presented as an article in previous impeachments, the articles that the House Panel just approved involved only the misconduct that become evident in connection to a whistleblower complaint from a few months ago. Considering the President’s misconduct to be a national security emergency, Democrats are undergoing the impeachment process as quickly as they possibly can, choosing not to wait for the courts to decide whether the White House is legally obligated to produce documents and witnesses in accordance with numerous congressional subpoenas.

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While the outcome in the Democrat-led House of Representatives has been highly predictable throughout the impeachment process, the upcoming trial in the Senate, which is led by Republican Mitch McConnell, is less clear. However, McConnell has shed some light on what the Senate trial will look like during a recent interview with Fox News, during which the Senate Majority Leader indicated that the Senate would follow the White House’s lead in defining the parameters of the trial. 

It’s long been predicted that, regardless of how long the Senate trial goes on and how it is defined, Republicans would vote along party lines to protect the President. Now, McConnell has reaffirmed the congressional body’s fealty to the president, as he has taken the historically unprecedented step of allowing the defendant of a high-stakes trial to define the terms of the trial that will determine whether he is found guilty of committing high crimes and misdemeanors. McConnell said that there is ‘zero chance’ Trump is removed by impeachment, and given the Republicans’ unyielding loyalty to the current Commander in Chief, there is little reason to doubt him.

While President Trump will probably not be removed from office after the Senate trial, impeachment is nonetheless likely to have a lasting political impact, as the general election that will determine the next President of the United States will be held in less than a year. Though one can make a fairly confident prediction that Trump will remain the President through 2020, virtually nobody can speak with certainty at this point about the likelihood of his winning reelection next year. Both Democrats and Republicans have said that they hope impeachment will have a positive effect on their political power; Democrats argue that the public process of impeachment helps to inform the electorate about the President’s many abuses of power and thus of the urgency of removing him from office, whereas Republicans see the outcome of impeachment as a victory for the President, who is sure to portray his acquittal in the Senate as a vindication of his position that Article II of the Constitution, which defines the parameters of the executive branch of the federal government, gives him the power to do whatever he wants.

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Perhaps the biggest takeaway of the likely outcome of impeachment will be that Trump’s claim to absolute executive power, unburdened by the Constitution’s centuries-old system of checks and balances, will be correct. At this moment in history, as Democrats have taken pains to point out time and time again, impeachment and the upcoming general election are the only two remaining constitutional checks preventing the President from consolidating his power and transforming the country’s government into a monarchy or dictatorship. 

If Trump is acquitted by the Senate, as he probably will be, Congress will establish a precedent that it is OK for the President to cheat in American elections by coordinating with foreign powers to interfere in the democratic process around which the country’s entire government is built. Though the upcoming presidential election is likely to be compromised as a result of efforts by the President and Republicans to undermine democracy, it will determine whether or not the United States will remain a republic or descend into an authoritarian state, as the president’s last three years of attacks against the institutions of democratic governance have been remarkably effective and are certain to continue to their completion if he is given another term in office.

Impeachment Trial

President Trump Will Not Participate in Impeachment Hearings

The first phase of the impeachment inquiry, wherein the House Intelligence Committee questioned fact witnesses about a phone call made on July 25th in which President Trump asked President Zelensky of Ukraine to investigate Burisma, a company connected to Joe Biden, has concluded. Now, the inquiry moves to the second phase in the House of Representatives, and the evidence that has been collected so far will be presented to the House Judiciary Committee, during which members of Congress will deliberate over whether to draft articles of impeachment to deliver to the Senate. 

The hearings will be chaired by Representative Jerrold Nadler, who recently penned a letter inviting Trump and his legal counsel to participate in the proceedings. Yesterday, the president declined to participate in the hearings in any capacity, accusing the Democrats of conducting an unfair and biased process, and even going so far as to accuse them of deliberately scheduling the hearings while Trump is out of the country, as he is heading to London this week to participate in a NATO summit.

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The White House’s refusal to participate in the impeachment process in the House marks a reversal from previous comments made by the president. During an interview on Fox News, Trump claimed that he’d be willing to submit a written testimony to the House of Representatives, and said that he wanted a trial and that he’s looking forward to it. Trump and many Republicans believe that impeachment is bound to backfire on the Democrats, as the president is likely to be acquitted by the Senate and then use the Democrats’ failed impeachment inquiry as evidence to bolster his argument that he is being unfairly prosecuted. 

Though Trump will not be in the United States during Wednesday’s hearing, he could have chosen to send legal counsel and suggest witnesses for questioning. That being said, the president’s lack of cooperation with the Democrats comes as no surprise, as since the inquiry began Trump has sharply rebuked allegations of wrongdoing and attacked the process of impeachment, ordering some key witnesses to defy subpoenas in a possible violation of law. Republicans in both the House and the Senate have essentially fallen in line under Trump, as every Republican in the House of Representatives voted against opening an impeachment inquiry and Senate Republicans have spoken out forcefully against the proceedings.

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Undeterred, Democrats are not changing their plans to accommodate the president’s requests. The Judiciary Committee’s first hearing will be held on Wednesday, and instead of speaking with fact witnesses, lawmakers will question academics and other legal experts to determine whether the president’s actions justify impeachment. Notably, both Democrats and Republicans had expressed hope that Trump would decide to participate in the inquiry, but they are surely not surprised by his refusal to do so given his past behavior. The fact that the president had an opportunity to participate in the hearings but chose not to undercuts arguments from Trump and his defenders that the White House was not given the chance to help define and shape the process. In fact, this refusal may become part of Democrats’ argument that the president has been actively obstructing justice since learning about the whistleblower’s complaint.

While members of both parties surely would have appreciated Trump’s participation in his own impeachment inquiry, his lack of participation is unlikely to change the outcome in the House of Representatives. Democrats such as Adam Schiff have stated that they were unwilling to be subject to a game of “rope-a-dope” in the courts, proceeding rapidly despite various attempts to stonewall the investigation. Democrats have said that they hope to conclude the first part of impeachment, which takes place in the House of Representatives, by Christmas, and so far show no signs of missing that self-imposed deadline.