There is a lot of confusion about what’s really happening with the impeachment of Donald Trump.
Congress Can Still Back Out of Impeachment
Media reports make it sound as if Congress has already started impeachment … and the only question is whether or not the Republican-controlled Senate will vote to convict and remove Trump from office.
In reality, however, the House has not introduced articles of impeachment. So House Speaker Nancy Pelosi could let the impeachment “investigation” peter out without any action being taken.
Generally, the opening of the official inquiry marks one of the first steps in the impeachment process and consists of House lawmakers gathering evidence, subpoenaing witnesses, and reviewing information about the president. It usually begins in the House Judiciary Committee.
Once House lawmakers’ investigation is complete — we don’t yet know when that will be — they can decide whether or not to recommend articles of impeachment, or charges to be specifically brought against the president. The House Judiciary Committee would vote on these charges and then advance them to a vote by the full House. The House then decides if it officially wants to charge the president on these counts, a move that requires a simple majority to pass.
If those articles pass or those charges are brought forth, the Senate can hold a trial to decide if they want to convict or acquit the president. It is also possible, however, that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will decline to do anything about those charges.
The House Judiciary Committee voted to formally begin an impeachment inquiry on September 12, along party lines. Furthermore, Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler has insisted they have unofficially been pursuing an impeachment investigation for some time.
But ultimately, the day-to-day work of the six committees charged with conducting the inquiry — Judiciary, Intelligence, Oversight and Reform, Foreign Affairs, Financial Services, and Ways and Means — isn’t going to change all that much.
So the House can still decide not to introduce formal articles of impeachment.
And even if it does, the Senate Majority leader could simply ignore articles once introduced.
We’re not saying that Pelosi’s announcement isn’t significant, and momentum for impeachment has certainly skyrocketed in the last week. However, it is not the done deal that many assume …
Ukraine Didn’t Learn that the U.S. was Withholding Aid for a Month After Trump’s Phonecall with Ukraine’s President
Media reports make it sound as if Trump tied Ukraine’s investigation into the Biden family to U.S. aid.
However, the New York Times reports:
Mr. Trump did not discuss the delay in the military assistance on the July 25 call with Mr. Zelensky [the president of Ukraine], according to people familiar with the conversation. A Ukrainian official said Mr. Zelensky’s government did not learn of the delay until about one month after the call.
The decision to hold back the aid, which had been approved by Congress, came at a time when the president was looking for ways to curb a variety of foreign assistance programs, and some aides at least initially saw it in that broader context. But Mr. Trump singled out Ukraine as a place he considered corrupt and railed about wasting money there, according to people who heard him discuss the matter, and he questioned the aid package for weeks.
In other words, while Trump may have suspended military aid to Ukraine a week before Trump’s phonecall with the Ukrainian President, that was kept secret for a month after the call.
So quid pro? No.
The Tape “Cover-Up”
One of America’s top constitutional law experts – Jonathan Turley – notes:
If you establish the basis for such a crime, then the use of the separate server becomes a serious problem as covering up a crime. But you still need a crime. Otherwise, Trump can argue that he had been the victim of leaks about diplomatic calls and they took the step to better control access to such information. So, if you want impeachment, find the quid.
In other words, unless Trump broke the law in his phonecall with Ukraine’s president, putting transcripts of the call on a separate server may be no big deal.