With Congress returning to work after the August recess, some House Democrats are renewing their call to begin impeachment proceedings — even if just to get Republicans on the record voting in support of President Trump.
“We have to do our job,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., on Tuesday. “Once the House impeaches, the House has impeached the president and then that hearing goes to the Senate. If they want to fail it, then I want to see every Republican go on the record and knowingly vote against impeachment of this president, knowing his corruption, having it on the record so that they can have that stain on their careers for the rest of their lives because this is outrageous to protect the amount of lawlessness and corruption coming out of this presidency.
“This president will not last,” added Ocasio-Cortez, “whether he’s voted out next year or whether he serves another term, this president will not last, but those members in the Senate need to carry that legacy and they need to go to bat for what they’re doing. The corruption of this president knows no bounds, and in order to protect our democracy we have to impeach him.”
Trump isn’t accepting the possibility gracefully. “To me it’s a dirty word, the word ‘impeach,’” he said in May. “A dirty, filthy, disgusting word.”
One argument offered by some anti-impeachment Democrats is that there’s little chance the Republican-controlled Senate would reach the two-thirds majority needed to remove Trump from office, enabling him to claim vindication as he runs for reelection. Ocasio-Cortez’s argument is the counterpoint: In addition to fulfilling the legislative branch’s constitutional duty to provide a check on the executive, impeachment would saddle Republicans with a standard bearer whose approval rating has slipped below 40 percent in some polls.
House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., has proposed procedures for an impeachment inquiry, including a larger role for staffers in questioning witnesses, which the committee will vote on Thursday. Nadler made his intentions clear on Tuesday morning, although some confusion remains about where the process actually stands.
“We are holding hearings — a series of hearings — to consider the possibility of reporting to the floor articles of impeachment,” said Nadler. “That’s what we’re doing. There’s no ambiguity about it.”
After the report by special counsel Robert Mueller, it was widely believed the numerous instances of possible obstruction of justice by the president would be the focus of an impeachment inquiry. Democrats have also raised the possibility of investigating allegations of insurance fraud, dubious tax schemes and money laundering by Trump’s businesses. But some legislators have come to the view that Trump’s use of the presidency to promote his own businesses — and have taxpayers pick up the tab for officials who stay at his hotels — would be the easiest case to make to voters, and the clearest violation of the Constitution.
Trump has denied directing government business to his properties.
“People understand what it means for the president to be spending millions of dollars in federal government tax dollars at his own business properties,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., a Judiciary Committee member who supports impeachment.
“The Mueller report has clearly been muddled, and I’m not sure that the public really has much of a concept of what that showed,” said Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky. “And corruption is pretty easy to understand.”
Roughly 134 Democrats, over half the caucus, have come out in favor of beginning impeachment proceedings. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has not yet endorsed the idea, even as committee chairs like Nadler and other members of leadership begin to throw their support behind it.
Beginning an inquiry would not necessarily lead to impeachment, which is analogous to a criminal indictment and, if approved by the House, would lead to a trial in the Senate. The House would first investigate whether there was sufficient evidence that the president had met the standard in the Constitution of “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”
If an impeachment resolution is brought to the floor the full House, Democrats and Republicans, would vote on articles of impeachment. If they approve one or more of them by a simple majority, the president would officially be impeached, but not removed from office.
The Senate then would be required to hold a trial (i.e., not at the option of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell), with members of the House serving as the prosecution and lawyers chosen by the White House mounting a defense. The chief justice would preside. A two-thirds majority of the Senate would be necessary for conviction and the president’s removal from office, something that has never happened in American history.
Trump has previously expressed confusion about how the process works, saying that he didn’t think “the courts” — which are not involved in a House investigation — would allow it.
Two previous presidents have been impeached — Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998 — but the Senate failed to convict, and they both remained in office. The House began impeachment proceedings against Richard Nixon in 1974, but he resigned before a full House vote on the articles took place.
Read more from Yahoo News: