Congress seeking expert opinions as Trump makes it 'increasingly difficult' to avoid impeachment: House Judiciary chair

Congress seeking expert opinions as Trump makes it 'increasingly difficult' to avoid impeachment: House Judiciary chair
News & Politics

Democratic Representative Jerry Nadler has been reluctant to enter into direct conflict with the White House and even more reluctant to utter the “I” word. But he, like many other members of Democratic leadership, believes that impeachment is much more likely, because Donald Trump is giving Congress no other choice.


In an interview on NBC Nadler was asked whether he believed that Trump was intentionally trying to force Congress to impeach him, because Trump believes surviving an impeachment would give him a political boost. Nadler did not believe that was the case. Instead, he believes that Trump is simply impulsive, and acting without a real strategy.

“I think he is very impulsive,” said Nadler. “He’s very willful, and he’s very ignorant. I mean, unlike Richard Nixon, who knew exactly what he was doing when he was violating the law and violating norms and so forth, he just goes ahead. He doesn’t know what the law is. He doesn’t know what the constitutional history is. He doesn’t know the implications of half of what he does.” Nadler, like Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, agreed that Trump is making it increasingly impossible to avoid impeachment, through this blanket use of privilege and disobeying subpoenas.

Those questions are under direct discussion in a (currently ongoing) legislative hearing before the House Judiciary Committee that calls on expert witnesses—including some regularly called by Republicans on previous occasions—to speak on the subject of executive privilege vs. congressional oversight. The array of legal and constitutional experts weighed in on both sides of the issue … but even those who were regarded as reliably conservative did not have good things to say about Trump’s actions. Trump’s attempted expansion of executive privilege came in for heavy fire from experts who pointed out that it was much broader than even claims that had previously been made, and failed.

While some of the witnesses felt that some redactions made to the special counsel report by Attorney General William Barr were likely to withstand a court fight, and one of those testifying was actually a friend of Barr who spoke at his confirmation hearing, even that witness agreed that many other actions on Trump’s part, such as withholding witnesses and documents, or ordering staffers to disobey congressional subpoenas were “unsupportable.”

And as many of those same witnesses pointed out, the constitution assigns to Congress one clear way of dealing with presidential misconduct … the one that Nadler believes they are being driven to take. Interestingly, one of the experts testifying indicated that “it’s enough” to be considering impeachment, or evaluating the possibility of impeachment, for courts to strike down most privilege claims as they would during an impeachment hearing.

The advice given to the committee by experts speaks directly to the potential outcome of existing subpoenas, the contempt citation against Attorney General William Barr, and Trump’s resistance to provide witnesses or documents. The responses from the experts are extremely informative in their review of past cases.

Again and again in the questioning, representatives returned to the question of whether initiating impeachment proceedings could be necessary to obtaining the information they require for effective oversight—with mixed results. The complete transcript of this hearing is going to represent a guidebook for going forward, and a textbook for conducting oversight—or beginning an impeachment.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019 · 10:37:56 AM Colombia Standard Time · Mark Sumner

If you have an opportunity, watch what remains of the House Judiciary Committeehearing on executive privilege vs. congressional oversight. It’s been a genuinely fascinating, insightful, and frank discussion. Well … except for the part where Louie Gohmert used his time to warn about “biological women who say they are men” taking over all the synagogues.

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