Legal expert explains why an ‘impeachment inquiry’ of Trump really started on March 4
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi remains adamant in her opposition to bringing articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, maintaining that House Democrats should instead focus their energy on aggressive investigations of the president while keeping the 2020 election in mind. Legal writer Fred Wertheimer, in an August 12 article for Just Security, asserts that he isn’t opposed to Pelosi’s “step-by-step approach” — yet in a sense, he writes, an impeachment inquiry started on March 4, 2019.
That day, Wertheimer recalls, Rep. Jerry Nadler (chairman of the House Judiciary Committee) announced an investigation of “the alleged obstruction of justice, public corruption and other abuses of power by President Trump, his associates and members of his administration.”
Wertheimer notes that although Nadler didn’t use the word “impeachment” on March 4, obstruction of justice is certainly an impeachable offense.
“Obstruction of justice and abuse of power were the findings of wrongdoing contained in two of the articles of impeachment against President Richard Nixon voted by the House Judiciary Committee in July 1974,” Wertheimer recalls. And Wertheimer goes on to say that if one examines “the path of the Nixon impeachment process in 1973 and 1974,” one can get a pretty good idea about where the Trump impeachment inquiry could be heading. Clear parallels in the process emerge.”
For example, Wertheimer observes, the House Judiciary Committee “opened formal impeachment hearings against Nixon” on May 9, 1974 — and similarly, on August 9, 2019, Nadler stated that the House Judiciary Committee was engaged in “formal impeachment proceedings.”
“Regardless of whether you call it an ‘investigation,’ an ‘impeachment inquiry’ or a ‘formal impeachment proceeding,’” Wertheimer writes, “the matters that the Judiciary Committee has been investigating since March 4, 2019 — and the lawsuits brought by the Committee — make clear that (the) Committee is considering whether Trump should be impeached.”
Wertheimer concludes his piece by stressing that House Democrats have already entered the “impeachment inquiry” phase and that it remains to be seen whether or not they will decide to proceed with full-fledged “articles of impeachment.”
“Pelosi’s step-by-step approach, with offramps if necessary, and Nadler’s efforts to develop and place the full record of Trump’s wrongdoing before the American people, appears to be the correct way to proceed,” Wertheimer asserts. “Once the full case against Trump has been developed and placed before Congress and the country, House Democrats can then decide how to hold Trump accountable and whether to move from the current impeachment inquiry to articles of impeachment.”