Advertisement

Democrats release report laying out legal argument for impeachment

Legal experts: Trump committed impeachable offences
WATCH: Trump committed impeachable offences, legal experts say

Previewing potential articles of impeachment, the House Democrats on Saturday issued a lengthy report drawing on history and the Founding Fathers to lay out the legal argument over the case against U.S. President Donald Trump‘s actions toward Ukraine.

The findings from the House Judiciary Committee do not spell out the formal charges against the president, which are being drafted ahead of votes, possibly as soon as next week. Instead, the report refutes Trump’s criticism of the impeachment proceedings, arguing that the Constitution created impeachment as a “safety valve” so Americans would not have to wait for the next election to remove a president.

It refers to the writings of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and others to link Trump’s actions in his July phone call with Ukraine’s president seeking political investigations of his rivals to the kind of behaviour that would “horrify” the framers.

READ MORE: White House won’t take part in next impeachment hearing: Trump administration official

Story continues below advertisement

“Where the President uses his foreign affairs power in ways that betray the national interest for his own benefit, or harm national security for equally corrupt reasons, he is subject to impeachment by the House,” the Democrats wrote. “Indeed, foreign interference in the American political system was among the gravest dangers feared by the Founders of our Nation and the Framers of our Constitution.”

Democrats are working through the weekend as articles are being drafted and committee members are preparing for a hearing Monday. Democrats say Trump abused his power in the July 25 phone call when he asked the Ukrainian president for a favour and engaged in bribery by withholding nearly $400 million in military aide that Ukraine depends on to counter Russian aggression.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi says it’s part of a troubling pattern of behaviour from Trump that benefits Russia and not the U.S.

What a Senate impeachment trial could look like
What a Senate impeachment trial could look like

Trump has insisted he did nothing wrong. “Witch Hunt!” the president tweeted Saturday morning. He implored his millions of followers to “Read the Transcripts!” of his telephone calls with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to judge for themselves.

The articles of impeachment are likely to encompass two major themes — abuse of office and obstruction — as Democrats strive to reach the Constitution’s bar of “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanours.”

In releasing his report Saturday, Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said the president’s actions are the framers’ “worst nightmare.”

Story continues below advertisement

“President Trump abused his power, betrayed our national security, and corrupted our elections, all for personal gain. The Constitution details only one remedy for this misconduct: impeachment,” Nadler said in a statement. “The safety and security of our nation, our democracy, and future generations hang in the balance if we do not address this misconduct. In America, no one is above the law, not even the President.”

READ MORE: Rudy Giuliani meets with lawyers in Ukraine as impeachment moves forward

 

The report released Saturday is an update of similar reports issued during the Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton impeachments and lays out the justification for articles under consideration, including abuse of power, bribery and obstruction.

It does not lay out the facts of the Ukraine case, but it hints at potential articles of impeachment and explains the thinking behind Democrats’ decision to draft them. Without frequently mentioning Trump, it alludes to his requests that Ukraine investigate Democrats, a move he believed would benefit him politically, by saying a president who “perverts his role as chief diplomat to serve private rather than public ends” has unquestionably engaged in the high crimes and misdemeanours laid out in the Constitution.

That is true “especially” if he invited rather than opposed foreign interference, the report says.

Kellyanne Conway suggests Trump calling House Democrats ‘bluff’ in asking for ‘fast’ impeachment
Kellyanne Conway suggests Trump calling House Democrats ‘bluff’ in asking for ‘fast’ impeachment

The report examines treason, bribery, serious abuse of power, betrayal of the national interest through foreign entanglements and corruption of office and elections. Democrats have been focused on an overall abuse of power article, with the possibility of breaking out a separate, related article on bribery. They are also expected to draft at least one article on obstruction of Congress, or obstruction of justice.

Story continues below advertisement

In laying out the grounds for impeachable offences, the report directly refutes several of the president’s claims in a section called “fallacies about impeachment,” including that the inquiry is based on secondhand evidence, that a president can do what he wants to do, and that Democrats’ motives are corrupt.

“The President’s honesty in an impeachment inquiry, or his lack thereof, can thus shed light on the underlying issue,” the report says.