Dear House Democrats,
You told us to be patient. You told us to be cautious. You told us to wait for Robert Mueller.
Well, the time for waiting is over. And the moment for impeachment hearings has arrived.
You now have access to the report itself, and even the “lightly redacted” 448 pages provide you with a clear and detailed road map for impeaching Donald Trump, in line with Article II, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution: “The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”
Listen to special counsel Robert Mueller. “With respect to whether the President can be found to have obstructed justice by exercising his powers under Article II of the Constitution, we concluded that Congress has authority to prohibit a President’s corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice,” he writes, adding: “The conclusion that Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the President’s corrupt exercise of the powers of office accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law.”
Got that? The special counsel — who listed 11 instances of potential obstruction of justice in his report and refused to “exonerate” the president — placed the decision firmly in your court. This is the impeachment referral you claimed you were waiting for.
Trump, in Mueller’s view, may not have committed an “underlying crime” in relation to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election — but this is frankly irrelevant to the case for impeachment. Listen to one of the 13 managers sent from your august body to prosecute the case against President Bill Clinton in the Senate in 1999. “You don’t even have to be convicted of a crime to lose your job [as president] in this constitutional republic if this body determines your conduct as a public official is clearly out of bounds in your role,” said then Republican representative — and now senator — Lindsay Graham. The process of impeachment, he argued, “is about restoring honor and integrity to the office.”
This is your duty — your obligation! You must restore some sense of honor and integrity to the office of the presidency.
Listen to your Republican and Democratic predecessors, who served on the House Judiciary Committee in July 1974 and published three articles of impeachment against President Richard Nixon. The first article focused on obstruction of justice and cited the president’s “false or misleading public statements for the purpose of deceiving the people of the United States.” It also cited Nixon’s efforts “to cause prospective defendants, and individuals duly tried and convicted, to expect favored treatment and consideration in return for their silence or false testimony, or rewarding individuals for their silence or false testimony.”
I defy any of you to read the special counsel’s report and conclude that this president did not lie, lie, and lie again. He lied about Russian interference in the 2016 election; he lied about his campaign’s contacts with Russians; he lied about the covering up of his campaign’s contacts with Russians. Take the infamous Trump Tower meeting in June 2016. The president personally dictated a statement on behalf of his son, Donald Trump Jr., which claimed that the latter and a Russian lawyer had met in Trump Tower to “primarily” discuss “a program about the adoption of Russian children.” Here is what Mueller says, however, about the purpose of that meeting: “The Campaign anticipated receiving information from Russia that could assist candidate Trump’s electoral prospects, but the Russian lawyer’s presentation did not provide such information.”
I also defy any of you to read the special counsel’s report and conclude that this president did not try and offer “favored treatment” and “rewards” to witnesses and defendants in the Russia investigation, à la Nixon. (Sample quote from Mueller: “Many of the President’s acts directed at witnesses, including discouragement of cooperation with the government and suggestions of possible future pardons, occurred in public view … And no principle of law excludes public acts from the scope of obstruction statutes.”)
Listen to former Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman, who served on the House Judiciary Committee in 1974 and is author of the recent book, “The Case for Impeaching Trump.” “In light of the Nixon precedent,” she told me over the phone on Thursday, evidence from the Mueller report “strengthens the claim that Trump committed impeachable offenses.” The parallels between Trump and Nixon, Holztman said, “are much stronger than they were before.”
Look, I get it. You’re afraid. You’re afraid of the backlash from your Republican counterparts. You’re afraid of losing in the Senate, where — right now — you lack a majority to convict Trump. You’re afraid that impeachment hearings will distract from your party’s 2020 presidential campaign.
But your job, first and foremost, is to preserve democracy and protect the rule of law. That’s the job assigned to you by the Constitution and also what’s expected of you by the American people. You cannot walk away from it.
Your leader in the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, said last month — prior to the publication of the Mueller report — that she believes impeaching Trump is “just not worth it.” Sorry, what? If a president who has repeatedly and brazenly misled the American people; welcomed the interference of a foreign government in the U.S. election process while also trying to benefit from it; obstructed justice on multiple occasions in order to try and cover it all up; and also — lest we forget! — praised neo-Nazis as “very fine people,” is not “worth” impeaching, then … which president is? When will it ever be “worth” it?
And what, then, is the point of Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution? If you’re not willing to remove this president from office, in the wake of this damning report, you might as well remove the impeachment clause from the Constitution. If not Trump, who?
According to the special counsel’s report, Trump’s response to Mueller’s appointment in May 2017 was to exclaim, “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’m fucked.”
Well, House Democrats, the truth is that he isn’t “fucked” until you do your job.