What are the impeachment articles going to look like?
Beginning this week, the House Judiciary Committee takes the reins of the impeachment inquiry.
Now that fact-finding hearings by the House Intelligence Committee have ended, the Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing “to explore the framework put in place to respond to serious allegations of impeachable conduct like those against President Trump.” Jerrold Nadler, the Judiciary chairman, said,
In a letter to President Trump last week, Nadler said, “We will also discuss whether your alleged actions warrant the House’s exercising its authority to adopt articles of impeachment.”
Such articles would be drafted by Nadler’s committee and then voted on by the full House.
Three contenders are emerging for impeachment articles against Trump, according to major media reports. Here is a quick overview:
Abuse of power
One article could allege abuse of power, centering on allegations uncovered by the House Intelligence Committee that Trump used his office to pressure the president of Ukraine for his own political benefit, The Associated Press reported.
The article could be broken into categories like bribery or extortion. Democratic lawmakers have used those words at various times to describe Trump’s actions
According to testimony and a rough transcript of a July phone call by Trump to the Ukrainian president, Trump wanted Ukraine to announce investigations that would harm his political rival, Democrat Joe Biden, and bolster a debunked theory that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 US presidential election. (The New York Times reports that not just one, but two articles may focus on the Ukraine scandal.)
Obstruction of Congress
Another article could focus on Trump’s efforts to stymie Congress’s investigation, the Times and AP report. Top Trump administration officials have refused to testify and the administration has refused to produce documents in the impeachment inquiry.
House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff may have foreshadowed this article when he said during one of his panel’s hearings that Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had made a “concerted and across-the-board effort to obstruct this investigation and this impeachment inquiry. And I will just say this, they do so at their own peril. I remind the president that Article 3 of the impeachment articles drafted aginst President Nixon was his refusal to obey the subpoenas of Congress.”
Obstruction of justice
A third possible article could focus on the findings of special counsel Robert Mueller on whether Trump obstructed justice during Mueller’s expansive probe into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, the news organizations reported.
Here’s a refresher: After examining a number of incidents of possible obstruction of justice by Trump, Mueller said he could not exonerate Trump, though he could not charge him, either.
“If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment,” Mueller’s report said.
Mueller, in a news conference on his last day as special counsel, noted that Justice Department policy barred him from charging a sitting president with a crime, but there was “a process other than the criminal justice system” offered by the Constitution — an apparent reference to the ability of Congress to impeach a president.
The furor over the Mueller report died down for a few months. But it may now get a second wind, thanks to the Ukraine scandal, which burst into the headlines in September and has rapidly gained momentum.
Material from Globe wire services was used in this report.