Process Matters

At RealClearPolitics A. B. Stoddard articulates what is quite close to my position on the House Democrats’ “impeachment inquiry”. First, the Democrats need to conduct a floor vote on the inquiry. Then they should conduct their official inquiry at a measured pace with a minimum of grandstanding and no prevarication. Then

Democrats need to use these months for an investigation that will further educate voters about what a threat to the balance of power and our constitutional democracy the president’s conduct, combined with his subpoena blockade, represents, and that under the Constitution he is not empowered to defy impeachment or congressional investigation.

Democrats should also be advocating for, and campaigning on, badly needed reforms such as the requirement for disclosure of any campaign help from foreign governments. Another would be to provide for expedited court consideration of future oversight battles between the legislative and executive branches — Republicans should have no problem voting for both.

Finally, there should also be concern that a narrow impeachment sent to the Senate may never go to trial. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he would have no choice but to take it up, but on CNBC he added, “How long you’re on it is a whole different matter.” We can all too easily imagine a scenario where McConnell dispenses with and rejects articles of impeachment on the argument that the House vote was partisan and Republicans “can’t impeach the president for one phone call.”

The risks that Democrats face is that they’ll provide no reason for Republican senators to vote to remove and they may convince independents that they’re engaged in a purely political exercise.

5 comments… add one
  • PD Shaw Link

    I find Stoddard’s comments to be conflicting, or the only way to sort out the different points would be a long, multi-year process.

    The subpoena block exists because there are separation of powers issue, in which the Congress doesn’t have a right to everything it asks. In the “Fast and Furious” investigation, Obama lost on executive privilege claims, but won on deliberative process privilege claims. The process took about the length of a term in office, and the resulting attempt to streamline judicial review failed on deeper questions of whether the Courts should be the arbiter of these disputes in any case.

    One alternative would be to pass legislation that created a legislative tribunal to try subpoena compliance issues, with rules and protections that comport with a sense of due process (both sides of the issue get input). Not sure this gets to the real process issue — the judge is expected to read the documents over which a privilege is claimed in camera (in secret) to determine which, if any, are protected. One simpler solution is to narrowly restrict the subpoena, but Stoddard fears “narrow” would reach the desired outcome.

    What’s the chance of any directed legislation passing in a year? The problems with executive/legislative conflict over investigative powers has percolated throughout my adult life: Clinton impeachment; Bush firing of US attorneys; Obama fast and furious; Trump ? And the Congress has not shown itself to be interested in balance of power between the branches, just between parties.

  • jan Link

    I find the entire impeachment push by democrats to be infuriatingly partisan and ultimately poisonous to the country’s well being. Nothing so far has even demonstratively approached bipartisan participation, fairness, or a construct of due process by an opposition party blatantly bent on impeaching this president from day one. It also comes on the heels of a lengthy, bitter and futile Russian investigation, itself riddled by questions of corrupt collusion between Obama Administration intelligence, justice, and state departments, now undergoing separate investigations by the current DOJ.

    How does a government for the people, by the people get anything done in such a gotcha environment imposed on it by their democrat counterpart, who spends most of it’s energy, monies and political capital on discrediting and incriminating the Oval Office occupant?

  • steve Link

    “The risks that Democrats face is that they’ll provide no reason for Republican senators to vote to remove ”

    The Republican senators won’t vote to remove no matter what is found. It is clear that Trump solicited election help from Ukraine. If the case were going to be judged on its merits, then we should go ahead and impeach. However it won’t be judged that way. While I understand that some people think we need to impeach even if it is going to fail because we need to make a statement, but I am not in favor of wasting time. This wouldn’t be (yet) on the order of voting to get rid of the ACA a couple of hundred times, but it feels that way.


  • Do you know what a “self-fulfilling prophecy” is, steve?

  • jan Link

    The ACA votes were nothing more than symbolic and partisan grandstanding, the same as what is going on in the current impeachment fiasco. Also, nothing was accomplished, but wasted time and placating the base by the Republican House. The same is true of the current House controlled by Democrats, except for the back wash creating far more political divisiveness.

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