Today, the House Judiciary Committee released a report by the majority staff entitled “Constitutional Grounds for Presidential Impeachment.” The report details the history, purpose and meaning of the Constitution’s Impeachment Clause. It addresses legal questions about the impeachment process and rebuts false claims about impeachment. The staff of the House Judiciary Committee first produced a report addressing this topic in 1974, during the impeachment inquiry into President Richard M. Nixon, and that report was updated by the majority and minority staff in 1998, during the impeachment inquiry into President William Jefferson Clinton. Those reports remain useful points of reference, but no longer reflect the best available learning on questions relating to presidential impeachment and do not address several issues of constitutional law with particular relevance to the ongoing impeachment inquiry respecting President Donald J. Trump. For that reason, the majority staff of the Committee have prepared this report for the use of the Committee on the Judiciary.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) released the following statement:
“The Framers worst nightmare is what we are facing in this very moment. 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. 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.”
Below are excerpts from the Report:
“Impeachment is the Constitution’s final answer to a President who mistakes himself for a monarch.”
“The Framers principally aimed the impeachment power at a few core evils, each grounded in a unifying fear that a President might abandon his duty to faithfully execute the laws. Where the President engages in serious abuse of power, betrays the national interest through foreign entanglements, or corrupts his office or elections, he has undoubtedly committed ‘high Crimes and Misdemeanors’ as understood by the Framers. Any one of these violations of the public trust is impeachable. When combined in a scheme to advance the President’s personal interests while ignoring or injuring the Constitution, they state the strongest possible case for impeachment and removal from office.”
“When the President concludes that free and fair elections threaten his continued grasp on power, and therefore seeks to corrupt or interfere with them, he denies the very premise of our constitutional system. The American people choose their leaders; a President who wields power to destroy opponents or manipulate elections is a President who rejects democracy itself.”
“Since the House began its impeachment inquiry, a number of inaccurate claims have circulated about how impeachment works under the Constitution. To assist the Committee in its deliberations, we address six issues of potential relevance: (1) the law that governs House procedures for impeachment; (2) the law that governs the evaluation of evidence, including where the President orders defiance of House subpoenas; (3) whether the President can be impeached for abuse of his executive powers; (4) whether the President’s claims regarding his motives must be accepted at face value; (5) whether the President is immune from impeachment if he attempts an impeachable offense but is caught before he completes it; and (6) whether it is preferable to await the next election when a President has sought to corrupt that very same election.”
“As Madison recognized, ‘In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: You must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it control itself.’ Impeachment is the House’s last and most extraordinary resort when faced with a President who threatens our constitutional system. It is a terrible power, but only ‘because it was forged to counter a terrible power: the despot who deems himself to be above the law.’ The consideration of articles of impeachment is always a sad and solemn undertaking. In the end, it is the House—speaking for the Nation as a whole—that must decide whether the President’s conduct rises to the level of “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” warranting impeachment.”
The report is available here.