Congressman Raskin Statement to Rules Committee in Support of Articles of Impeachment Against President Donald J. Trump
Washington, December 17, 2019
Today, Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-MD) delivered the following statement on behalf of the House Judiciary Committee, as prepared, before the House Rules Committee in support of H.Res. 755, Articles of Impeachment Against President Donald J. Trump:
"I am appearing this morning in place of Chairman Nadler, who could not be with us. I am sure I speak for all Members of both the Judiciary and Rules Committees in sending strength, love and prayers to Chairman Nadler’s wife Joyce and all of our hopes for her speedy recovery.
"The Judiciary Committee, along with the other Committees which investigated President Trump’s offenses--the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and the Committee on Oversight and Reform--bring these articles with a solemn purpose and a heavy heart but in active faith with the constitutional oaths of office that we have all sworn. The investigating committees conducted 100 hours of deposition testimony with 17 sworn witnesses and 30 hours of public testimony with 12 witnesses. The Judiciary Committee is now in possession of overwhelming evidence that the President of the United States has committed high Crimes and Misdemeanors; violated his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the Office of the President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States; and violated his constitutional duty to take care that the laws are faithfully executed.
"We present two articles of impeachment supported by hundreds of pages of detailed evidence and meticulous analysis. The evidence and analysis lead inescapably to the conclusions embodied in these Articles of Impeachment:
"(1) First, President Trump has committed the high crime and misdemeanor of abuse of office. He abused the awesome powers of the presidency by using his office to corruptly demand that a foreign government interfere in our American presidential election in order to promote his own political campaign in 2020. He corruptly conditioned the release of $391 million in foreign security assistance that he held back from the Ukrainian government, along with a long hoped-for White House presidential meeting. He conditioned those on Ukrainian President Zelensky’s agreement to go public with two statements. One statement was announcing a criminal investigation into former Vice-President Joe Biden, a leading presidential candidate and rival of the President. The other statement was announcing an investigation that would rehabilitate a discredited pro-Russian conspiracy theory by showing that it was Ukraine, and not Putin’s Russia, that tried to disrupt the last American presidential election, in 2016. This scheme to corrupt an American presidential election subordinated the democratic sovereignty of the people to the private political ambitions of one man, the President himself. It immediately placed the national security interests of the United States at risk and it continues to embroil the nation and our government in conflict.
"(2) Second, after this corrupt scheme came to light and numerous public servants with knowledge of key events surfaced to testify in our Committee investigations about the President’s actions, President Trump directed the wholesale, categorical, and indiscriminate obstruction of this Congressional impeachment investigation. He did so by ordering a blockade of Administration witnesses, by trying to muzzle and intimidate witnesses who did come forward, and by refusing to produce even a single subpoenaed document. In the history of the Republic, no President other than this one has ever claimed and exercised the unilateral right and power to thwart and defeat a House impeachment inquiry. Yet that would have been the final and unavoidable result of the President’s outrageous defiance of Congress had 17 brave witnesses not come forward in the face of the President’s threats and testified about the Ukraine shakedown and its scandalous effects on our national security, our democracy and our Constitutional system of government.
"But make no mistake—while this investigation was saved by the courage and old-fashioned patriotism of witnesses like Ambassador William Taylor, Ambassador Maria Yovanovitch, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman and Dr. Fiona Hill, the President’s aggressive and unprecedented resistance to Congressional subpoenas for witnesses and documents is blatantly and dangerously unconstitutional. If accepted and normalized now, it will undermine perhaps for all time the Congressional impeachment power itself, which is the people’s last instrument of constitutional self-defense against a sitting President who behaves like a King and tramples the rule of law. By obstructing an impeachment inquiry with impunity, the President will have power to actively destroy the people’s final check on his own corrupt misconduct and abuse of power. The Framers insisted that we have impeachment in the Constitution precisely to protect ourselves from a president becoming a tyrant and a despot, and we cannot and we will not allow the impeachment power itself to be destroyed.
"These articles charge that President Trump has engaged in systematic abuse of his powers, obstructed Congress, and realized the worst fears of the Framers by subordinating our national security and dragging foreign powers into American politics to corrupt our elections, all for the greater cause of his own personal gain and ambition.
"Article I, Section 4 of the Constitution provides that the President shall be impeached for 'Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.' This is the essential check that the people’s representatives maintain over the Executive Branch.
"As our constitutional expert witnesses testified, the Framers sought to capture a broad range of presidential misconduct and wrongdoing through this provision. But the commanding and comprehensive impulse for including the impeachment power in the Constitution was to prevent the President’s abuse of power, which the Framers saw as the essence of impeachable conduct. In Federalist #65, Hamilton wrote that impeachable offenses are defined by 'abuse of some public trust.' From the Federalist Papers and the Records of the Constitutional Convention and the Ratifying Conventions, we find that the Framers feared principally three kinds of presidential betrayal of office by abuse of power: (1) Abuse of Power by exploiting public office for private political or financial gain; (2) Abuse of Power by betraying the national interest and the public trust through entanglement with foreign governments; and (3) Abuse of Power by corrupting democratic elections and denying the people proper agency through self-government. According to the Framers, any one of these violations of the public trust would be enough to justify presidential impeachment for abuse of power. However, President Trump’s conduct has realized all three of the Framers’ worst fears of presidential abuse of power. Never before in American history has an impeachment investigation crystallized in findings of conduct that implicate all of the major reasons that the Framers built impeachment into our Constitution.
"Mr. Chairman, the conduct we set before you today is not some kind of surprising aberration or deviation in the President’s behavior for which he is remorseful. On the contrary, the President is completely unrepentant and defiantly declares his behavior here 'perfect,' indeed 'absolutely perfect.' He says that Article II of the Constitution gives him the power to do whatever he wants, conveniently forgetting Article II, Section 4 gives us the power to check his misconduct with the instrument of impeachment. We believe this conduct is impeachable and should never take place again under our constitutional system. He believes his conduct is perfect and we know therefore that it will take place again and again.
"Indeed, our Report points out that this pattern of showing spectacular disrespect for the rule of law by inviting and welcoming foreign powers into our political campaigns was in plain view in the 2016 presidential election. America remembers when then-candidate Donald Trump uttered the imperishably infamous words, 'Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,' and just five hours later Russian agents moved to hack his political opponent’s computers as part of their continuing effort to upend the 2016 presidential. As identified by the Justice Department, the Trump campaign had more than 100 contacts with Russian operatives over the course of that campaign, and none of them were reported to law enforcement or national security agencies. Moreover, during the Special Counsel investigation into the 'sweeping and systematic' Russian campaign to subvert our election, President Trump engaged in another systematic campaign of obstruction of the investigative process to obscure his own involvement.
"Mr. Chairman, we present you not just with high Crimes and Misdemeanors, but a constitutional crime in progress up to this very minute. Mayor Giuliani, the President’s private lawyer, fresh from his overseas travel looking to rehabilitate once again the discredited conspiracy theories at the heart of the President’s defense, admitted that he participated directly in the smear campaign to oust Ambassador Yovanovich from her job. According to the New Yorker magazine, Giuliani said, 'I believe that I needed Yovanovich out of the way. . .She was going to make the investigations difficult for everybody.' Here, Mr. Giuliani refers to the President’s sought-after investigations into Joe Biden and the remnants of the discredited conspiracy theory pushed by Russia as propaganda that it was Ukraine, and not Russia, that interfered in the 2016 American presidential election.
"Given that an unrepentant President considers his behavior perfect, given that he thinks the Constitution empowers him to do whatever he wants, given that he and his team are still awaiting President Zelensky’s statement about investigating Joe Biden, given that he has already invited China to perform an investigation of its own, we can only ask what the 2020 election will be like or indeed what any future election in America will be like if we just let this misconduct go and authorize and license Presidents to coerce, cajole, pressure, and entice foreign powers to enter our election campaigns on behalf of the President. Who will be invited in next? The President’s continuing course of conduct constitutes a clear and present danger to democracy in America. We cannot allow this misconduct to pass. It would be a sellout of our Constitution, our foreign policy, our national security, and our democracy.
"Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back."