Democrats are injecting an urgent new argument into their already fast-moving impeachment drive: President Donald Trump poses such a flagrant threat to the republic that there is no time to waste.
Their emerging gambit is prompting Trump’s GOP defenders — who have long struggled to coalesce around a coherent strategy of their own — to launch a fresh counterattack, warning that that a rush to condemn the president proves the Democratic case is shallow and politically motivated. The president himself appeared to contradict that defence yesterday morning, tweeting, “if you are going to impeach me, do it now, fast, so we can have a fair trial in the Senate, and so that our Country can get back to business.”
The showdown over timing emerged from the first House Judiciary Committee hearing on impeachment Wednesday, which shifted the debate from the specific facts of Trump’s alleged wrongdoing to the appropriate constitutional consequences that he should face. The dispute over how fast to go and over the scope of the Democratic impeachment case spilled over — in far more civil and respectful terms than the bitter exchanges between lawmakers — in a debate between four renowned law professors asked to testify to the committee on the mechanics and justifications of impeachment. Three of the four, who were invited by Democrats, agreed that the President’s transgressions were already sufficiently severe to justify the ultimate political sanction of impeachment. The fourth, a Republican invitee, urged Democrats to slow down and to exhaust the full extent of the law to compel testimony from key witnesses before making a case to the nation that Trump should be removed.
The controversy over whether Democrats are rushing to judgment offers both sides new strategic options in an increasingly vitriolic collision over whether Trump abused his power in pressuring Ukraine for favours ahead of the 2020 election and a way to compress a case brimming with overwhelming details, unfamiliar foreign actors and profound principles of governance into an understandable narrative. And it gives each side a measure of constitutional cover for the less lofty factors that are really shaping their calculations — the public’s tolerance for an extended impeachment duel and its impact on the 2020 election.
“Are you ready?” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked her caucus on Wednesday, setting the stage for an accelerated timetable that could see Trump impeached by the full House before the Christmas and New Year break.
The expert that disagreed with colleagues on impeachment
The speaker is also quietly taking the temperature of her caucus before making a final decision on the end game of the House process — and how widely to draw articles of impeachment, CNN’s Manu Raju reported on Wednesday. The speaker was set to deliver a statement on the status of the impeachment inquiry at yesterday, which will give her an opportunity to announce the next stage of the proceedings.
In Wednesday’s hearing, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler warned in increasingly dire terms that Democrats had no choice but to swiftly move against the President to protect the nation. “If we do not act to hold him in check now, President Trump will almost certainly try again to solicit interference in the election for his personal, political benefit,” the New York Democrat warned – implicitly rejecting a Republican argument that Trump’s fate should be left to voters to decide this close to the November 2020 election.
But Georgia Rep Doug Collins, the top Republican on the committee, pivoted from the Democrats’ urgency to frame the latest in a bewildering sequence of Republican defenses of Trump, most of which have avoided a damaging pattern of facts about his conduct. “They want to do it before the end of the year — ‘we’re scared of the elections, that we’ll lose again,’” he said, paraphrasing a purported Democratic justification for impeaching Trump quickly to avoid a supposed voter backlash.
“The clock and the calendar are what’s driving impeachment,” Collins warned. “Not the facts.”
Expert warns against “fast and narrow” impeachment
Republican criticism that Democrats are moving too quickly past a process they have themselves sought to obstruct at every turn is disingenuous — and raises the question of why Nadler did not demand they join Democrats in forcing out the key material the White House is trying to keep hidden. But this approach at least offers more intellectual ballast than any previous GOP impeachment defence, as laid out by the minority’s witness at the hearing, Jonathan Turley.
The George Washington University Law School professor argued Trump’s actions — allegedly withholding military aid to coerce Ukraine into investigating Joe Biden — were not impeachable. But he didn’t rule out that an extended impeachment investigation could eventually find a case to answer.
And he criticised Democrats for not using the courts and the full extent of the law to force testimony from key witnesses and secure documents that the White House has refused to provide.
“Impeachments require a certain period of saturation and maturation. That is, the public has to catch up,” Turley said, arguing that a “fast and narrow” impeachment would create a dangerous precedent for future presidencies.
“I’m not prejudging what your record would show,” he said. — AP