The impeachment inquiry

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“Legislative in the Congress, yet checked by negative [veto] of the executive. Executive in the President, yet checked by impeachment of Congress.” — Alexander Hamilton, 1788

For the third time in 46 years, Congress is investigating a president to determine whether he should remain in office. The question is whether President Donald Trump tried to engage a foreign power, Ukraine, to interfere in the 2020 presidential election. Specifically, to investigate a political rival, Joe Biden, now a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.

President Trump’s request to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a July 25 phone call violates federal law, contradicts American values, and may even endanger American national security. It raises the greater principle of American sovereignty and independence from foreign interference. The framers of the Constitution understood this and included the impeachment clauses in the document just for this purpose.

The facts are not in dispute. They appear in a whistleblower’s report to members of Congress and in the White House summary. Several career diplomats, foreign service officers, and White House lawyers have also confirmed them in testimony to House committees.

Republicans do not dispute the facts but claim they do not rise to the level of impeachment.They also contend they have been left out of the process. But they serve on all three of the committees that have taken depositions and have had opportunities to ask questions and contradict assertions.

Republicans also complain that the depositions should not have been held in private. But the Nixon impeachment in 1974 included special counsel investigations into the Watergate cover-up. And the 1998 Clinton impeachment proceedings began with private grand jury hearings led by an independent counsel. So far, the process is almost the same as these two most recent predecessors.

With the passage of an October 31 House resolution, open public hearings will begin in mid-November in the House Intelligence Committee, which consists of 13 Democrats and nine Republicans. If the committee issues a report, the proceedings move to the Judiciary Committee with 24 Democrats and 17 Republicans. The president and his lawyers then will have the opportunity to ask questions, review evidence and testimony, and to bring in their own witnesses and information. The committee may or may not then develop articles of impeachment.

The Constitution states that presidents may be removed from office should they be found to have committed “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” Treason and bribery in law have clear meaning.But the phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors” is not self-defining. As a lawyer trained in British law, Hamilton knew what it meant. Impeachment was practiced against the king’s ministers, though not the king himself, until parliamentary sovereignty developed at the end of the 17th century. In Federalist 65, Hamilton wrote that impeachment results from “misconduct,” or, “in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust.” In short, the abuse of power.

The Constitution empowers the House to begin the impeachment process. In this way, the House acts like a grand jury when prosecutors, without defense counsel present, ask jurors whether sufficient evidence exists to go to trial. If the House affirms one or more articles of impeachment by a simple House majority, the process moves to the Senate. For the Senate to convict (that is, remove) a president from office, two-thirds must vote to approve at least one of the articles.

Hamilton believed that presidents must possess great power. He had in mind a virtuous president who worked selflessly on behalf of the people. As he wrote in Federalist 70, there is “a high probability” that presidents will be known as “pre-eminent for ability and virtue.” He knew, however, that things could go awry, which is why he favored impeachment for presidents engaged in the abuse of power.

As of now, the House is only inquiring into whether President Trump abused power in his request to President Zelensky. Some representatives want to add obstruction of Congress because the president claims that absolute executive privilege empowers him to withhold documents and to prohibit administration officials from testifying. In 1974, the Supreme Court rejected this argument when Richard Nixon asserted it during his impeachment.

Others want to include the president’s 10 instances of obstruction of justice that Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel in the Russia investigation, laid out in his final report last spring.

Some think that President Trump has violated yet another, somewhat obscure, provision of the Constitution, the emoluments clause, which prohibits presidents from receiving gifts or money, beyond his salary, from foreign powers or domestic sources. They charge that he has enriched himself because his hotel near the White House and golf courses have hosted several foreign and domestic visitors seeking influence.

While the facts of the call are indisputable, we are in a daily wait-and-see mode as events unfold. Then again, the House may decide that the president’s request to Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden does not rise to a high crime and misdemeanor and deserves censure, not impeachment.

Jack Fruchtman, a seasonal Aquinnah resident, will address presidential power and the impeachment inquiry at the Martha’s Vineyard Museum on Tuesday, Nov. 12 at 6 pm.

28 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for the explanation of the pending impeachment process. A measured telling of the reasons for and the process steps is helpful. Most interpretations of the pending event stop at “guilty until proven innocent”.

    • The whistleblower’s concerns were investigated thoroughly through those who did have first hand knowledge, and those concerns were found credible and reliable and of serious national concern. It was also found that the whistleblower acted exactly correctly. Republicans don’t care. They want to shoot the messenger and have no concern that Trump is an extortionist. What was that you said about integrity, Andrew? Let’s hear about why you support the President’s extortion for personal political gain. While we’re at it, let’s hear how a person with integrity can excuse a president for looting his charitable foundation, money raised for VETERANS, again for personal political gain… and 2 paintings of himself. It’s concerning that there are some who can read the above article and all they can come up with is a pathetic gripe about the whistleblower, utterly disregarding the Whistleblower Protection Act, and showing no care at all about the lying, criminal extortion and embezzlement by this POTUS. Integrity, indeed.

  2. Andrew— anyone who is even remotely paying attention to this knows the whistle blower was not listening in to the call, and got the information second hand. He did the right thing, and expressed his concerns through the proper channels. When he/she realized his concerns prompted the administration to lock up the report in a super secret server., he/she went public. If you heard from someone else that a crime was being committed,like say embezzlement of tax payer dollars would you say nothing ?
    And by the way, we did hear from Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, a highly decorated veteran with unquestionable morals, who WAS listening in on the call. That may be an inconvenient fact for those who choose to defend the indefensible Most other people who were listening in have been ordered to not testify by the very person the investigation is about . Why would that be ? . And by the way, we have a partial transcript of the call released by the white house that corroborates the whistle blower’s concerns as well as Col. Vindman’s testimony. Perhaps we should be able to see the full transcript[pt of the “prefect” call ? Or perhaps it is just so bad, it will somehow disappear, like the 18 minutes of silence on the tapes of the last republican president facing impeachment.

    • dondondon. You just dont get it. I am not questioning that Vindman is a man of integrity and high moral standing and a decorated veteran!!!!!!. I am questioning if his ”concerning” comment is a true reflection of what went on. Can you at least agree that people interpret motives differently? I have no question that John MCCain served his country well and was in prison in Hanoi and served in the Senate and he is a man of integrity. Do you question why he chose Sarah Palin and why he could sometimes be wrong.? Sheeeeesh!

      • Andrew– I hope you remember the amount of support Sarah Palin got from the republican party. She was the darling of all “mavericks” as far as I could tell, and not even rinos’s criticized her until McCain lost.. Then they pointed fingers.
        And let’s not forget captain bone spurs’ comment about McCain’s service. At a campaign rally in Phoenix, he said McCain was “a war hero because he was captured” and that he liked “people that weren’t captured.” A crowd of “fired up crazies.” ( Quote from John McCain 7/16/2015) enthusiastically cheered trump and booed McCain . Someday , Andrew, even the staunchest supporters of our most deplorable president will look back and ask themselves why they drank so much kool aid.

  3. Every Democrat is a political ‘rival’. So are plenty of ‘Rino’s.’ Joe Biden is not the nominee. Its just part of the never ending dirty tricks employed by Democrats Since they cannot win on the merits of their political platforms., They tried and failed with Muller. They employed the same dirty tricks with Justice Kavenaugh. They failed again. They may get their impeachment vote, but they will fail again in their attempt to remove an elected President.

    • Notnowhere, bribery is an impeachable offense.

      “House Intelligence Committee member Rep. Eric Swalwell said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday that the impeachment inquiry has uncovered evidence of an “extortion scheme” involving President Donald Trump pressuring Ukraine to investigate his political opponents.” https://www.businessinsider.com/house-intel-committee-evidence-of-trump-ukraine-extortion-scheme-2019-11

      Why don’t you try to excuse the President’s behavior? Uncovering the illegal behavior of Trump is not dirty tricks– except on the President’s part. There is not a single Trump supporter, even a smart one, who can defend what the President has done. All you can talk about is Biden, Dems, Hillary, Bengazi, etc It’s time for you to start paying attention to exactly what you support. Face it.

      • Is this the same Rep. Eric Swalwell that has irrefutable evidence of the President’s collusion with Russia during the 2016 Presidential campaign/election that was totally debunked by the Muellar investigation? Intelligence and Eric Swalwell shouldn’t be mentioned in the same sentence

      • Jackie I am a smart Trump supporter and I can defend what he did. Actually if you knew the law he has an obligation to investigate corruption before he gives them aid. He is required to do it. It was not quid pro quo and even if it was, it is not impeachable. Nothing was investigated and no money was withheld. I await the liberal tears when Trump gets elected again. The only liberal who is thinking clearly is Dershowitz who tell us this is a load of nonsense. Nancy is going to let this show go on for awhile but she isnt going to take a House vote. She knows it imperils Dems in Trump districts. Its laughable that below Dondondon rants about Trumps investigation using taxpayer money and we just had a Mueller investigation that went nowhere, hence this. QUID PRO QUO.

        • Andrew– The Mueller probe went no where ?
          34 swamp rats indited , 7 convictions resulting in jail time, evidence of various crimes sent on to state officials, etc… Completed in 2 years. Not a bad swamp draining project in my opinion. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2019/03/25/muellers-russia-report-special-counsel-indictments-charges/3266050002/
          So how did those 7 republican “witch hunts” about Benghazi turn out ?
          How about the e mail investigations ?
          The voter fraud task force was a joke.
          Lets not forget about the whitewater investigation. seven years, one conviction resulting in jail time, and the impeachment of a president for having consensual sex with an adult. I know– he lied about that — when did republicans stop caring about whether presidents lie ? This president has lied over 14,000 times in under 3 years.

    • not new– are there any other kinds of presidents other than “elected”? . And yes, he really was elected, but he lost the popular vote by 3 million voters. And no, three million illegals did not vote for Hillary. After trumps’s voting fraud investigation turned up nothing for their millions of dollars of taxpayer money, it was quietly disbanded, but trump still plays on with that lie.

      • If you don’t like the electoral college, get rid of it. I’d be fine getting rid of the electoral college since my vote here doesn’t get counted since the Democrats own Massachusetts. But only if the law will require Voter ID. Why won’t the Democrats support voter ID? Why does it become ‘racist’ when one is asked to show ID to vote? You show it to cash a check, get on an airplane, buy a drink…but showing it to vote? Why not? If you are a legal citizen who can vote why object?

        • not new– I would be ok with voter id if they could make it easy for poor people to get them. The requirements that republicans impose to get an id are pretty steep for someone who say was born in a shack in some southern 3rd state bayou during the depression and never got a social or a birth certificate and is functionally illiterate. . Even the 44 th president of the United States would have had a hard time with the birth certificate thing in the deep south. And you forgot to mention that you need an id to buy groceries.

  4. Not new– dirty tricks ? could you describe a few please ?
    Then, please tell the people of Virginia and Kentucky that the democrats can’t win on the merits of their political platforms. Or perhaps you think there were some “dirty tricks” there also.. Would love to know what all these “dirty tricks” by the democrats are, since I don’t frequent conspiracy theory sites. I hope you have read the publicly available transcript of “the call”. I guess you think withholding military aid from a country engaged in a real war with one of our most serious adversaries to get get dirt on a political rival’s son is just politics as usual ? I would love to hear what a republican has to do before you think it’s a “dirty trick”.

    • The Democrat dirty trick playbook goes back to the mobster Sam Giancana stealing the election in Chicago for John Kennedy vs Richard Nixon. The whole russian hoax paid for by the Democrats that started the Muller investigation is going to boomerang right back at them. They think they have trump ‘on the ropes’ but it won’t happen. The Democrats won’t allow Republicans to call witnesses in the phony impeachment hearing because they won’t like what will be said in front of the American public. They want to control the witnesses along with their testimony, in order to ‘control the narrative’. The american public will see through their charade and they will suffer in the polls as a result. That is the tip of the iceburg with respect to their dirty trick playbook.

      • not new– that sure is a pretty pathetic list of “the never ending dirty tricks employed by Democrats ”
        And you are wrong that democrats will not allow republicans to call witnesses at the impeachment inquiry. They will not allow witnesses that are irrelevant to the case at hand. For instance, Hunter Biden, and executives of Burisma, the company he worked for. This inquiry is not about whether a company in Ukraine was or is corrupt– it is about whether the president of the united states withheld military aid in order to get dirt on a political rival. The clear intention of calling such witnesses is to change the conversation away from the president’s crime. Witnesses who are called should be relevant to the case. And why “the whistleblower” ? As Andrew points out, and I agree,he/she has only hearsay information, and that is not admissible– a total waste of time to talk to them. But it is clear that if the whistle blower were to testify, they would have to reveal their identity. That person currently has legal protection to remain anonymous. Talk about “dirty tricks”.

  5. dondondon and Jackie, Calm down. It is hearsay evidence and last time I looked its not admissible. If there is other evidence that determines quid pro quo, then so be it, but this particular one does not. simple as that. If someone told me that Dondondon is idling his car while eating a burger inside of Woodlands I would not believe it because its second hand. If someone told me that Jackie is attending an evangelical church I would not believe it until I saw it myself. That is the only point and you folks are getting your knickers out of joint ( is that saying politically incorrect nowadays?)

    • The whistleblower is largely irrelevant. Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman’s testimony is not hearsay, and it is relevant. Gordon Sondland’s memory, now refreshed, is likewise evidentiary. Without regard to Mick Mulvaney, I just cannot get over it.

    • Also, Andrew, I see you ignored the inconvenient fact of the 2 million dollar penalty against your corrupt guy, Trump, for looting his charitable foundation, along with his corrupt children. The embezzler-in-chief responded by saying he is happy to make the “donation” of 2 million. That’s like saying a quid pro quo is something other than what it is. You see, Andrew, just because liars call a legal penalty a “donation”, that does not make it any more true. Your guy is a grifter, a scammer, a bum. It’s no surprise, and you and other Trump supporters have known all along you support a corrupt bum with a long history of scams and shams. Doesn’t your church object to such things, or maybe your church is part of Trump University? You’re in for a rude awakening.

    • Andrew– I write this on Nov 11, 2019– On oct 29 Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, a highly decorated veteran with unquestionable morals, who WAS listening in on the call said he was concerned and did not think it appropriate for the United states to demand an investigation of a U.S citizen And clearly stated that “This would all undermine U.S. national security” read it- esp page 5— – it is not second hand. This is publicly available information released by congress— the investigation is now public— transcripts of the closed door hearings are now in the public record.. .https://www.washingtonpost.com/context/read-the-document-opening-statement-of-lieutenant-colonel-alexander-s-vindman/2573a183-18ee-4036-9638-939677a1b9d6/
      The transcript, –(publicly available since sept 24 )even in it’s edited form, clearly has trump asking for a political favor. It is not second hand information…
      How do you continue to block these facts ? I know about cognitive dissonance, but at some point, even the “most determined to deny the facts brain” has to see something..
      Yes– you are correct== we agree yet again—— the whistle blower was not on the call— it was second hand information….
      Ok what about the rest of the first hand information ?
      If 5 people personally saw me eating a burger in Woodland while leaving my car running, and they were all reputable people , with long histories of truth telling, would you believe them ? and what if 5 other people at the same time told you they would like to tell you something about me, but were afraid their tires would be slashed by someone the next morning, would you call them all liars.. give it a break, Andrew … Give us a break

    • Andrew. There is corroborating evidence of bribery by the President, from him in his own words, from Trump’s personal lawyter, Guiliani, and from first-hand witnesses. Also, the impeachment hearings are not a criminal trial, but I hope after Trump leaves office, and he will leave office one way or another, he will be indicted for his criminal acts. This is a good article from Time that lays out the case for impeachment and why all the defenses from Republicans so far do not hold water: https://time.com/5724220/donald-trump-impeachment-defense/

  6. Bribery Jackie? first of all I wouldnt line the bottom of my birdcage with TIME magazine. Secondly nothing was done to investigate and no money was withheld. We will see if defenses hold water or not. I guarantee you that Trump will still be there for the next election. He may not win but you wont get him. Ok so Vindman listened in and he was ”concerned” So what.? I am concerned that Hunter gets paid 50k a month and knows nothing about energy. You know as well as I do that the impeachment strategy is all about getting rid of Trump because you know that none of the Dem candidates can beat Trump in an election. At least admit that and show some honesty.

    • Supporting Trump puts you in no position to talk about honesty, whether you’re making excuses for Trump’s “perfect” call asking for a favor in return for arms, excusing his lie to Mueller about not knowing anything about Wikileaks, or looting his own foundation, stealing from veterans— to name only 3 Trump lies. Your excuses are Republican talking points, not truthful or factual. They are not a defense in any way. You have no business at all talking about honesty.

      • Andrew, I have not seen a single republican talking point even attempting to excuse Trump and his kids stealing from their own charitable foundation for their personal and political gain. Is this why you have ignored my direct question to you, asking you for your own explanation of Trump turning his court ordered penalty of 2 million dollars into a “donation” he says he’s happy to make? What’s the born again explanation for that disgusting, immoral, lying display from the guy you stand up for? That’s like your pastor taking money from the Sunday donations basket and buying a painting of himself. You like man splaining, so splain it, please, without mentioning the Bidens, Hillary, or Democrats.

    • Andrew– are you really lecturing Jackie about honesty ?
      So if hunter Biden made a decent living doing what the kids of wealthy families do all the time, does that make trump innocent ?
      And are you concerned that the trump kids make millions of dollars a year by getting such things as patents in China ? And, I know you can do math —-50 k a month is only about 230 an hour if he worked a 50 hour week— 600 k a year– a decent living, but no where near wealthy– And it doesn’t hold a candle compared to what the trump kids make on the nepotism they benefit from. Are you concerned about that ? Perhaps , since the trump kids benefit from their generational wealth , that means Obama was a great president– logic is as logic does, after all- And how do you know what Hunter Biden knows about energy ? Who are you to emphatically state that he knows nothing ? Shame on you Andrew, shame on you.

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