The following was drafted in February and therefore does not reflect any information obtained from the Mueller report (which I have to admit I have not yet read in its entirety). There may well be additions and modifications that suggest themselves from that report (one area in particular would be to add specifics regarding pardon discussions with potential witnesses), but at the moment I am unaware of anything that convinces me the thrust of any impeachment effort should be fundamentally reoriented from what is proposed below.
It should be noted that this is a single article of impeachment. Perhaps needless to say, this is not because the scope of the president’s misconduct has been so narrow that only one article could be substantiated. To the contrary, as Professor Keith Whittington has aptly observed, the range of the president’s faults and misbehavior is so breathtakingly wide that it is a challenge to present them as part of a larger picture (or to choose among the many unflattering pictures that might be drawn).
It should also be noted that this article does not charge the president with committing any federal crimes. Consistent with my understanding of the nature of impeachment, the article focuses on conduct that is inherently wrongful or in the most charitable light reflects gross negligence that is for all intents and purposes indistinguishable from such wrongful conduct, but it does not attempt to demonstrate that this conduct satisfies the elements of any statutory offense.
Finally, the article has only the barest reference to pre-presidential conduct. This is not because pre-presidential conduct is necessarily irrelevant to an impeachment proceeding or even that an article of impeachment could not in some circumstances be wholly based on pre-presidential conduct. The proper relationship of impeachment to conduct that precedes the taking of the oath and the assumption of office, however, is controversial, particularly with regard to matters widely known by the voters at the time of the election. It is in my judgment unnecessary and distracting to focus on them here.
Any feedback of the constructive variety would be deeply appreciated.
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
February __, 2019
______________________________ submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary
Impeaching Donald John Trump, President of the United States, for high crimes and misdemeanors.
Resolved, That Donald John Trump, is impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors and that the following article of impeachment be exhibited to the United States Senate:
Article of impeachment exhibited by the House of Representatives of the United States of America in the name of itself and of the people of the United States, against Donald John Trump, President of the United States of America, in maintenance and support of its impeachment against him for high crimes and misdemeanors.
ARTICLE OF IMPEACHMENT
In his conduct while President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in disregard of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has engaged in conduct that resulted in misuse and abuse of his high office, and, for self-protection or other reasons of personal interest, has (1) impaired and impeded the due and proper administration of justice and the conduct of lawful inquiries; and (2) undermined confidence in and the authority of the legislative, executive and judicial branches of the United States, in that:
Donald J. Trump sought to hinder and impede lawful investigations by federal authorities into the conduct of individuals employed by or associated with his 2016 presidential campaign, including General Michael Flynn, by improperly seeking to influence and intimidate the then-Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, James Comey, with respect to such investigations.
Donald J. Trump, having concluded that James Comey lacked sufficient personal loyalty and could not be pressured to conduct the aforementioned investigations in a manner consistent with his personal interests and wishes, terminated James Comey as Director of the FBI.
In an effort to undermine the credibility of federal investigations involving his 2016 presidential campaign and/or his business or personal affairs, Donald J. Trump has engaged in a pattern of publicly disparaging, defaming and demeaning officials serving in the executive branch under his own administration, including Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He has publicly and routinely attacked the integrity of numerous officials at the Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Special Counsel’s office, including both career public servants and officers of the United States he himself appointed with the advice and consent of the United States Senate. He has publicly and repeatedly referred to Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election as a “hoax” and a “witch hunt,” even though this inquiry was lawfully commenced by the directive of the Deputy Attorney General, whom he appointed with the advice and consent of the United States Senate. These statements had the purpose and effect of undermining public confidence in law enforcement agencies and inquiries that might threaten his personal interests.
Donald J. Trump repeatedly and publicly criticized his own Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, for making decisions in accordance with the Attorney General’s constitutional oath and ethical obligations, rather than with the personal and political interests of Donald J. Trump. For example, he blamed Attorney General Sessions for recusing himself from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, even though this recusal was in accordance with the advice of Department of Justice ethics officials. Thus, he tweeted on June 5, 2018: “The Russian Witch Hunt Hoax continues, all because Jeff Sessions didn’t tell me he was going to recuse himself . . . I would quickly have picked someone else.”
Donald J. Trump further has sought to undermine the credibility of federal law enforcement by openly politicizing the activities of the Department of Justice. He has complained about the Department’s failure to investigate his political adversaries by, for example, tweeting on July 25, 2017: “Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!” He has also complained about the Department’s prosecution of his political allies. Following federal indictments of two incumbent Members of Congress, he tweeted on September 3, 2018: “Two long running, Obama era, investigations of two very popular Republican Congressmen were brought to a well publicized charge, just ahead of the Mid-Terms, by the Jeff Sessions Justice Department. Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time. Good job Jeff . . . . . .”
Donald J. Trump, having concluded that Jeff Sessions could not be pressured or intimidated to subordinate his constitutional oath and ethical obligations to Donald J. Trump’s personal and political interests, asked for and received his resignation immediately following the 2018 congressional elections. Even after Sessions’s departure from office, Donald J. Trump continued to blame him for the investigation into Russian election interference, tweeting on December 16, 2018 that “Jeff Sessions should be ashamed of himself for allowing this total HOAX to get started in the first place!”
Donald J. Trump has impaired and impeded the due and proper administration of justice by the reckless and impulsive use and threatened use of his constitutional power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States. He has granted clemency based on personal and political favoritism, without consulting the Department of Justice or considering the effect of his actions on the administration of justice. He has boasted about the breadth of his pardon power, even tweeting on June 24, 2018: “As has been stated by numerous legal scholars, I have the absolute right to PARDON myself, but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong? In the meantime, the never ending Witch Hunt, led by 13 very Angry and Conflicted Democrats (& others) continues into the mid-terms!” The purpose and effect of these actions and statements is to send the message that loyalty to Donald J. Trump will be rewarded, to undermine respect for lawful inquiries and judicial proceedings, and to encourage defiance of such inquiries and proceedings as Donald J. Trump regards as “witch hunts” or otherwise disfavors.
Donald J. Trump’s most egregious abuse of the pardon power occurred on August 25, 2017, when he granted a pardon to Joe Arpaio, who had been held in criminal contempt of a federal court order. The order of contempt had been issued less than one month earlier, on July 31, 2017, when a federal judge held that Arpaio had willfully violated a prior federal court order, issued by a different judge, requiring then-Maricopa to cease racially profiling Latinos and detaining them in violation of their constitutional rights. Donald J. Trump pardoned Arpaio without consulting the Department of Justice, without permitting the judicial process to run its normal course, and without considering the importance of the contempt power to protecting the integrity of the judicial system and the constitutional rights of Americans. In so doing Donald J. Trump favored a loyal political ally over the rule of law and the independence of the judicial branch.
Consistent with this disregard for the federal judiciary, Donald J. Trump has intemperately and improperly attacked federal judges. For example, on February 4, 2017, the day after U.S. District Court Judge James Robart issued a temporary injunction against the executive order known as the “travel ban,” Donald J. Trump tweeted: “The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!” This statement was not an isolated incident, but is consistent with language Donald J. Trump has employed toward the judiciary on other occasions both during his presidential campaign and his presidency. By employing such rhetoric, unmindful of the high duties of his office and the dignity and proprieties thereof, Donald J. Trump has attempted to impair and destroy the regard and respect of the people of the United States for the federal judiciary and thereby to deprive its judgments of legitimacy to the extent they conflict with his personal and political interests.
Donald J. Trump has also repeatedly sought to bring into disgrace, ridicule, hatred, contempt and reproach the Congress of the United States and individual members thereof. He has particularly sought to excite public odium and resentment toward members of his own party who have criticized him or his conduct in office and who have thereby failed, in his mind, to show the proper loyalty. In so doing he has disregarded the status of Congress has a separate and independent branch of government, and he has sought to diminish and undermine the legislative power of inquiry and oversight.
Donald J. Trump has caused or permitted false, misleading or incomplete information to be provided to the Congress of the United States. During 2017 and 2018, congressional committees, including the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, conducted investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Agents and associates of Donald J. Trump provided false, misleading or incomplete information in connection with these investigations. For example, on or about April 27, 2018, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence released its report and findings regarding the election interference investigation. Although Donald J. Trump tweeted about the report and findings, he did not inform the committee that they were based in part on false, misleading or incomplete information, including testimony of Michael Cohen, Donald J. Trump’s personal lawyer, which testimony Donald J. Trump knew or should have known was false, misleading or incomplete. Donald J. Trump’s failure to take reasonable steps to ensure that congressional committee received accurate and complete information regarding the activities of his agents, associates and campaign impaired and impeded the conduct of lawful inquiries of the legislative branch.
In all of this, Donald John Trump has acted in a manner so as to bring disrepute on the Presidency and engaged in a pattern of conduct contrary to his trust as President and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.
Wherefore, Donald John Trump, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office.