A House Democrat unveiled an impeachment resolution against President Trump on Monday, circulating legislative text that accuses Trump of obstructing justice by “threatening, and then terminating” James B. Comey, the former FBI director — and openly echoes charges that ultimately drove Richard M. Nixon from the presidency 43 years ago.
Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) told reporters last week that the draft resolution he was preparing would be “remarkably similar” to the obstruction-of-justice article that the House Judiciary Committee adopted against Nixon in 1974, and there has indeed been some intergenerational copying-and-pasting.
“In his conduct while President of the United States, Donald John 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 violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has prevented, obstructed and impeded the administration of justice during a federal investigation,” reads Sherman’s draft resolution, which was released Monday.
Article I of the 1974 resolution reads as follows: “In his conduct of the office of President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon, 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 violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has prevented, obstructed, and impeded the administration of justice.”
The particulars of the alleged high crimes and misdemeanors, of course, differ between the two presidents. But the resolutions conclude in similar fashion, accusing each of having “acted in a manner 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.”
Sherman said Wednesday that he was “startled by the similarities to Watergate” in Trump’s alleged obstruction of justice — starting with the fact that both episodes included infiltration of the Democratic National Committee. “This is a sad day for our country,” he said. “Our Constitution and democracy require that our leaders be held accountable to the rule of law.”
Sherman is not alone among Democrats in drawing direct comparisons between Trump and Nixon. Even House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — who has carefully avoided encouraging premature talk of Trump’s impeachment pending fact-finding by federal investigators and congressional committees — has found Watergate comparisons hard to resist.
“The White House said he’s not a liar,” she said in a Friday appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” referring to a statement from deputy White House press secretary Sarah H. Sanders. “Didn’t that sound like, ‘I am not a crook?’ ”
While Sherman is the first Democrat to release an article of impeachment, he has yet to officially file it in the House. In a letter to colleagues Monday, Sherman said he would file his resolution “soon” and that “the evidence we have is sufficient to move forward now.”
“I would hope that the Article, once submitted, would receive expeditious consideration by the Judiciary Committee,” he wrote. “However, if it becomes clear that such consideration is not forthcoming, I (after consultation with colleagues and leadership) will make a privileged motion that the entire House of Representatives immediately debate the Article” — thus forcing “our first impeachment-related vote.”
A colleague, Rep. Al Green (D-Tex.), preceded Sherman in accusing Trump of impeachable offenses, but Green has yet to circulate articles of his own. Appearing with Sherman at a news conference last week, Green said he would proceed “if no one else does” and that there is “no dash to be first.”
“My conscience tells me what I must do, and I leave it to the conscience of others to dictate to them what they must do,” Green said, later adding: “Each member can bring one or more articles at different times.”
The filing of impeachment articles alone falls far short of an indictment. Neither Sherman nor Green sit on the Judiciary Committee, which would investigate and debate any impeachment articles, and there is no sign the Republican-controlled House is poised to launch any inquiry that could ultimately force Trump from office.
In a statement Monday, Sherman said he was clear-eyed about the obstacles ahead: “I have no illusions,” he said. “Articles of Impeachment will not pass the House in the near future. But given the risk posed to the Republic, we should move things forward as quickly as possible.”
David Weigel contributed to this report.