The report argues that President Trump has shown no willingness to forgo overtures to foreign powers or to stop using his official powers as a crowbar to extract allegations of wrongdoing against his rivals from foreign powers. “In making the decision to move forward, we were struck by the fact that the President’s misconduct was not an isolated occurrence, nor was it the product of a naive president,” the report states. “Instead, the efforts to involve Ukraine in our 2020 presidential election were undertaken by a President who himself was elected in 2016 with the benefit of an unprecedented and sweeping campaign of election interference undertaken by Russia in his favor, and which the President welcomed and utilized. Having witnessed the degree to which interference by a foreign power in 2016 harmed our democracy, President Trump cannot credibly claim ignorance to its pernicious effects.”
It was the failure to move forward with impeachment based on special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report that gave Trump incentive to try it again. “With this backdrop, the solicitation of new foreign intervention was the act of a president unbound, not one chastened by experience. It was the act of a president who viewed himself as unaccountable and determined to use his vast official powers to secure his reelection. This repeated and pervasive threat to our democratic electoral process added urgency to our work.”
The committee’s Democratic members concluded:
“Faced with the revelation of his actions, President Trump publicly and repeatedly persisted in urging foreign governments, including Ukraine and China, to investigate his political opponent. This continued solicitation of foreign interference in a U.S. election presents a clear and present danger that the President will continue to use the power of his office for his personal political gain.”
The necessity of impeaching and removing a president caught in the act of corrupting his ongoing reelection effort is not lost on anyone. However, the question remains as to how and when to get the goods on, say, Trump lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani’s contacts with the Office of Management and Budget or to get now-former energy secretary Rick Perry’s firsthand account.
Schiff warned, “I think what we have produced in remarkable short order is so overwhelming that it ought to be presented to the Judiciary Committee now without any further delay." He argued, "If we do uncover additional evidence, and we do learn more every day, we will feel free to file supplemental reports to the Judiciary Committee, but there is, I think, grave risk to the country with waiting until we have every last fact when we already know enough about the President’s misconduct to make a responsible judgment about whether we think that’s compatible with the office of the presidency.”
The House should not wait forever, but while the process is still in the hands of the House, House Democrats should make a final stab at getting court orders to compel testimony. If they do not and the proceedings move to the Senate, there is no guarantee that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will hold a thorough trial or allow new material not presented by the House’s original report.
Schiff is certainly correct that, for now, the Intelligence Committee has completed its work by uncovering available evidence. The matter, correctly in my view, then moved to the House Judiciary Committee on a voice vote. However, there may be time to supplement the record, as Schiff mentioned, perhaps snagging a witness or two before the Senate takes control of the process. If it means waiting a week or two before a final vote on articles of impeachment to obtain finality on, for example, the case concerning former White House counsel Donald McGahn, it would be worthwhile.
It is worth noting as we debate how long to continue the investigation into Trump’s underlying conduct that the House’s diligence in trying to ferret out all available witnesses has made its obstruction case stronger. The report makes a compelling case that “Donald Trump is the first and only President in American history to openly and indiscriminately defy all aspects of the Constitutional impeachment process, ordering all federal agencies and officials categorically not to comply with voluntary requests or compulsory demands for documents or testimony.” This far exceeds anything President Richard M. Nixon attempted. The report continues, “A common theme of President Trump’s defiance has been his claims that Congress is acting in an unprecedented way and using unprecedented rules. However, the House has been following the same investigative rules that Republicans championed when they were in control and conducted aggressive oversight of previous Administrations.”
In sum, the House Intelligence Committee did its job. The House Judiciary Committee now should move forward without unnecessarily delaying the production of articles of impeachment. However, the House must continue to press for witnesses to appear and seek court redress, continuing to contest Trump’s efforts to obstruct the process. As the House does so, it will be making its own obstruction argument that much stronger.