With the brief lull, I tried to answer some of your impeachment questions.
Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee kept saying Democrats refused to allow them a minority hearing. Can you explain? Sure.
This was a main procedural point that Republicans brought up against Democrats in the hearing earlier this week. The impeachment rules that Democrats approved in October say Republicans can ask for a hearing led by them, with their own witnesses, but the rules say it will be “referred to the committee for decision,” which translates: Democrats can overrule them. House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) did just that, saying Republicans were interpreting the rules too broadly. ““The House rule does not require me to schedule a hearing on particular day, nor does it require me to schedule the hearing as a condition precedent to taking any specific legislative action,” he said Thursday.
That’s consistent with how all congressional committee hearings work, not just impeachment ones. The majority party controls the process and thus the hearing.
If the Senate doesn’t convict Trump, will that hand him victory in 2020? I am not so sure that impeachment of Trump by the House followed by acquittal in the Senate (the likeliest scenario now) means Trump gets a big political boost going into his reelection.
While President Bill Clinton was popular during his impeachment and benefited from a groundswell of sympathy afterward, Trump is not a particularly popular president, with approval ratings hovering in the 40s. (Clinton wasn’t up for reelection but his party won big in midterms.) And the serious allegations facing Trump have dominated the news for months. A recent Washington Post average of polls show that 47 percent of the country thinks he should be impeached and removed from office, while 43 percent doesn’t. That’s not nothing.
Or maybe impeachment will be old news by next November. I’m not predicting what will happen. What I’m trying to say is nothing about how impeachment will affect the 2020 election is a foregone conclusion.
How would it affect Trump’s power as president if he is impeached but not removed? If he’s not removed, he’s still president just the same as before he was impeached.
I was just reading today that one of the Republican lawmakers arguing for impeaching Clinton was none other than Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), who was in the House then. In a conciliatory note, Graham said this when it was all over: “The president has been cleansed.”
If this impeachment fails, would Democrats consider another impeachment inquiry within the coming year? A president can theoretically be impeached more than once. But I have a hard time seeing that happen. I do believe House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) when she says she thinks impeachment is divisive, serious and somber. Which means she recognizes this is Democrats’ once chance to impeach Trump.
Could Trump be criminally charged if he leaves office? Yes, since he’s no longer a sitting president. But I’m not sure what any charges would be, and it would be a political and dicey thing for federal law enforcement to undertake,
Are the other committees in the House carrying on with their usual work? Yes.
In fact, hours after House Democratic leaders announced the articles of impeachment against Trump, the House and the White House also announced a deal on a U.S.-Canada-Mexico trade agreement. There is a lot of work going on in Congress besides impeachment. The Post’s Paul Kane outlines all the non-impeachment things lawmakers have to deal with in these next few weeks if they want to get out of town by Christmas. Lawmakers still don’t have a spending bill for this fiscal year, for example.
Could John Bolton have added anything of significance to the impeachment inquiry? I think so, yes.
As Trump’s national security adviser during the time these Ukraine negotiations were unfolding, he was likely in the room during key conversations. He could be someone who can shed light on whether Trump specifically ordered the political quid pro quo himself. The ship has sailed for him to testify in the House, but it’s possible he could be called to testify in a Senate trial.
How can people refuse subpoenas from Congress and not get arrested? They can be arrested, theoretically.
The White House counsel to President Barack Obama, W. Neil Eggleston, wrote in The Washington Post this week that if the House voted to hold people in contempt of Congress for not complying with subpoenas, they face at least a month in jail. I’m just not sure who would carry that out if Congress took the extra step to hold, say, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, in contempt. Because the Justice Department under the Trump administration probably isn’t going to arrest them. Attorney General William P. Barr himself is already in contempt of Congress for failing to comply with a subpoena on a 2020 census immigration item, so he has no incentive to put himself in jail! Congress has the power to arrest people (“inherent contempt”) but not a jail, and in the past it’s backfired.
Final point: Eggleston says the statute of limitations for contempt of Congress is five years, so maybe under another (read: Democratic-led) Justice Department, these people could go to jail.
But that would also be a politically dicey maneuver for the next president to take, jailing former political opponents.