More than a dozen prominent conservative lawyers, including George T. Conway III, offered their legal reasoning for an “expeditious” impeachment probe into President Trump, creating a document they hope will be read by Republicans who continue to stand by the president.
The 16 attorneys, many of whom worked in Republican administrations, wrote in a joint statement to be released Thursday morning that Trump’s now infamous call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the text messages between diplomats and Trump’s public call for China to investigate a political opponent are “undisputed” events that amount to Trump violating his oath of office.
“We have not just a political candidate open to receiving foreign assistance to better his chances at winning an election, but a current president openly and privately calling on foreign governments to actively interfere in the most sacred of U.S. democratic processes, our elections,” they wrote.
Conway, the husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway and an outspoken Trump critic, helped form a coalition of like-minded conservatives a year ago who wanted to call out what they deemed illegal and unconstitutional behavior by the president. The signatories are members of that group, Checks and Balances.
Paul Rosenzweig, who served as President George W. Bush’s deputy assistant secretary for policy at the Department on Homeland Security, said he personally would have gone further than the group’s comments, which are stern, but measured in tone.
“It strikes me that no reasonable attorney can doubt that there was a quid pro quo here,” said Rosenzweig, referring to Trump’s holding back military aid to Ukraine while requesting the country investigate former vice president Joe Biden.
“I would vote for impeachment, and I would vote for conviction and removal in the Senate as well,” Rosenzweig said.
For Stuart M. Gerson, who worked on President George H.W. Bush’s 1988 campaign and in his administration, the joint statement adds a conservative perspective to the cacophony of people on the left backing impeachment.
“We believe it’s important there be a loyal opposition from the conservative side in defense of the rule of law,” Gerson said. “We feel duty-bound to be able to do it. What’s at risk here is more than our country should stand.”
“There comes a tipping point where you look at this and say, ‘My country first; the party comes second,’” he added.
Don Ayer, who served as deputy attorney general under President George H.W. Bush, said he found it “inexplicable” that other Republicans were sticking by Trump.
“I am disgusted by the conduct of Republican senators who pose as reputable people, but shamelessly hide under rocks instead of calling out the president’s horrendous behavior as the gross misconduct that they know it to be,” he said.
“But there aren’t that many people defending [Trump] in an affirmative way,” Ayer added. “There are a lot of people who put their heads down and don’t talk about it.”
Rosenzweig said the goal of the joint statement is to give Republicans “intellectual cover” to stand up with other conservatives and say, “the emperor has no clothes” and “do the right thing.”
The Republicans in Congress have “been a greater disappointment to me than Trump himself,” Rosenzweig said. So far, not one has come out in support of an impeachment inquiry.
“Trump is Trump. His nature is his nature. He’s not any different than the person I knew he was going to be three years ago,” Rosenzweig said.
“But the people who I cannot hold any honor for are the Republicans. There’s lots of really smart Republicans who understand what’s at stake here. They are not stepping up and throwing a flag,” he continued. “They all know it’s wrong. They’re not idiots. They just need the courage, so if others say it first, perhaps that helps.”