House vote on impeachment will sting Trump

Article Image

Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman - who sat on the House Judiciary Committee during Watergate - and political strategist Frank Luntz weigh in on the impeachment inquiry after a week of explosive testimony.

Posted: Oct 29, 2019 6:30 PM
Updated: Oct 29, 2019 6:30 PM

When the House votes Thursday on formal procedures governing its impeachment inquiry, the administration will no longer have a reason to argue that the impeachment inquiry is invalid without a full vote and that the proceedings are unfairly secretive and one-sided.

This argument was already on shaky footing. The Constitution gives the House "sole power of impeachment," without specifying any particular investigative process requirement. And the first round of closed-door House depositions are open to Republican and Democratic members of the investigating committees, all of whom have the ability to question the witnesses.

This week's vote should spike any remaining Republican gripe about the fairness of the process. The House resolution provides for open, public hearings in the House; grants subpoena power to Republicans (though subject to approval by Democratic committee chairs); requires a written, public report by the House Intelligence Committee setting forth its findings; and provides for transmission of all records and materials to the House Judiciary Committee, which is charged with ultimate responsibility for conducting impeachment proceedings.

Tellingly, the White House and other leading Republicans responded to the announcement of the vote not with satisfaction that their calls for a full vote and more process have been heeded, but rather with anger, seemingly more at losing yet another political talking point.

Trump's "perfect phone call" defense crashed upon release of the summary transcript of that call, highlighted by Trump's imperfect request of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky: "I would like you to do us a favor, though."

And last week saw the demise of "no quid pro quo," which sustained terminal damage with a contrary admission by Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney (later walked back by a bizarre denial that Mulvaney said what he said) and the testimony of career diplomat Bill Taylor about a direct link between foreign aid and Ukrainian investigations of Trump's political rivals (to which Trump responded with ad hominem personal attacks).

And the testimony of Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindeman -- a career military and diplomatic professional who was awarded a Purple Heart for sustaining injuries in combat -- further seals the deal.

According to Vindeman, who, as part of his duty, listened to Trump's July 25 call with Zelensky, Trump tied United States support for Ukraine to his demands for partisan investigations. Vindeman saw Trump's actions as improper and a threat to national security.

Thursday's vote will provide political benefits for House Democrats. It also will help legally as they fight to overcome White House stonewalling and compel witness testimony and other evidence. Multiple federal judges already have held that the House has broad subpoena power pursuant to its impeachment authority, even without a full formal vote.

Now, the full vote should further bolster House Democrats' legal efforts to compel evidence and break the White House stonewall.

To be clear: Trump and others likely will continue to make the aforementioned defenses. But with each passing week, those claims drift further and further away from any factual mooring. Eventually, the truth catches up.

Now, your questions:

Bob (South Carolina): Bill Taylor seems to have confirmed there was a quid pro quo with Ukraine. But how is a quid pro quo relevant and necessary in the impeachment process?

"Quid pro quo" is a Latin phrase meaning essentially "this for that" -- an exchange. Trump has repeatedly claimed there was "no quid pro quo" between him and Ukraine. But, as discussed above, that defense has sustained serious damage with the recent admission by Mulvaney and the testimony of Bill Taylor, the top US diplomat in Ukraine.

With respect to potential crimes, the existence of a quid pro quo is relevant to bribery, the essence of which is an illicit exchange. But quid pro quo has nothing to do with other potential federal crimes including extortion and solicitation of foreign election aid.

And remember: The House does not need a crime to impeach. Abuse of power or misuse of office is sufficient. If there was, in fact, a quid pro quo, the case for abuse of power -- hence, the case for impeachment -- becomes difficult to refute. I believe this is why Trump has unleashed vicious personal attacks against Taylor. Trump likely recognizes that Taylor's testimony could vastly increase the likelihood of impeachment and potential conviction and removal.

Tom (Illinois): What's the next step for the New York case in which Trump's team argued he could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue without getting arrested?

In September, the Manhattan district attorney subpoenaed Trump's accounting firm, Mazars USA, for eight years of Trump's tax returns. Trump challenged the subpoena in federal court, but Judge Victor Marrero upheld the subpoena, holding that Trump's legal position was "an overreach of executive power" and "repugnant to the nation's governmental structure and constitutional values."

Trump then appealed to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. At oral argument, Trump's attorney contended that, even if Trump shot somebody on Fifth Avenue (as Trump once boasted he could do without losing voters), he could not be arrested while in office or even criminally investigated. While it is debatable whether a sitting president can be charged criminally, the notion that a sitting president cannot even be investigated is entirely novel and legally dubious.

The Court of Appeals should rule within the next several weeks. Given the absurdity of Trump's position I expect him to lose. Trump then can ask the Court of Appeals to consider the case "en banc" -- meaning the entire Court of Appeals hears the case, rather than the standard three-judge panel. En banc review is granted only in the rarest circumstances, and I do not expect the court to grant it here.

After that, Trump can petition the Supreme Court to take the case. The Supreme Court only takes a small fraction of the cases presented to it, typically well under 5%. If the Supreme Court takes the case, it will have the final word. If not, then the ruling of the Court of Appeals will govern. Given the meritless argument Trump's attorneys made in the Court of Appeals, I do not expect that ruling to be a good one for Trump.

Chris (Illinois): What would happen if Trump refused to follow an order from the Supreme Court to release documents and comply with congressional subpoenas?

If Trump defies an order from the Supreme Court -- or any final order from a federal court -- then there are only two potential legal remedies.

First, the judiciary or Congress could refer the case to the Justice Department for prosecution for criminal contempt. It plainly would be contempt for a President -- or any person -- to simply defy a final court order. That said, current Justice Department policy counsels against indicting a sitting President, likely rendering this option toothless.

Second, Congress could -- and arguably must -- impeach. By refusing to comply with a final order from a federal court, the President would dramatically upset the balance of powers by essentially placing himself beyond the reach of both the legislative branch (by defying the subpoena) and the judicial branch (by defying the final court order). Impeachment and removal from office therefore would be the most effective -- and, really, only -- available legal remedy.

Three questions to watch:

1. Will other public officials involved in Ukraine dealings -- including John Bolton -- testify, and what more will we learn?
2. Will the White House identify and execute a coordinated counter-impeachment strategy?
3. Will other Republicans follow the lead of Sen. John Thune in expressing concern about Trump's actions towards Ukraine?

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 728811

Reported Deaths: 13405
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion996911740
Lake53548966
Allen40529675
St. Joseph35596550
Hamilton35536408
Elkhart28470441
Tippecanoe22375218
Vanderburgh22293396
Porter18701307
Johnson17923378
Hendricks17199315
Clark12943191
Madison12612339
Vigo12437246
Monroe11873170
LaPorte11856210
Delaware10667186
Howard9895216
Kosciusko9390117
Hancock8260140
Bartholomew8058155
Warrick7777155
Floyd7653178
Wayne7035199
Grant7032174
Boone6687101
Morgan6557139
Dubois6150117
Marshall6016111
Dearborn580077
Cass5794105
Henry5699103
Noble559883
Jackson501172
Shelby490696
Lawrence4522120
Harrison435072
Gibson434792
DeKalb427185
Clinton427053
Montgomery423688
Whitley395239
Huntington390080
Steuben385557
Miami381166
Knox371890
Jasper364747
Putnam359660
Wabash353479
Adams341054
Ripley339170
Jefferson329281
White313554
Daviess296299
Wells291381
Decatur284792
Fayette279562
Greene277885
Posey271333
Scott265653
LaGrange265570
Clay259447
Washington240332
Randolph239781
Spencer232131
Jennings229849
Starke215953
Fountain212046
Sullivan211442
Owen198756
Fulton194840
Jay193630
Carroll188520
Orange182654
Perry182637
Rush173025
Vermillion168843
Franklin167835
Tipton162845
Parke146116
Blackford134632
Pike133734
Pulaski116645
Newton107734
Brown101941
Crawford99514
Benton98514
Martin88615
Warren81815
Switzerland7858
Union71010
Ohio56511
Unassigned0414

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1082815

Reported Deaths: 19428
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1258081400
Cuyahoga1119722115
Hamilton799721205
Montgomery514061014
Summit47145945
Lucas42119788
Butler38338584
Stark32273906
Lorain24997481
Warren24274298
Mahoning21546588
Lake20653369
Clermont19761238
Delaware18512133
Licking16418212
Fairfield16176199
Trumbull16032468
Medina15268264
Greene15063244
Clark13983299
Wood13080189
Portage12839203
Allen11639232
Richland11349199
Miami10670217
Muskingum8803133
Wayne8793211
Columbiana8778229
Pickaway8564121
Marion8523135
Tuscarawas8473244
Erie7888154
Hancock6914127
Ross6846155
Ashtabula6805170
Geauga6686148
Scioto6406101
Belmont5881167
Union570848
Lawrence5549102
Jefferson5525151
Huron5430119
Darke5355123
Sandusky5347120
Seneca5282121
Athens519158
Washington5155109
Auglaize490784
Mercer480385
Shelby469293
Knox4486110
Madison435661
Putnam4278100
Fulton422469
Ashland421789
Defiance419697
Crawford3975107
Brown394157
Logan381676
Preble379598
Clinton372163
Ottawa366679
Highland355062
Williams339275
Champaign331658
Guernsey315653
Jackson312551
Perry294950
Morrow284939
Fayette281950
Hardin270864
Henry268666
Coshocton265257
Holmes2603101
Van Wert243463
Adams237852
Pike237634
Gallia235349
Wyandot231055
Hocking215362
Carroll191547
Paulding172640
Meigs144840
Noble133337
Monroe132042
Morgan108423
Harrison108137
Vinton83115
Unassigned02
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
38° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 28°
Angola
Cloudy
34° wxIcon
Hi: 47° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 26°
Huntington
Cloudy
39° wxIcon
Hi: 44° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 33°
Decatur
Cloudy
38° wxIcon
Hi: 43° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 28°
Van Wert
Cloudy
41° wxIcon
Hi: 43° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 34°
Rain moves in overnight into Sunday morning and looks to hang around much of the day, likely forcing Mother's Day plans indoors
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events