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The House Committee on the Judiciary has completed the consideration of two articles of impeachment against President Donald J. Trump. The first article charges that the President used the powers of his office to solicit and pressure a foreign government, Ukraine, to investigate his domestic political rival and interfere in the upcoming United States Presidential elections. The second article charges that the President categorically obstructed the Congressional impeachment inquiry into his conduct. Taken together, the articles charge that President Trump has placed his personal, political interests above our national security, our free and fair elections, and our system of checks and balances. He has engaged in a pattern of misconduct that will continue if left unchecked. Accordingly, President Trump should be impeached and removed from office.
The impeachment report proceeds in four parts.
It describes the process by which the Committee came to recommend that the House impeach the President of the United States. From start to finish, the House conducted its inquiry with a commitment to transparency, efficiency, and fairness. The Minority was present and able to participate at every stage. From September to November of this year, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, in coordination with the Committee on Oversight and Reform and the Committee on Foreign Affairs, collected evidence related to the charges against President Trump. The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence held public hearings to develop the evidence and share it with the American people. The committees then transmitted their evidence to the Judiciary Committee, together with a nearly 300-page public report and 123 pages of Minority views.
Consistent with House precedent, after the evidence arrived at the Judiciary Committee, the Committee invited President Trump and his counsel to participate in the process. Notably, and unlike past Presidents, President Trump declined to attend any hearings, question any witnesses, or recommend that the Committee call additional witnesses in his defense.
The report discusses the standard for impeachment under the Constitution. The Framers were careful students of history and knew that threats to democracy could take many forms. Therefore, they adopted a standard for impeachment that captured a range of misconduct: “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” A clear theme unified these constitutional wrongs: officials who abused, abandoned, or sought personal benefit from their public trust—and who threatened the rule of law if left in power—faced impeachment and removal. The Framers principally intended “other high Crimes and Misdemeanors” to include three forms of Presidential wrongdoing: (1) abuse of power, (2) betrayal of the national interest through foreign entanglements, and (3) corruption of office and elections. Any one of these violations of the public trust justifies impeachment. When combined in a single course of conduct, as is the case here, they state a powerful case for impeachment and removal from office.
The report examines the facts underlying the first charge against President Trump: abuse of power. On July 25, 2019, when he spoke by telephone to President Zelensky of Ukraine, President Trump had the upper hand. President Zelensky had been recently elected. Ukraine was locked in an existential battle with Russia, which had invaded and illegally occupied eastern Ukraine more than five years earlier. The conflict was continuing and Ukraine needed our help—both in the form of vital military aid, which had already been appropriated by Congress because of our security interests in the region, and also in the form of an Oval Office meeting, to show the world that the United States continues to stand with our ally in resisting the aggression of our adversary.
On that July 25 call, President Zelensky expressed gratitude for past American defense support and indicated that he was ready to buy more anti-tank weapons from the United States. In response, President Trump immediately asked President Zelensky to “do us a favor, though.” He asked Ukraine to announce two bogus investigations: one into former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., then his leading opponent in the 2020 election, and another to advance a conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, attacked our elections in 2016. One investigation was designed to help him gain an advantage in the 2020 election. The other was intended to help President Trump conceal the truth about the 2016 election. Neither investigation was supported by the evidence or premised on any legitimate national security or foreign policy interest.
After the call with President Zelensky, President Trump ratcheted up the pressure. He continued to dangle the offer of the Oval Office meeting and to withhold the $391 million in military aid. The evidence shows that, on the same day that the call took place, Ukrainian officials became aware that funding had been withheld. The President also deployed his private attorney and other agents, some acting outside the official and regular channels of diplomacy, to make his desires known.
These facts establish impeachable abuse of power. To the founding generation, abuse of power was a specific, well-defined offense. It occurs when a President exercises the powers of his office to obtain an improper personal benefit while injuring and ignoring the national interest. The evidence shows that President Trump leveraged his office to solicit and pressure Ukraine for a personal favor.
This unquestionably constitutes an impeachable offense, but the first article of impeachment also identifies two aggravating factors. When President Trump asked President Zelensky for a favor, he did so at the expense of both our national security and the integrity of our elections. As to the first, America has a vital national security interest in countering Russian aggression, and our strategic partner Ukraine is quite literally at the front line of resisting that aggression. When the President weakens a partner who advances American security interests, the President weakens America. As to election integrity, American democracy above all rests upon elections that are free and fair. When the President demands that a foreign government announce investigations targeting his domestic political rival, he corrupts our elections. To the Founders, this kind of corruption was especially pernicious, and plainly merited impeachment. American elections should be for Americans only.
Fourth and finally,
The report describes the second charge against President Trump: obstruction of Congress. President Trump did everything in his power to obstruct the House’s impeachment inquiry. Following his direction not to cooperate with the inquiry, the White House and other agencies refused to produce a single document in response to Congressional subpoenas. President Trump also attempted to muzzle witnesses, threatening to damage their careers if they agreed to testify, and even attacked one witness during her live testimony before Congress. To their great credit, many witnesses from across government–including from the National Security Council, the Department of State, and the Department of Defense–ignored the President’s unlawful orders and cooperated with the inquiry. In the end, however, nine senior officials followed President Trump’s direction and continue to defy duly authorized Congressional subpoenas. Other Presidents have recognized their obligation to provide information to Congress under these circumstances. President Trump’s stonewall, by contrast, was categorical, indiscriminate, and without precedent in American history.
The Constitution grants the “sole Power of Impeachment” to the House of Representatives. Within our system of checks and balances, the President may not decide what constitutes a valid impeachment inquiry. Nor may he ignore lawful subpoenas for evidence and testimony or direct others to do so. If a President had such authority, he could block Congress from learning facts bearing upon impeachment in the House or trial in the Senate and could thus control a power that exists to restrain his own abuses. The evidence shows clearly that President Trump has assumed this power for himself and, left unchecked, the President will continue to obstruct Congress through unlawful means.
Although the 2020 election is less than a year away, Congress cannot wait for the next election to address the President’s misconduct. President Trump has fallen into a pattern of behavior: this is not the first time he has solicited foreign interference in an election, been exposed, and attempted to obstruct the resulting investigation. He will almost certainly continue on this course. Indeed, in the same week that the Committee considered these articles of impeachment, the President’s private attorney was back in Ukraine to promote the same sham investigations into the President’s political rivals and, upon returning to the United States, rapidly made his way to the White House. We cannot rely on the next election as a remedy for presidential misconduct when the President is seeking to threaten the very integrity of that election. We must act immediately.
The Committee now transmits these articles of impeachment to the full House. By his actions, President Trump betrayed his office. His high crimes and misdemeanors undermine the Constitution. His conduct continues to jeopardize our national security and the integrity of our elections, presenting great urgency for the House to act. His actions warrant his impeachment and trial, his removal from office, and his disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States.