Muftic: Abuse of power another article of impeachment
A new term is creeping into the impeachment vocabulary thanks to recent media focus. It is abuse of power, the second article of impeachment against Nixon in the Watergate scandal. Reminders of this are good reasons to take a deeper dive into where we stand today on impeachment and what articles of impeachment could be brought if Donald Trump were to be the subject.
First, impeachment of Trump is unlikely but possible. What is different from Watergate is that Democrats held the majority In both House and Senate and controlled the House impeachment process when GOP Nixon was president. Today, President Trump’s party is the majority in both House and Senate. Even then, it would take a vote of two-thirds of the Senate to convict even if the House of Representatives turns blue in 2018 and begins the impeachment process. Chances are slim that Donald Trump would be impeached while the Senate is likely to be still too closely divided to convict. The House or Senate could gain a Democratic majority in 2018, and do damage to the GOP/Trump in 2020 by holding hearings, though. A damning report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller or Trump’s firing of the investigators investigating him might even give a GOP Congress enough of a backbone to proceed. So far Trump has been told by Mueller he is a subject, but not the target of his criminal investigations, yet. Impeachment articles are as the House defines them. Much could fall under the Constitution’s high crimes and misdemeanors clause.
Nixon resigned before impeachment. We still have the articles of impeachment to compare and contrast. The first article of impeachment against Nixon was obstruction of justice. White House tapes showed he lied about his part in the cover up. In Trump’s case, Mueller must show Donald Trump’s criminal intent was to obstruct the Russian investigation when he fired FBI Director James Comey. Impeachment articles do not need a prosecution’s criminal findings, though. In December Trump wanted to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the chief investigator investigating him, and Mueller’s boss, Rod Rosenstein, before they have made their final report. He claims often they are on a witch hunt. He has backed off when GOP senators said that would be obvious evidence of intent to obstruct justice. Some witches have been found already in Trumps immediate circle and some are Russians. Many are under Mueller’s gun, some already charged, indicted, pleaded, out on bond, or in jail
Other possible impeachment articles authorized in the Constitution are bribery and treason, neither in Nixon’s articles. Treason could be more politely defined as (collusion) conspiring with a foreign government (Russia) to help his election and their national interests, a major focus of the Mueller investigation. Connections between the Trump business organization and Trump himself benefiting from recent real estate loan deals with China coinciding with lifting sanctions on a Chinese telecom are raising eyebrows, not to mention violation of Constitutional emoluments clauses.
In the Nixon case the abuse of power charge was based on his ordering the IRS to go after those on his enemies list, including the LA Times and their owners. Trump’s repeated demands of the semi autonomous postmaster to increase postal rates on Amazon, is suspected abuse because its owner, Jeff Bezos, also owns the Washington Post, Trump’ chief media critic. Trump has tried to argue Amazon pays too low postal rates which causes USPS deficits, but obvious evidence is that deficit is caused by pension funding. Trump’s role in the denial of the Time Warner AT&T merger that would have helped CNN is once again under scrutiny. To be subject to impeachment and prosecution, the threat does not need to be carried out.
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