AP Photo/Alex Brandon
Jerry Nadler’s race to impeachment has been off the front pages for a few weeks, mostly because Robert Mueller failed to do anything but harm the case for removing Donald Trump from office. Trump may be a bull in a china shop, but there’s just very little there in the vein of actual impeachable offenses. Some Democrats, including Nancy Pelosi, realize this and have sought to tamp down expectations. Nadler and what appears to be about half the Democrat caucus are choosing a different path.
Namely, they are trying to stealth impeach Trump by having formal impeachment proceedings without actually having articles of impeachment pass. This has been hinted at for a while and Nadler is now proclaiming he’s doing it.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler told CNN this week his panel is conducting “formal impeachment proceedings” against President Trump and could be ready to file articles of impeachment this fall.
The New York Democrat’s announcement blew up social media and thrilled the Democratic base, which has been clamoring for the House to take formal steps to oust the president.
The problem is that this clearly violates House rules.
The top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, called out Nadler’s CNN claim almost as soon as he uttered it on the CNN set.
“Chairman Nadler is either uninformed about what a formal impeachment inquiry is or he is deliberately misleading the American public to score cheap political points,” Collins tweeted Thursday. “Which is it, Chairman?”
Any function of impeachment under Article 1 requires a majority vote in the House approving such measures. Without that fail safe, any committee could abuse the impeachment process and the court system by simply declaring they’ve started impeachment proceedings. It’s unconstitutional.
Nadler, however, doesn’t appear to have the authority to launch a formal impeachment inquiry regardless of the case he makes to the court, Republicans said.
That power rests with the House, which must approve a formal Judiciary Committee impeachment probe by simple majority.
Collins, a GOP aide told the Washington Examiner, “does dispute Nadler’s assertion that the committee is currently conducting “formal impeachment proceedings. The House rules do require a formal vote in order for the committee to begin conducting a formal impeachment inquiry.”
Furthermore, it defies history, which has also given us the precedent that a formal vote and passage is required. In 1998, before Republicans could investigate Clinton, they were made to pass authorization for the Judiciary committee to begin an impeachment investigation. That’s happened in every previous impeachment attempt as well. Nadler wants to skip that step because he knows he doesn’t have enough support, even among Democrats, to win such a vote.
The courts should laugh at this nonsense and Republicans should oppose it unconditionally. A future precedent where a President can be investigated via the powers of impeachment without Congress actually authorizing such would be incredibly dangerous. It would essentially shut down governance, as every new President would end up having every inch of their private affairs invaded by partisans. The Republican Congress under Obama did not play such games and Democrats under Trump can’t be allowed to do so now.
This matter is simple. If Democrats want to use the powers of impeachment, then pass authorization to do so and bare the political consequences. They don’t get to have their cake and eat it too, demanding courts give them documents they aren’t entitled to while getting to skip the backlash from moderate voters.
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