House Democrats unveiled the two articles of impeachment they prepared against President Donald Trump after a two-and-a-half month investigation into his pressure on Ukraine to investigate his 2020 political rival Joe Biden as well as conspiracy theories about foreign interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Impeaching Donald John Trump, President of the United States, for high crimes and misdemeanors.
Resolved, That Donald J. Trump, President of the United States, is impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors and that the following articles of impeachment be exhibited to the United States Senate:
This is written in legislative language, so get ready for some legalese. Lawmakers who vote for these articles would be agreeing with impeaching Trump and referring his case to the Senate for trial.
Articles of impeachment exhibited by the House of Representatives of the United States of America in the name of itself and of the people of the United States of America, against Donald J. Trump, President of the United States of America, in maintenance and support of its impeachment against him for high crimes and misdemeanors.
The Democratic lawmakers who wrote these articles argue they’re speaking for all Americans rather than just for House members. This is important since, while Congress is the unit of government closest to the people, Trump’s defenders have argued impeachment would overturn the will of the people expressed in the 2016 presidential election.
ARTICLE I: ABUSE OF POWER
This is the first article of impeachment. There will be votes on each.
The Constitution provides that the House of Representatives “shall have the sole Power of Impeachment” and that the President “shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, a Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors”. In his conduct of the office of President of the United States — and in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed —
The oath of office, as spelled out in Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution, is: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Article II, Section 4 has the portion about the President being impeached by the House and removed from office by the Senate.
Donald J. Trump has abused the powers of the Presidency, in that:
It’s important for Democrats to prove this point. It can’t just be a political or policy difference that leads them to this drastic step. They most prove that Trump has betrayed the trust of the American people.
Using the powers of his high office, President Trump solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, in the 2020 United States Presidential election.
The fact of this charge is above dispute. He asked Ukraine’s President, in a phone call, for the favor of investigating the Bidens. Democrats argue they have to move fast and now because this is about the coming election in 2020. He’s trying to harm the democratic process in real time.
He did so through a scheme or course of conduct that included soliciting the Government of Ukraine to publicly announce investigations that would benefit his reelection, harm the election prospects of a political opponent, and influence the 2020 United States Presidential election to his advantage.
The Intelligence Committee hearings featured testimony from numerous career diplomats backing up this idea, which was also central to the whistleblower report that launched the inquiry in the first place. Trump denies the claim, although his acting chief of staff all but admitted it. And obtaining the investigations was a clear aim of Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. Read more on his role here.
Trump sought Ukraine’s help on two investigations. First, he asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to look into a discredited conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine and not Russia that interfered in the 2016 presidential election by hacking the Democratic National Committee. Second, Trump wanted an investigation of Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden’s position on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company, Burisma. Neither Biden has been accused of wrongdoing.
President Trump also sought to pressure the Government of Ukraine to take these steps by conditioning official United States Government acts of significant value to Ukraine on its public announcement of the investigations.
The acts in question are a White House meeting that was coveted by Zelensky, who was elected in April, to establish his legitimacy — and, more importantly, $391 million in security aid approved by Congress, much of it for Ukraine’s military, which is at war with Russian-backed separatists.
President Trump engaged in this scheme or course of conduct for corrupt purposes in pursuit of personal political benefit.
The idea here is that if the Ukrainians were investigating Joe Biden’s son’s arrangements with Burisma, that would undercut the former vice president’s credibility at exactly the time he was gearing up to run against Trump.
In so doing, President Trump used the powers of the Presidency in a manner that compromised the national security of the United States and undermined the integrity of the United States democratic process. He thus ignored and injured the interests of the Nation.
Distancing the US from Ukraine and standing in the way of the aid it needed to fight its war with Russia certainly emboldened Russia, which arguably compromised US national security.
Fiona Hill, who served until this past summer as the top White House Russia expert, testified during the impeachment inquiry that the idea Ukraine interfered in the US election “is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.” And inviting a foreign power to undercut the credibility of a candidate in the 2020 election arguably undermines the integrity of the democratic process.
President Trump engaged in this scheme or course of conduct through the following means:
(1) President Trump—acting both directly and through his agents within and outside the United States Government—corruptly solicited the Government of Ukraine to publicly announce investigations into—
Trump acted directly during the Zelensky call when he asked for a “favor” — of investigations. He acted through his agents in the US government by pushing EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland to work with Giuliani on investigations and by pushing for the aid to be frozen. He worked through agents outside the US government in the form of Giuliani, who was essentially conducting a shadow foreign policy.
(A) a political opponent, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr.; and
(B) a discredited theory promoted by Russia alleging that Ukraine—rather than Russia—interfered in the 2016 United States Presidential election.
US senators have been briefed by the US intelligence agencies on the fact that Russia is pushing the false notion it was Ukraine — not Russia — that meddled in 2016. Here’s a full fact check.
(2) With the same corrupt motives, President Trump—acting both directly and through his agents within and outside the United States Government—conditioned two official acts on the public announcements that he had requested—
(A) the release of $391 million of United States taxpayer funds that Congress had appropriated on a bipartisan basis for the purpose of providing vital military and security assistance to Ukraine to oppose Russian aggression and which President Trump had ordered suspended; and
There has been testimony from career State Department and Pentagon officials that they understood Trump to have been behind freezing the aid. It was formally frozen by his political appointee on the same day as the July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelensky even though it was known within the US government to be frozen weeks before that. Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney admitted Trump held the aid. The aid was unfrozen in September — but only after Trump and the White House learned of the whistleblower complaint against him.
(B) a head of state meeting at the White House, which the President of Ukraine sought to demonstrate continued United States support for the Government of Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression.
Trump did ultimately meet Zelensky on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September. Both denied there was pressure exerted by Trump on Zelensky in the July 25 phone call, although reporting suggests Zelensky was feeling pressure even before the call. A White House meeting for Zelensky has not yet occurred.
(3) Faced with the public revelation of his actions, President Trump ultimately released the military and security assistance to the Government of Ukraine, but has persisted in openly and corruptly urging and soliciting Ukraine to undertake investigations for his personal political benefit.
The aid was released after Trump knew about the whistleblower and after White House attorneys counseled the acting director of national intelligence not to inform Congress, as required by law, of the whistleblower complaint. So while the aid was unfrozen, it was only after Trump knew he was being accused of holding it up for political reasons. Further, there was no other change in Ukraine’s behavior to explain why the aid was released in September rather than earlier in the year. And after it was released, Congress had to pass a special law to release it since the fiscal year was ending.
These actions were consistent with President Trump’s previous invitations of foreign interference in United States elections.
After the Ukraine scandal broke, Trump publicly asked Ukraine and China to investigate the Bidens.
In all of this, President Trump abused the powers of the Presidency by ignoring and injuring national security and other vital national interests to obtain an improper personal political benefit. He has also betrayed the Nation by abusing his high office to enlist a foreign power in corrupting democratic elections.
Wherefore President Trump, by such conduct, has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to national security and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office, and has acted in a manner grossly incompatible with self-governance and the rule of law. President Trump thus warrants impeachment and trial, removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States.
Part of the challenge for Democrats who support impeachment is to justify doing it as the country approaches the 2020 election, when Trump could be removed from office by voters. Their argument here is that leaving him in office endangers that very election. If he is impeached by the House and the Senate votes to remove him from office — which is not at all likely — he would be barred from holding federal office.
ARTICLE II: OBSTRUCTION OF CONGRESS
This is the second article of impeachment.
The Constitution provides that the House of Representatives “shall have the sole Power of Impeachment” and that the President “shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors“.
There were many possible articles of impeachment considered, including for bribery (by dangling the promise of US taxpayer funds in exchange for his “favor” from Zelensky), obstruction of justice in connection with special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, and more. Democrats chose to narrowly tailor these efforts to the Ukraine scandal that has been the main subject of investigation since September.
In his conduct of the office of President of the United States—and in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed—Donald J. Trump has directed the unprecedented, categorical, and indiscriminate defiance of subpoenas issued by the House of Representatives pursuant to its “sole Power of Impeachment”.
The White House has ignored subpoenas for documents and testimony from agencies in the executive branch, including the Pentagon, the State Department and the Office of Management and Budget. Officials in Trump’s Cabinet and top aides in the White House have also ignored subpoenas. Trump has said he can do whatever he wants under Article II of the Constitution. That obstruction is obvious, but Democrats — who have their eye on the election calendar — have chosen not to pursue lengthy court battles to force compliance with subpoenas. That decision complicates this article somewhat.
President Trump has abused the powers of the Presidency in a manner offensive to, and subversive of, the Constitution, in that:
The House of Representatives has engaged in an impeachment inquiry focused on President Trump’s corrupt solicitation of the Government of Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 United States Presidential election. As part of this impeachment inquiry, the Committees undertaking the investigation served subpoenas seeking documents and testimony deemed vital to the inquiry from various Executive Branch agencies and offices, and current and former officials.
It’s important to note that the people who did testify — mostly career civil servants — chose to comply with the subpoena from Congress rather than the White House line. Track every subpoena Democrats issued here.
In response, without lawful cause or excuse, President Trump directed Executive Branch agencies, offices, and officials not to comply with those subpoenas. President Trump thus interposed the powers of the Presidency against the lawful subpoenas of the House of Representatives, and assumed to himself functions and judgments necessary to the exercise of the “sole Power of Impeachment” vested by the Constitution in the House of Representatives.
President Trump abused the powers of his high office through the following means:
(1) Directing the White House to defy a lawful subpoena by withholding the production of documents sought therein by the Committees.
(2) Directing other Executive Branch agencies and offices to defy lawful subpoenas and withhold the production of documents and records from the Committees—in response to which the Department of State, Office of Management and Budget, Department of Energy, and Department of Defense refused to produce a single document or record.
Incredibly, the only documents included in the inquiry were WhatsApp messages and emails provided to the committee by Kurt Volker, the former special envoy for Ukraine, and Sondland. Read those here.
Officials from the State Department and Pentagon who testified had to rely on their own notes and recollections. They would at times describe other emails or communications in their testimony, but none of it was furnished as a result of subpoenas.
(3) Directing current and former Executive Branch officials not to cooperate with the Committees—in response to which nine Administration officials defied subpoenas for testimony, namely John Michael “Mick” Mulvaney, Robert B. Blair, John A. Eisenberg, Michael Ellis, Preston Wells Griffith, Russell T. Vought, Michael Duffey, Brian McCormack, and T. Ulrich Brechbuhl.
These actions were consistent with President Trump’s previous efforts to undermine United States Government investigations into foreign interference in United States elections.
While Democrats chose not to add anything from the Mueller report into these articles of impeachment, this is a clear reference to the possible elements of obstruction of justice outlined in the Mueller report.
Through these actions, President Trump sought to arrogate to himself the right to determine the propriety, scope, and nature of an impeachment inquiry into his own conduct, as well as the unilateral prerogative to deny any and all information to the House of Representatives in the exercise of its “sole Power of Impeachment”.
Arrogate: to claim or seize without justification. It is true that by Trump’s logic, no President could ever be impeached.
In the history of the Republic, no President has ever ordered the complete defiance of an impeachment inquiry or sought to obstruct and impede so comprehensively the ability of the House of Representatives to investigate “high Crimes and Misdemeanors”.
Although neither Richard Nixon nor Bill Clinton blocked all cooperation as Trump has, neither of them were exactly cooperative. It took a Supreme Court decision for Nixon to turn over Oval Office tapes, and then he turned them over to a special prosecutor and not Congress.
This abuse of office served to cover up the President’s own repeated misconduct and to seize and control the power of impeachment—and thus to nullify a vital constitutional safeguard vested solely in the House of Representatives.
Trump says he refused to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry in order to protect future presidents from superfluous congressional inquiry. His actions also had the benefit (for him) of hiding things like documents on the freeze of the aid to Ukraine from investigators.
In all of this, President Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice, and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.
This is an incredible paragraph. They’re saying Trump violated public trust, subverted the Constitution, damaged the US legal system and did harm to the American people — exactly the opposite of what a President vows to do when taking the oath of office.
Wherefore, President Trump, by such conduct, has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to the Constitution if allowed to remain in office, and has acted in a manner grossly incompatible with self-governance and the rule of law. President Trump thus warrants impeachment and trial, removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States.