Democrats are injecting an urgent new argument into their already fast-moving impeachment drive: President Donald Trump poses such a flagrant threat to the republic that there is no time to waste.
Their emerging gambit is prompting Trump’s GOP defenders — who have long struggled to coalesce around a coherent strategy of their own — to launch a fresh counterattack, warning that that a rush to condemn the President proves the Democratic case is shallow and politically motivated.
The showdown over timing emerged from the first House Judiciary Committee hearing on impeachment Wednesday, which shifted the debate from the specific facts of Trump’s alleged wrongdoing to the appropriate constitutional consequences that he should face.
Are you ready?” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked her caucus on Wednesday, setting the stage for an accelerated timetable that could see Trump impeached by the full House before the Christmas and New Year break.
The speaker is also quietly taking the temperature of her caucus before making a final decision on the end game of the House process — and how widely to draw articles of impeachment, CNN’s Manu Raju reported on Wednesday.
In the hearing, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler warned in increasingly dire terms that Democrats had no choice but to swiftly move against the President to protect the nation.
“If we do not act to hold him in check now, President Trump will almost certainly try again to solicit interference in the election for his personal, political benefit,” the New York Democrat warned — implicitly rejecting a Republican argument that Trump’s fate should be left to voters to decide this close to the November 2020 election.
But Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the committee, pivoted from the Democrats’ urgency to frame the latest in a bewildering sequence of Republican defenses of Trump, most of which have avoided a damaging pattern of facts about his conduct.
“They want to do it before the end of the year — ‘we’re scared of the elections, that we’ll lose again,'” he said, paraphrasing a purported Democratic justification for impeaching Trump quickly to avoid a supposed voter backlash.
“The clock and the calendar are what’s driving impeachment,” Collins warned. “Not the facts
We live in a dictatorship’
Democrats used their witnesses to paint a picture of abuses of power by Trump of such staggering proportions that his immediate removal is the only way to secure America’s democracy.
All three law professors called by the majority agreed that Trump had committed multiple impeachable offenses, in the commission of the Ukraine scheme and obstructing Congress in covering it up.
“The evidence reveals a President who used the powers of his office to demand a foreign government participate in undermining a competing candidate for the presidency,” said Pamela Karlan, a Stanford Law professor.
Harvard Law Professor Noah Feldman warned: “If we cannot impeach a President who abuses his office for personal advantage, we no longer live in a democracy.”
“We live in a monarchy or we live under a dictatorship. That is why the framers created the possibility of impeachment.”
Pamela Karlan, the professor who took on Trump’s party over impeachment
University of North Carolina law professor Michael Gerhardt argued that the President’s attempts to thwart the impeachment investigation by Trump had reached historic levels.
“In this situation, the full-scale obstruction of those subpoenas I think torpedoes separation of powers,” he said.
“Therefore, your only recourse is to in a sense protect your institutional prerogatives, and that would include impeachment.”
While the House Intelligence Committee report released on Tuesday did underline the obstruction angle as a rationale for impeachment, Democrats have so far focused mostly on the facts of the President’s back-office foreign policy scheme to pressure the government of Ukraine.
But the White House’s blanket refusal to honor 71 Democratic requests for documents — revealed in the report — and its blocking of testimony from key White House officials is strengthening the obstruction case and presents an opportunity to make a more complete case to Americans.
Party leaders have warned that they are unwilling to allow the White House to stretch out the impeachment drama for the many months that multiple legal challenges would entail.
There’s a political motivation as well — Pelosi’s desire to quickly send Trump’s fate to the Senate is seen as an effort to pivot the political focus to Democrats’ bid to oust Trump at the ballot box next year that begins with the Iowa caucuses in February.
CNN contributor and presidential historian Timothy Naftali suggested Democrats should call the GOP bluff and demand cooperation in getting the witnesses and evidence that Turley said they should want.
Democrats should say ” ‘these are the holes’ and say to President Trump ‘we want you to have your chance to defend yourself’ and he will say ‘no,’ I suspect,” said Naftali, a New York University history professor.
“If the American people think the rush is all about the New Hampshire primary and not about the problem of getting documents from the White House, they are not going to understand the seriousness of this.”