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No quarter


In my view, Donald Trump’s decision to simply defy all attempts by Congress to investigate, among other things, the extent to which he blocked attempts to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election tips the scales decisively in favor of initiating impeachment proceedings against him, if not immediately, then in due course, as his defiance makes it clear that Congress is being deprived of its lawful investigative powers.

Here is the third article of impeachment, voted out by the House Judiciary Committee against Richard Nixon:

In his conduct of the office of President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon, contrary to his 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, has failed without lawful cause or excuse to produce papers and things as directed by duly authorized subpoenas issued by the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives on April 11, 1974, May 15, 1974, May 30, 1974, and June 24, 1974, and willfully disobeyed such subpoenas. The subpoenaed papers and things were deemed necessary by the Committee in order to resolve by direct evidence fundamental, factual questions relating to Presidential direction, knowledge or approval of actions demonstrated by other evidence to be substantial grounds for impeachment of the President. In refusing to produce these papers and things Richard M. Nixon, substituting his judgment as to what materials were necessary for the inquiry, interposed the powers of the Presidency against the the lawful subpoenas of the House of Representatives, thereby assuming to himself functions and judgments necessary to the exercise of the sole power of impeachment vested by the Constitution in the House of Representatives.
In all of this, Richard M. Nixon 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.
Wherefore, Richard M. Nixon, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office.

As Larry Tribe points out, Trump’s refusal to cooperate is actually worse than Nixon’s, because Nixon was merely covering up illicit conduct within his administration, as opposed to obstructing a probe into a hostile foreign power’s interference in the election that put the man obstructing that probe into power.

Joshua Martz, who last year co-authored a book about impeachment with Tribe, makes some good points in this Twitter thread:

A number of folks have expressed doubt that any of this matters. In their view, officials currently defying Congress (and any judges who would uphold such defiance) will persist in doing so regardless of Congress’s source of authority.
Greg SargentVerified account @ThePlumLineGS
“The premise of the impeachment power is that in truly extreme cases of wrongdoing, Congress is our ultimate check on a rogue president. In carrying out this mandate, Congress has near-unlimited authority to engage in whatever fact-finding it deems necessary.” …
2:00 PM – 24 Apr 2019

Joshua Matz‏ @JoshuaMatz8 23h23 hours ago

It seems fair to say that this view partakes of a more general nihilism about the the rule of law under Trump: the creeping, paralyzing sense that nothing matters anymore except partisan loyalty, tribal truth, and the will to power.

Joshua Matz‏ @JoshuaMatz8
 23h23 hours ago
To be sure, that’s certainly true of Trump and his die-hard allies. Rather than follow the law, these officials cynically assert that it cloaks them with powers that defy judicial review or congressional oversight, no matter how egregious their illegality and animus.

Joshua Matz‏ @JoshuaMatz8
 23h23 hours ago
The result is rampant lawlessness within certain parts of the executive branch that masquerades behind a grotesque pretense of respect for legality. No wonder so many Americans finds themselves wondering if the rule of law means anything nowadays.

Joshua Matz‏ @JoshuaMatz8
 23h23 hours ago
But however true it might be in some circumstances, that cynicism can be taken too far, both as an excuse for norm-destroying behavior by Trump’s political opponents and as a descriptive account of how people actually make decisions. Sometimes, law really does matter.

We shall see if law matters in this case. But simply allowing Trump to spit in the face of the American legal system for the next 20 months (if we’re lucky) is no longer a good option, even in purely pragmatic terms.

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