Posted by Curt on 5 October, 2019 at 1:32 pm. 4 comments already!


‘The House of Representatives . . . shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.”

It’s right there in black-and-white: In article I, section 2, clause 5, our Constitution vests the entirety of the power to call for removal of the president of the United States in a single body — the House.a

Not in the Speaker of the House. In the House of Representatives. The institution, not one of its members.

To be sure, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is a very powerful government official: second in the line of succession to the presidency; arguably, the most powerful member of Congress. She wields decisive influence on the business of her chamber. She even has the power to induce the House to vote on whether to conduct an impeachment inquiry.

But she does not have the power to impeach on her own.

In the end, Speaker Pelosi is just one member, a representative elected biannually by one district (in her case, the 12th district of California, centered in San Francisco and not particularly representative of the nation at large). Sure, she enjoys primus inter pares status because she is chosen by a majority of the House’s 435 members. But like each of those other members, her vote counts as just one — in a body that generally requires 218 votes to get the important things done.

She is the Speaker. She is not the House. She does not have the authority to call for the president’s removal. She can argue for it, like the other members. She can vote on it, like the other members. But she cannot do it by herself. Only the House, acting as an institution, can do that.

The House acts by voting. It has never voted to conduct an inquiry into whether President Trump should be impeached. Consequently, there is no House impeachment inquiry. There is a partisan exhibition of synchronized dyspepsia.

This exhibition includes strident letters from a cabal of committee chairs, all Democrats, falsely claiming that a refusal by Trump-administration officials to comply with their demands for information and testimony “shall constitute evidence of obstruction of the House’s impeachment inquiry.”

In point of fact, the House has no impeachment inquiry; congressional Democrats have an impeachment political campaign.

Under federal law, the offense of obstructing Congress applies when “any inquiry or investigation is being had by either House, or any committee of either House.” Again, neither the House nor any of its committees has voted to conduct an impeachment inquiry. There is no formal impeachment proceeding to obstruct. Furthermore, the letters in question are not actually demands carrying the compulsory force of law; technically, they are just informal requests. No one is required to comply with a mere request, and refusing to do so is not evidence of anything, let alone obstruction.

The House has issued some subpoenas. For example, the House Oversight Committee has just directed a subpoena to the White House, addressed to chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, reportedly demanding the production of a vast array of records (documents, communications, etc.) pertaining to the president’s conduct of relations with Ukraine.

Typical of the Democrats’ legerdemain in this matter, the Oversight Committee has not voted to conduct an impeachment inquiry, nor did it vote to issue subpoenas (as, by contrast, the Oversight Committee voted to subpoena the White House just a few weeks ago for records germane to a suspected violation of federal recordkeeping laws). Instead, Chairman Elijah Cummings (D., Md.) strategically waited until the House closed for a two-week recess; then issued a memo on Wednesday, absurdly claiming that there was too much urgency to wait so a vote could be taken; then issued the subpoena late Friday, thus ensuring that no Republican could object and no Democrat would be forced to go on record supporting impeachment, which much of the public strongly opposes. Under House rules, the Oversight chairman has been delegated unilateral authority to issue subpoenas, so the subpoena is valid, but it is also pure gamesmanship.

So is the explanation for the subpoena — offered in a letter that Chairman Cummings jointly signed with Chairmen Adam Schiff and Eliot Engel, respectively of the Intelligence and Foreign Affairs Committees. After a couple of pages of throat-clearing about the purported “impeachment inquiry,” the chairmen observe that, even without such an inquiry, the Oversight Committee has its own independent authority to conduct oversight investigations and issue subpoenas. In other words, information is actually being demanded under Congress’s routine authority to scrutinize executive activities. There would be nothing extraordinary about it . . . except that senior Democrats have decided to hang an “impeachment” sign on the exercise, hoping you won’t notice that the House has not voted to explore impeachment, and that its Democratic leaders are going out of their way to avoid such a vote.

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