Democrats are apparently going to drop accusations of “bribery” and “obstruction of justice” from their articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, which are expected to be delivered on Tuesday, according to reports.
The House Judiciary Committee’s recent Democratic staff report on the legal and constitutional basis for impeachment, argued that “abuse of power” was impeachable, even for “legally permissible” actions, if the president also had “illegitimate motives.” The report cited the much-criticized impeachment of President Andrew Johnson in 1868 as a positive precedent in making its case.
Similarly, the House Intelligence Committee’s 300-page report last Tuesday, in which Democrats summarized testimony in both closed-door and public sessions, devoted extensive space to the president’s alleged “obstruction” of the investigation. It even cited his tweets criticizing certain witnesses as evidence of “witness intimidation.” However, the report made almost no mention of “bribery.”
Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) had argued that bribery might be a possible charge, under a broad definition of the term. The three legal “experts” summoned by Democrats to testify at the Judiciary Committee last Wednesday agreed.
But the contrary testimony of the only witness Republicans were allowed to call, liberal George Washington University professor Jonathan Turley, may have been enough to dissuade them.
Democrats will also apparently abandon “obstruction of justice” charges stemming from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia “collusion.” Though Mueller found no “collusion,” he declined to make a recommendation about obstruction.
Attorney General William Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein then decided the evidence was insufficient. Still, a many Democrats supported impeaching Trump on that basis.
Scholars are divided about “abuse of power” as a standard. Liberal legal scholar Cass Sunstein wrote in 2017 that it is too broad because it could apply to every president.
Opinions are also mixed over “obstruction of Congress.” Sunstein warned it was not a legitimate basis for impeachment if the underlying investigation were illegitimate. Turley said Congress would abuse its power if it charged Trump with obstruction merely for turning to the courts.
Update: “Treason” is also reportedly absent, despite being discussed in the House Judiciary Committee report under a broad standard that was tailored to the Democrats’ refrain that Trump had “betrayed” U.S. national security.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.