In Impeaching Trump for Abuse of His Power, Pelosi is Masterfully Wielding Hers


The Speaker of the House, as well as the Chairs of the impeachment committees (Judiciary, Intelligence, Oversight, Ways and Means, and Financial Services) announced this morning the filing of formal Articles of Impeachment against Donald Trump for the consideration of the House Judiciary Committee, and subsequently the full House.

You can read the statements of each of the chairs on the Speaker’s website.

Two articles of impeachment were introduced today that confirm this power: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

The abuse of power charge is self-explanatory. According to the charges, Donald Trump abused his office as president for personal, political gain by extorting the government of Ukraine to announce a fake investigation of a political rival. Trump also abused his office - and, in the language of the first article of impeachment, “injured” US intelligence and national security - by attempting to enlist the government of Ukraine to help spread Russian propaganda about the 2016 elections.

The second article of impeachment is Obstruction of Congress. This article arises from the actual investigation Chairman Schiff and the House Intelligence Committee conducted into Trump’s abuse of power. When this article passes the House, Trump will be charged with obstructing not just a Congressional investigation, but obstructing the impeachment investigation. This point is particularly poignant, because it is a re-assertion of the House’s sole power of impeachment under the Constitution. It is a repudiation of those (like Republican witness Jonathan Turley) who say Congress should wait to adjudicate the administration’s blanket obstruction of its impeachment inquiry through the courts. Those attempts are nothing more than a delay tactic, as pointed out in today’s announcement by Chairman Schiff, but more to the point, the entire point of having a sole power is that it can be exercised without regard to the acquiescence of any other body.

When the Speaker formally announced the impeachment inquiry, I noted that the announcement did not mark the actual beginning of an impeachment investigation - as the Judiciary Committee had filed a court brief asserting such an investigation months prior. What changed with her announcement, I said then, was that the House asserted its full power under the Constitution and stopped asking for permission to do its job as a fully coequal body. The House did not simply stop negotiating with the White House for documents it was entitled, it stopped asking the third branch, the judiciary, for permission as well.

The US Constitution is a document of checks and balances, and it is exceedingly rare in grants of full power of any one thing to any one entity. It makes only two exceptions: the sole power of impeachment is the prerogative of the House, and the sole power of trial for that impeachment to the Senate.

That is why the Speaker’s announcement was both remarkable and necessary. Stopping endless negotiations with the Executive and permission-seeking from the Judiciary was a critical step in the House asserting the apex of its power - its sole power to impeach.

Speaker Pelosi has brought it back full circle with today’s announcement. Today’s articles of impeachment are holding Trump accountable for his grave abuse of office, precisely as a demonstration of the proper exercise of the extraordinary power of the House.

In impeaching Trump for abusing his power, Pelosi is masterfully wielding hers.