OP-ED: No more debate. Impeachment inquiry is underway
Although special counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony may not have been a summer blockbuster, it confirmed the damning conclusions of his report. The investigation revealed substantial evidence that President Donald Trump obstructed justice. And that the special counsel did not exonerate him.
President Trump claimed victory. He seems to think that Mueller’s performance wasn’t enough to trigger an impeachment inquiry. Sorry, Mr. President, the question is no longer whether the House should vote to proceed with a formal impeachment inquiry. The inquiry has already begun.
The Constitution gives the House of Representatives the sole authority of impeachment. Officially launching an impeachment inquiry has never been a prerequisite to using that authority. The Judiciary Committee may refer articles of impeachment to the whole House for a vote at any time.
In the past, a resolution directing the Judiciary Committee to consider impeachment was needed to grant the committee additional subpoena authority and financial resources. That was the official start of an impeachment inquiry.
But times have changed. In 2015, Republican leaders gave committee chairs broad subpoena powers — powers that Chairman Nadler retains today.
No additional step is required. No magic words need to be uttered on the House floor. No vote to authorize an impeachment inquiry is necessary.
The Judiciary Committee officially started its investigation into the abuse of power by President Trump on March 4, 2019. The stated purpose was to consider all constitutional remedies for presidential misconduct, including impeachment. In every meaningful way, our investigation is an impeachment inquiry. The Judiciary Committee already has the power to refer articles of impeachment to the whole House.
The Trump administration has taken unprecedented and unconstitutional actions to ignore congressional subpoenas and pressure witnesses not to appear. President Trump has turned the White House into a black box. The Justice Department fabricated a theory of blanket immunity and distorted claims of executive privilege. The administration wants to silence the witnesses to the President’s obstruction.
But the American people deserve to hear from former White House Counsel Don McGahn, under oath, about when the President ordered him to fire Mueller. And from Corey Lewandowski about when he was asked to narrow the scope of the investigation to protect the president. And from former Attorney General Jeff Sessions about President Trump’s pressure campaign to take back control of the investigation.
If the suggestion that we are already in the midst of an impeachment inquiry sounds farfetched, look to last week’s court filings by the House counsel. To break the administration’s stonewalling, the House lawyers explained that the Constitution gives the House “a constitutional power of the utmost gravity — recommendation of articles of impeachment.” Since Department of Justice policies won’t allow the prosecution of a sitting president, only the House of Representatives can ensure that the president is not above the law.
As we told the court, we already have the power. We don’t need a vote. We need President Trump to stop obstructing.
The committee has said repeatedly that impeachment is on the table. Legal experts, and now Robert Mueller himself, confirmed that the Special Counsel’s investigation was never capable of holding a sitting president accountable. Justice Department regulations ensured that was the case.
The remedies for presidential misconduct, including impeachment, are in Congress’s hands. Now that we have Special Counsel Mueller’s report and testimony, it is time for the witnesses of the president’s wrongdoing to appear before the committee as part of our ongoing investigation.
As Chairman Nadler noted in his opening statement last week, “We will follow the facts where they lead. We will consider all appropriate remedies. We will make our recommendation to the House when our work concludes.”
We don’t need to launch an impeachment inquiry. It has been under way since March.
— U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, a Democrat, represents Florida’s 22nd congressional district, which includes portions of Broward and Palm Beach counties. He wrote this for the Sun-Sentinel.