The Corner

Law & the Courts

See? Congress Can Do an Impeachment Inquiry on Its Own

Representative Jerry Nadler (D, N.Y.) arrives for a House Democratic Caucus meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., November 28, 2018. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

One of my problems with the Mueller probe is that it’s obviously an impeachment inquiry being run out of the executive branch, which makes no sense. With very few people now expecting a Russia-collusion bombshell—although everyone has been wrong before—Democrats are preparing, not to accept the results and go home, but proceed at full speed to keep investigating the president perhaps in advance of impeachment. Mike Allen set it out the other day:

Even before Robert Mueller has delivered his final communiqué, Democrats have activated a new phase in the Trump-Russia wars that ultimately could prove more damaging to the president than the special counsel’s investigation:

  • What’s new: Whether or not Mueller is sitting on a grand finale, Democrats are picking up the baton with a vast probe that already involves a half-dozen committees, and will include public hearings starring reluctant witnesses.
  • Why it matters: For Trump, this has been a behind-the-scenes probe, with sensational yet intermittent revelations. Now, it’s about to become a persistent and very public process — at best, a nuisance; at worst, a threat to his office.
  • What House Democrats are thinking after the public Cohen hearing, via an email to Axios from MSNBC analyst Matt Miller: “Incredible to start an investigation and have six months’ worth of leads on the first day.”

What Democrats are planning: 

  • They want to call Trump family members — with subpoenas, if necessary.
  • The Democrats’ investigationwill touch Trump’s businesses, foundation and presidency — and could extend into 2020, top Democrats tell me.
  • Besides Russia, topics includeconflicts of interest, money laundering, and Jared Kushner’s security clearance and other White House clearances. (N.Y. Times scoop: “Trump Ordered Officials to Give Kushner a Security Clearance.”)
  • Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), who’s on the House Oversight Committee, tells Axios’ Alayna Treene that committees are “zeroing in on the Moscow project, the Russia connection and the influence of other foreign actors like Saudi Arabia.”

Democrats expect all that may serve as a Rosetta Stone to arguable “high crimes and misdemeanors,” touching off an impeachment process.

We see the first step from Jerry Nadler with a subpoena of 81 people and entities associated with the president. This is all within their rights obviously, and in fact, how the process should work. Congressional Democrats, who are politically accountable, will now decide how to investigate and handle inherently politically charged matters out in the open; they will pay the price if they seem unreasonable or like they are going too far. This work never should have been wedged into the executive branch via the special counsel.

Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He can be reached via email: 

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