Public pressure forces Trump impeachment process to move ahead
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler would oversee the launch of any impeachment inquiry. | AP

WASHINGTON—House Speaker Nancy Pelosi notwithstanding, public pressure has forced the Democratic majority on the House Judiciary Committee to move ahead with the process it needs before it decides whether to impeach GOP President Donald Trump for obstruction of justice.

And, committee chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., adds impeachment might not stop with that count alone.

Pelosi leans heavily against impeaching Trump, saying doing so could detract and divert her majority from top issues it must tackle, and lead to further political polarization—and alienation of voters next year. But she’s been forced to let the committee go ahead. Now, a 134-member majority of her Democratic caucus agrees. That majority includes progressives but also some new lawmakers from “swing seats” where Trump won in 2016 but the Democratic congressional nominee won last year.

There’s another pressure on the panel: Public opinion, at least among the Democratic base and other progressives, including the CPUSA.

As a result, the Judiciary panel will vote on Sept. 12 on a resolution to expand its pre-impeachment investigation. It’s expected to pass.

The resolution will add an hour of expert staff questioning of witnesses to each hearing, after committee members get their chances to ask their own questions, or, in the case of the GOP, pontificate and prostrate themselves to Trump. The staff queries will be evenly split, Democratic and Republican.

The resolution also says the committee will treat the evidence and testimony as in closed (executive) session unless Nadler and the panel’s top Republican agree otherwise. And all material from grand juries will stay secret. Trump’s lawyers can respond to all the testimony and evidence, in writing.

The panel also will vote on subpoenaing key top Trump aides whom the president, according to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s huge report, tried to enlist in obstructing justice.

They include former White House Counsel Don McGahn, who refused to cooperate with Trump, and former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. He sidetracked a Trump obstruction request by dumping it off on someone else. Lewandowski is using his Trump ties to test the waters for a potential run for the GOP U.S. Senate nomination in New Hampshire next year.

Pressure on the panel to move increased during the month-long congressional recess. It comes from the Democratic base and other progressives. Even a veterans group, Common Defense, joined in. It did so on Aug. 30 “to fight to preserve” U.S. “core values.”

“Trump belongs in prison,” John Bachtell, who recently completed a term as chair of the Communist Party, summarized the CPUSA’s stand in one of a series of articles he wrote for People’s World. “We support beginning an impeachment inquiry in the House, which is the most effective way to expose Trump’s corruption and lawlessness. However, this is not possible without a shift in public opinion and unity of the House Democratic Caucus. Convicting Trump of his crimes in the U.S. Senate is even harder.” The GOP runs the Senate. But “none of it should divert us from total focus on the 2020 elections,” Bachtell warned.

Credo Action, which has campaigned for more than a year to impeach Trump, praised the Judiciary panel’s “small, concrete step forward after months of grassroots pressure,” but said it didn’t go far enough. It wants a vote on actual articles of impeachment of Trump by Oct. 1, Campaign Manager Thais Marques said.

“Without Chairman Nadler setting a date for a vote on articles of impeachment, it’s clear Speaker Pelosi and Democratic leadership are still putting the brakes on impeachment. It’s beyond time for the House to do more than small-bore resolutions to give them cover.”

“We can’t wait any longer while Trump continues to abuse the presidency to enrich himself, obstruct justice, and enact hateful policies that target millions of Americans.”

Meanwhile, Common Defense joined Need to Impeach “to organize and galvanize support among military veterans who support the congressional impeachment inquiry of Donald Trump,” they said.

Unions, however, have been silent on the issue. A check of websites of even the most-outspoken unions, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the United Electrical Workers, showed no statements on impeachment. A prior check of other unions also showed no stands.

Lawmakers responded to the rising pressure. The most-detailed reasoning came in late August from Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., who taped a long video after talking with constituents and reading their letters and e-mails, hosting town halls, and plowing through Mueller’s entire report.

“Special Counsel Robert Mueller was tasked with investigating Russian interference in our elections, possible conspiratorial coordination with the Trump campaign, and potential obstruction of justice committed by President Trump in response to this investigation,” Takano said in part.

“Based on these findings, I have concluded that: Special Counsel Mueller unequivocally concluded that Russia interfered in our elections in 2016 and Trump’s campaign welcomed the help. And the president committed various acts that amount to obstruction of justice during this investigation in order to prevent it from moving forward.

“Contrary to what President Trump, Attorney General Barr, and the Trump administration claim, the president was not exonerated of any crimes by Special Counsel Mueller. In fact, in his report, the special counsel laid out his findings for Congress to use as a roadmap to hold the president accountable for obstructing justice.

“Obstruction of justice is a serious crime, and those who obstruct justice, including the President of the United States, must face consequences for their unlawful actions. What President Trump obstructed wasn’t trivial, nor was it about concealing private conduct,” Takano said.

“It would be a dereliction of duty to sit by idly as the president chips away at our democracy, day by day,” Takano concluded.

Nadler said the Judiciary Committee may only start with Trump’s obstruction of justice.

House Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano, D-Calif., says everyone must answer for their crimes, including the president of the United States. | AP

“President Trump went to great lengths to obstruct Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation, including the president’s attempts to remove the Special Counsel and encourage witnesses to lie and to destroy or conceal evidence. Anyone else who did this would face federal criminal prosecution,” he said in announcing the planned committee vote.

“The Mueller report resulted in 37 criminal indictments, seven guilty pleas, and revealed ten possible instances where President Trump obstructed justice, at least five of which we now know to be clearly criminal.

“Trump’s crimes and corruption extend beyond what is detailed in the Mueller report. The president is in violation of the emoluments clauses of the Constitution as he works to enrich himself, putting the safety and security of our nation at risk. He has dangled pardons, been involved in campaign finance violations and stonewalled Congress across the board, noting he will defy all subpoenas.

“No one is above the law. The unprecedented corruption, coverup, and crimes by the president are under investigation by the committee as we determine whether to recommend articles of impeachment or other” constitutional remedies. “We will not allow Trump’s continued obstruction to stop us from delivering the truth to the American people.”


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.