Trampling on Constitution, Trump promises Supreme Court fight over impeachment
President Donald Trump is vowing a Supreme Court fight in order to obstruct Congress from exercising its constitutional right to impeachment if the House leadership opts to do so. Here, Trump gives his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress, Feb. 5, 2019 at the Capitol in Washington, as Vice President Mike Pence applauds and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi looks on. | Doug Mills / The New York Times via AP

President Donald Trump declared Wednesday that he will fight any congressional attempt to impeach him and will go to the Supreme Court to take away the constitutional authority of the House of Representatives to do so. The Constitution, as it has been read since the nation’s founding, gives Congress total authority over the entire impeachment process.

Trump’s authoritarian vow came less than 24 hours after he ordered people inside and outside the White House not to comply with any congressional subpoenas. Even President Richard Nixon in 1973 eventually agreed that he did not have the authority to do anything like what Trump is attempting, and members of his administration did indeed testify against him before Congress.

Not satisfied that this was enough obstruction of Congress, the president also launched a legal battle yesterday to prevent Congress from getting copies of not just his tax returns but of any financial documents. Committees have been seeking documents that can shed light on numerous financial misdeeds, including money laundering, at the Trump organization.

“We’re fighting all the subpoenas,” Trump told reporters in Washington today.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, chair of the House Oversight Committee, said, “We have not received a single document from the Trump administration” and that there were “more than enough grounds for impeachment already.” He said, however, that Congress will continue to investigate and uncover “all the things the American people are entitled to know.”

Even before the president announced today that he will defy Congress on impeachment, the number of Democratic presidential candidates calling for it had grown to three, with Sen. Kamala Harris of California joining the group yesterday. A few days earlier, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Julian Castro, former Secretary for Housing and Urban Development, had announced their support for impeachment.

“To ignore a president’s repeated efforts to obstruct investigations into his own disloyal behavior,” said Warren, the first to come out on the issue, “would do enormous and lasting damage to this country.” She said it was time for both parties to “set aside their political differences and do their constitutional duty.”

“Congress should take the steps toward impeachment,” Harris declared last night.

Most Republican lawmakers continue to live in an alternate universe where presidential flouting of the law, Congress, and the Constitution are acceptable, but cracks in the solid GOP wall of support for Trump are beginning to show.

“The Mueller report outlines at least 12 examples of obstruction of justice,” said J.W. Verret, a Republican who had quit the Trump transition team. Verret said last night that he had reached “the tipping point” and that the president should be impeached. “Now is the time for people like me to speak up,” he said. “Give Republican voters the time to process this,” he said, “and I believe they too will come around.”

People’s World coverage of the Mueller Report:

Mueller presented case against Trump, now Congress must act

Barr’s claims vs. Mueller’s facts: The Trump-Russia saga isn’t over yet

Mueller report: “Miners for Trump” rally in Pittsburgh was a fake

What did the president know and what did he do?

The Mueller report deals with the issues of conspiracy and obstruction but does not go beyond them. It does not grapple with numerous other investigations into potential presidential criminal activity that are underway. These include serious things like money laundering and violations of the emoluments clause of the Constitution, which forbids a president form using his office to make personal financial gains.

Trump got huge loans for his family and himself, for example, from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Shortly afterward, he shifted U.S. foreign policy against Qatar, an opponent of the Saudis, and sent weapons and other support to Saudi Arabia in their war against the people of Yemen. In that situation, too, the president has ignored congressional resolutions opposing that war.

While all the Democrats reject Trump’s arrogant claim yesterday that the Mueller investigation “didn’t lay a glove on me,” they are not all willing yet to jump onto the impeachment train.

Their concern is that much of the public is not following the details of the various investigations and that people want them to focus on “kitchen table economics.” This has also been the call recently from the labor movement, with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka calling on Democrats to make “kitchen table economics” their focus between now and the 2020 elections.

Those Democrats favoring immediately moving toward impeachment say the time has come to draw the line and that leaving a lawless president in place without at least putting on him the stain of impeachment would be shirking their responsibility.

It can reasonably be argued that impeachment itself is a kitchen table issue, arguing that leaving in place a president who is dismantling democracy also means leaving in place a president who’s also waging an economic war against workers every day. Furthermore, even if the Senate does not remove him from office, the stain of impeachment will make it easier to defeat him in 2020.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders have been cautious over launching impeachment proceedings against Trump ahead of the 2020 election, but after some of the latest attacks on Congress by the president, she left the door open last night by saying the ongoing investigations may get to the point of impeachment.

The House has been conducting real oversight of the Trump administration since Democrats took control in January. The president has obstructed almost all of its investigations, including ones into his tax returns, White House security clearances, and investigations into matters opened up by the Mueller report.

The attacks on Congress and the refusal to submit to subpoenas amount to open flaunting of the Constitution because that document frames Congress as a co-equal branch of government alongside the executive and the judiciary.

The Constitution empowers only the Congress to remove a president from office for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” The House is given the power to impeach a president—bring formal charges—and the Senate then holds a trial, with senators acting as jurors, with a two-thirds vote needed to convict a president and remove him from office.

The Constitution gives no role to the Supreme Court in impeachment. It does, however, give the chief justice the task of presiding over the Senate trial. George W. Bush appointee John Roberts currently holds that position.

This does not mean, however, that Trump could not go to court to delay impeachment. The delay would expectedly end in the court ruling that it has no role in the impeachment process but with the president and his attorney general trampling regularly on the Constitution and on democracy, and with a court majority hand-picked by Trump, some worry even about that.


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.