The House Judiciary Committee just announced a public impeachment hearing one week from this Wednesday, which will coincide with the impending release of a report containing findings of the House Intelligence Committee’s public hearings into President Trump’s bribery scheme to extract foreign campaign assistance from Ukraine.
For the first time, Trump’s lawyers will be invited to participate in that public impeachment hearing, which is being held by the committee which the sole group in charge of drafting articles of impeachment.
House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) didn’t specify which expert constitutional scholars would be called for the hearing entitled “The Impeachment Inquiry into President Donald J. Trump: Constitutional Grounds for Presidential Impeachment.”
However, there is a precedent from the Clinton impeachment for the Judiciary Committee to hold such a hearing as a preliminary matter before moving on to mark up articles of impeachment. Chairman Nadler released a statement which references a letter he sent to the President (embedded below):
“As Chairman Schiff indicated yesterday, the impeachment inquiry is entering into a new phase. I have also written to President Trump to remind him that the Committee’s impeachment inquiry rules allow for the President to attend the hearing and for his counsel to question the witness panel.”
In his letter, Chairman Nadler also reminded President Trump that the invitation for him to send counsel to the next hearing is a privilege according to the precedents set during Watergate, and ominously, that withholding information from the impeachment inquiry will have dire consequences.
“At base, the President has a choice to make: he can take this opportunity to be represented in the impeachment hearings, or he can stop complaining about the process,” Nadler continued in his prepared statement. “I hope that he chooses to participate in the inquiry, directly or through counsel, as other Presidents have done before him.”
The last time America saw this special kind of public hearing was on November 9th, 1998, during the impeachment of Bill Clinton.
Chairman Nadler personally sat on the Judiciary’s subcommittee on the Constitution which held a hearing entitled “Background and History of Impeachment” and both he and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA)—who is presently the House Financial Services Committee Chair—were on the panel during that hearing.
That 1998 hearing featured nineteen different constitutional scholars, including Harvard law professor Lawrence Tribe, who is still today one of the nation’s preeminent constitutional scholars.
It’s highly likely that the outspoken Professor Tribe could be called once again to testify, so his words about bribery at the last impeachment hearing on what constitutes grounds to remove a president or a constitutional offer provide an excellent clue as to what we may hear next week. He said (p. 223-224):
“[B]ribery always, by definition, involves the corrupt use of official government powers, the powers of whoever is getting bribed. The fact that the officer being impeached acted privately as the briber, and not publicly as the bribee, is irrelevant, because the person who bribes is a full partner in a grave corruption and abuse of government power.”
Tribe continued: “I also don’t think we can ignore the pattern of impeachments voted by the House of Representatives from 1797 to the present. It is not hard to summarize them. There were only 15.”
“One of a President, one of a Senator, one of a Secretary of War, 12 judges. Fourteen of those 15 cases involved either the gravest abuses of official power, like taking a bribe to use that power for personal benefit, or the most obscene attacks on our Nation and its system of government, like armed rebellion against the United States or military assault upon our allies. There were two cases of the 14 that involved perjury, but they actually dealt with perjury to cover up taking a bribe in a judge’s official capacity. The fifteenth case is the odd man out…”
Next week’s House Judiciary impeachment hearing will lay out the legal groundwork for drafting formally considered articles of impeachment by the Committee.
Unlike the many other bills of impeachment filed by House Democrats since 2017, they will have the full backing of the Chair and by extension of the chamber’s leadership.a
Just last week Trump made the surprising public request to be put on trial. Today’s news is the most glaring step towards that trial happening, and instead of measuring his words or doing anything to govern the country, Donald J. Trump spent his afternoon in the Rose Garden turning a nonpartisan turkey pardoning ceremony into a surreal rant about impeachment.
Chairman Nadler asked President Trump to respond with his lawyer’s notice of appearance his personal intent to attend next week’s public impeachment hearing no later than Sunday night at 6 pm.
If the president responds by sending his lawyer to the hearing, it will mark a 180-degree about-face from the arrogant Trump White House that declared war on the impeachment inquiry last month.
Here’s the letter from Chairman Jerry Nadler to President Donald Trump:
Grant Stern is an Editor-At-Large for OccupyDemocrats and published author. His new Meet the Candidates 2020 book series is distributed by Simon and Schuster. He's also mortgage broker, community activist and radio personality in Miami, Florida., as well as the producer of the Dworkin Report podcast. Grant is also an occasional contributor to Raw Story, Alternet, and the DC Report. Find out more at grantstern.com.