Pollak: Line by Line, A Complete Debunking of the Democrats’ Articles of Impeachment

Nadler Pelosi Schiff (Win McNamee / Getty)

Democrats released their two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump on Tuesday, and they are a complete joke.

Not only did the Democrats back away from charging Trump with bribery, obstruction of justice in the Mueller investigation, campaign finance violations, treason, or any of the other wild claims they floated, but the two articles themselves are fraudulent, based on blatantly false claims of law and fact.

Line by line, here they are:

ARTICLE I: ABUSE OF POWER

The Constitution provides that the House of Representatives shall have the sole Power of Impeachment and that the President “shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” In his conduct of the office of President of the United States — and in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed — Donald J. Trump has abused the powers of the Presidency, in that:

Using the powers of his high office, President Trump Solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, in the 2020 United States Presidential election.

This is false. Trump never discussed the 2020 election with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, nor did he ask them to interfere in our politics. That is simply Democrats’ spin, based on the complaint of the so-called “whistleblower,” which was disproved by the release of the actual transcript of Trump’s conversation with Zelensky. Trump asked Ukraine to look into its widely-reported interference in the 2016 election, and to look into the circumstances in which then-Vice President Joe Biden demanded, on pain of losing $1 billion in loan guarantees, that Ukraine fire a prosecutor who had jurisdiction over a dormant investigation of a corrupt Ukrainian company, Burisma, on which Biden’s son, Hunter, served as a well-compensated board member. Democrats demanded Ukraine cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump’s supposed “collusion” with Russia in 2018. By their own new definition, that would qualify as pressuring Ukraine to interfere in U.S. politics.

He did so through a scheme or course of conduct that included soliciting the Government of Ukraine to publicly announce investigations that would benefit his reelection, harm the election prospects of a political opponent, and influence the 2020 United States Presidential election to his advantage.

Trump asked Zelensky to work with the U.S. Attorney General, which suggests he actually wanted real investigations. Democrats claim Trump only wanted an “announcement” of investigations. Their only evidence is the testimony of Gordon Sondland, who testified that Trump told him that he wanted “nothing” from Ukraine, and who admitted that most of what he believed about “investigations” was the result of his own personal presumptions.

President Trump also sought to pressure the Government of Ukraine to take these steps

This is false. President Zelensky has said numerous times that he felt no “pressure” from Trump, and that there was no “quid pro quo.” Numerous witnesses testified that Ukraine did not even know any aid was on hold until Politico reported it in late August, more than a month after the call. While some witnesses said that some Ukrainian officials at the embassy in Washington may have been aware of a holdup with the aid, none of them could say exactly when.

by conditioning official United States Government acts of significant value to Ukraine on its public announcement of the investigations.

This, again, is false. Numerous witnesses testified that aid was never conditioned on investigations. The Ukrainian government itself has repeated — even today — that it never believed U.S. assistance depended on announcing, or conducting, investigations. The claim was just a presumption by Sondland, who also testified that Trump told him there was “no quid pro quo,” and admitted he had no direct knowledge of any link between aid and investigations.

President Trump engaged in this scheme or course of conduct for corrupt purposes in pursuit of personal political benefit.

The president specifically asked Zelensky to “do us a favor,” referring to the “country.” (Democrat legal “expert” Pamela Karlan tried, absurdly, to argue that Trump meant the “royal ‘We’.”) Investigating both foreign election interference and corruption involving American officials is a matter of public interest. Numerous witnesses agreed that the Bidens had a conflict of interest with Burisma — at the very least — and that it was worthy of investigation. Moreover, Democrats spent years arguing that the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign’s alleged “collusion” with Russia was justified because the country had to know if a possible future president was compromised — either by foreign misdeeds or by compromising information in hands of a foreign power. The same applies to Biden.

In so doing, President Trump used the powers of the Presidency in a manner that compromised the national security of the United States

The argument that Trump “compromised” national security rests on the idea that Ukraine is essential to American national security interests. That may or may not be true, but if so, then President Barack Obama should have been impeached for appeasing Russia and allowing it to invade Ukraine. In truth, questions of national security and foreign policy are largely within the president’s own constitutional purview; his decisions are not impeachable. Regardless, there was never any interruption in U.S. aid to Ukraine, and the key military aid — the Javelin anti-tank missiles that Trump provided, but Obama had not — was never affected, as numerous witnesses testified. If anything undermined U.S. national security, it was the Democrats’ decision to pursue impeachment in a way that exposed the secretive details of internal decision-making and foreign policy to anyone, friend or foe, who wanted to know.

and undermined the integrity of the United States democratic process.

The only violation of the democratic process is Democrats’ attempt to overturn the 2016 election. As Democrats argued vehemently during the Clinton impeachment in 1998-9, such an effort should not be undertaken lightly. And as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) argued — before her impeachment effort failed to earn Republican support — impeachment should only be done with bipartisan support lest it be seen as a purely political endeavor.

He thus ignored and injured the interests of the Nation.

On the contrary: protecting our elections, investigating corruption, and preventing foreign aid from being misused by corrupt governments are all the duties of the President of the United States, in furtherance of his Oath of Office.

President Trump engaged in this scheme or course of conduct through the following means:

1) President Trump — acting both directly and through his agents Within and Outside the United States Government

Trump did not have “agents.” He had Senate-confirmed diplomats, as well as informal diplomatic channels. As numerous witnesses testified, there is nothing inherently wrong or unusual in a president using informal diplomacy.

— corruptly solicited

See above.

the Government of Ukraine to publicly announce investigations

See above.

into — 

(A) a political opponent, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden,

It is still unclear that Biden will be Trump’s 2020 opponent. Regardless, Biden is more than a political opponent. He was the former vice president, who was in charge of Ukraine policy for the Obama administration in that capacity. As Trump himself learned, potential presidential candidates enjoy no privilege protecting them from investigation.

and

(B) a discredited theory promoted by Russia alleging that Ukraine — rather than Russia — interfered in the 2016 United States Presidential election.

The theory is not “discredited,” but supported by a variety of mainstream media sources, such as an investigative piece in Politico in January 2017 titled: “Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump backfire.” Democrats pretend that only Russia or Ukraine could have interfered in our election. The two are not mutually exclusive. Russia seems to have interfered more — though the results of that interference were negligible — but Ukrainian officials did, too.

(2) With the same corrupt motives,

The use of the term “motives” is crucial. In the House Judiciary Committee’s report on the legal and constitutional foundation for impeachment — written entirely by Democratic staff and ignoring all of the experts who testified — cited the discredited impeachment of President Andrew Johnson to argue that a president can be impeached for “illegitimate motives” even if he has otherwise acted lawfully. This is, in fact, an illegitimate basis for impeachment.

President Trump — acting both directly and through his agents Within and outside the United States Government —

See above.

conditioned two official acts on the public announcements

Wrong; see above.

that he had requested —

(A) the release of $391 million of United States taxpayer funds

The figure of $391 million appears to include two separate programs: $250 million administered by the Department of Defense, and $141 administered by the State Department. Much of the testimony revolved around the latter. The president was allowed to hold these funds, temporarily, and such holds, while unusual, were not unprecedented. In fact, State Department official David Hale testified that aid to Lebanon was also withheld at the same time; and State Department official Catherine Croft testified that aid to Ukraine had been suspended once before in late 2017.

that Congress had appropriated on a bipartisan basis for the purpose of providing vital military and security assistance to Ukraine to oppose Russian aggression and which President Trump had ordered suspended;

Again, the Javelin anti-tank missiles were not affected — and it was Trump, not Congress, that made the policy decision to arm Ukraine with lethal weapons, in contrast to President Obama, who denied Ukraine that assistance.

and (B) a head of state meeting at the White House, which the President of Ukraine sought to demonstrate continued United States support for the Government of Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression.

Trump had already invited Zelensky to the White House with no preconditions. And Ambassador Kurt Volker, the Special Representative for Ukraine, a highly-regarded career diplomat, testified that there was no linkage between a White House meeting and investigations. Sondland said otherwise, but admitted he had no direct knowledge.

(3) Faced with the public revelation of his actions, President Trump ultimately released the military and security assistance to the Government of Ukraine,

This is pure speculation, contradicted by other evidence. No one testified that Trump released the aid because he was afraid of “public revelation of his actions.” In fact, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) wrote to the House Intelligence Committee to describe a conversation with the president in which he said the matter was still under review in late August and early September. That was after the Politico article emerged, but it does not follow that the president was trying to minimize culpability. As Byron York of the Washington Examiner noted, there is an even more banal explanation: Congress was going to appropriate the funds on its own anyway, and so Trump relented by Sep. 11.

but has persisted in openly and corruptly urging and soliciting Ukraine to undertake investigations

This suggests Trump did not have “corrupt motives”; he still believes the investigations to be in the public interest.

for his personal political benefit.

False. See above.

These actions were consistent with President Trump’s previous invitations of foreign interference in United States elections.

This is an allusion to false claims of Russia collusion — and, specifically, the joke Trump told in July 2016 in which he said that if the Russians had Hillary Clinton’s missing 30,000 emails, they should release them. It was never a serious effort to invite Russia to interfere in the elections, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller found no collusion.

In all of this, President Trump abused the powers of the Presidency by ignoring and injuring national security and other vital national interests to obtain an improper personal political benefit.

False. See above.

He has also betrayed the Nation by abusing his high office to enlist a foreign power in corrupting democratic elections.

This is more than a false statement of fact. It is an attempt to insinuate that the president committed treason, without actually charging a separate article of treason. It is a sign that Democrats know how weak this first article really is.

Wherefore President Trump, by such conduct, has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to national security and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office,

This is an argument for removing Trump not because of what he has done, but because of what he might do. It is an argument for pre-emptive impeachment, an idea grossly at odds with the Impeachment Clause and basic justice.

and has acted in a manner grossly incompatible with self-governance and the rule of law.

Arguably, it is the Democrats’ fraudulent impeachment that is incompatible with self-governance and the rule of law — especially when undertaken in apparent defense of Joe Biden, whose conflicts of interest remain unexamined.

President Trump thus warrants impeachment and trial, removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States.

False. He will be acquitted, and never should have been charged.

ARTICLE II: OBSTRUCTION OF CONGRESS

The Constitution provides that the House of Representatives “shall have the sole Power of Impeachment” and that the President “shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, orother high Crimes and Misdemeanors”. In his conduct of the office of President of the United States — and in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed —

Donald J. Trump has directed the unprecedented, categorical, and indiscriminate defiance of subpoenas issued bythe House of Representatives pursuant to its “sole Power of Impeachment”.

This is flagrantly false. Every president has pushed back against congressional efforts to obtain documents and summon witnesses — and not just presidents like Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, under investigation for truly impeachable conduct. President Obama himself resisted congressional subpoenas over Operation Fast and Furious. What is unprecedented  — except, perhaps, for the Johnson impeachment — is the partisan nature of the inquiry, and the Democrats’ attempt to deny Trump fairness or due process. The House has violated its own precedents in the way it has conducted the investigation, and the White House has resisted cooperation with the House on that basis.

President Trump has abused the powers of the Presidency in a manner offensive to, and subversive of, the Constitution,

On the contrary: President Trump had no choice under the Constitution but to protect the powers and rights of the executive branch from what he, and others, believed in good faith was an overreach by the legislative branch. Moreover, he appealed to the judiciary to resolve his disputes with the House. The House decided that it did not want to wait for the courts to weigh in. Hence the rush to impeachment — but that is not the president’s fault.

in that:

The House of Representatives has engaged in an impeachment inquiry focused on President Trump’s corruptsolicitation of the Government of Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 United States Presidential election.

A false premise; see Article I, above.

As part of this impeachment inquiry, the Committees undertaking the investigation served subpoenas seeking documents and testimony deemed vital to the inquiry from various Executive Branch agencies and offices, and current and former officials.

It also declined to issue subpoenas to key witnesses, including former National Security Advisor John Bolton, because Democrats did not want to wait for a court battle. They say they needed to rush to prevent Trump from damaging the 2020 election; more likely, they saw the poll numbers heading south and faced angry presidential candidates from the Senate who would have been forced to skip early primary states to sit through a Senate trial.

In response, without lawful cause or excuse,

Of course the president had “lawful cause or excuse,” which is why he went to court. Democrats may not agree that his “lawful cause or excuse” for resisting subpoenas was valid, but the fact is that he argued a case in the courts.

President Trump directed Executive Branch agencies, offices, and officials not to comply with those subpoenas.

Two facts are noteworthy. First, there were several executive branch employees, including White House employees, who testified anyway. Second, the Democrats prevented the witnesses from appearing alongside counsel for the various agencies for which they worked — an unprecedented abuse of power by the legislature against the executive.

President Trump thus interposed the powers of the Presidency against the lawful subpoenas of the House of Representatives,

It is not clear that all of the subpoenas were lawful. One concerned the phone records of House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Devin Nunes (R-CA), journalist John Solomon, presidential lawyer Rudy Giuliani, and others. It is not clear what authority committee chair Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) had to issue those subpoenas, to match phone records with specific names, and to publish those names in his committee’s report along with speculation that they had been involved in a conspiracy to further the president’s allegedly impeachable conduct.

and assumed to himself functions and judgments necessary to the exercise of the “sole Power of Impeachment” vested by the Constitution in the House of Representatives.

The Constitution says “sole”; it does not say “absolute.” The president was not assuming the House’s powers; he was following well-established precedent in asserting the powers of the executive, a co-equal branch of government.

President Trump abused the powers

Interestingly, the phrase “abuse of power” recurs here — echoing the charges of Article I. That is because it is not clear that obstruction of Congress is actually an impeachable offense under the Constitution, even though it formed one of the articles of impeachment against Nixon. (George Washington University Law School professor Jonathan Turley testified that the third Nixon article was mistaken and should not be cited as precedent, because “obstruction of Congress” precludes the president from raising legitimate defenses of the executive branch through the courts.

of his high office through the following means:

(1) Directing the White House to defy a lawful subpoena

“Lawful” is a matter for the courts. See above.

by withholding the production of documents sought therein by the Committees.

Astonishingly, the president produced the most relevant document, and the only real direct evidence: the transcript of his phone call with Zelensky. Democrats were stunned; they had expected the whistleblower complaint to be a road map to other evidence that support their story. Trump called their bluff; what more did they need to see?

(2) Directing other Executive Branch agencies and offices to defy lawful subpoenas and withhold the production of documents and records from the Committees — in response to which the Department of State, Office of Management and Budget, Department of Energy, and Department of Defense refused to produce a single document or record.

It is worth noting that witnesses nonetheless testified from the Department of State, the Office of Management of Budget, and the Department of Defense. Their testimony did not point to any documents being particularly relevant.

(3) Directing current and former Executive Branch officials not to cooperate with the Committees, in response to which nine Administration officials defied subpoenas for testimony, namely John Michael “Mick” Mulvaney, Robert B. Blair, John A. Eisenberg, Michael Ellis, Preston Wells Griffith, Russell T. Vought, Michael Duffey, Brian McCormack, and T. Ulrich Brechbuhl.

As noted above, the president had the right to resist the House, which chose not to wait for the courts to decide.

These actions were consistent with President Trump’s previous efforts to undermine United States Goverrnment investigations into foreign interference in United States elections.

This line is important, because it represents Democrats’ attempt to allege obstruction of justice against Mueller — a charge they did not have the courage to make in an independent article of impeachment. In his report, Mueller declined to recommend prosecution for obstruction of justice, and both Attorney General William Barr and then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein concluded there was insufficient evidence to prosecute Trump.

Through these actions, President Trump sought to arrogate to himself the right to determine the propriety,scope, and nature of an impeachment inquiry into his own conduct,

Actually, there are amply judicial and historical precedents in which both the courts and the executive have pronounced their opinions as to whether an impeachment process has been properly authorized and conducted.

as well as the unilateral prerogative to deny any and all information to the House of Representatives in theexercise of its “sole Power of Impeachment.”

False. See above.

In the history of the Republic, no President has ever ordered the complete defiance of an impeachment inquiry or sought to obstruct and impede so comprehensively the ability of the House of Representatives to investigate ?high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

False. See above.

This abuse of office served to cover up the President’s own repeated misconduct

False. There was no misconduct. See above.

and to seize and control the power of impeachmentand thus to nullify a vital constitutional safeguard vested solely in the House of Representatives.

If anyone is attempting to “seize” power, it is the House of Representatives itself, which seeks to usurp both the executive branch and the courts in arrogating to itself the absolute power to limit presidential privileges.

In all of this, President Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice, and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.

False. The president has upheld his Oath of Office, against intense political and media pressure to do otherwise. It is Congress, and specifically the leaders of the House, who are violating their oaths with this spurious impeachment.

Wherefore, President Trump, by such conduct, has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to the Constitution if allowed to remain in office,

More pre-emptive impeachment. See Article I.

and has acted in a manner grossly incompatible with self-governance and the rule of law. President Trump thus warrants impeachment and trial, removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States.

Quite the contrary. On this record, President Trump warrants immediate acquittal — and, arguably, re-election.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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