November 19, 2019

Impeachment Isn't the Answer

“Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Tuesday that she would open an impeachment inquiry of President Trump. Although some of the facts surrounding Mr. Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky have yet to be nailed down, it appears that Mr. Trump has grossly abused the powers of his office and distorted American foreign policy in pursuit of personal political gain. Yet the evidence so far suggests that impeachment is not the best way to hold Mr. Trump accountable for these infractions.

This controversy is really two disputes. One is legal and procedural, regarding the executive branch’s decision to withhold the whistleblower’s complaint from Congress. The other dispute is substantive and perhaps constitutional, over the propriety of what Mr. Trump has all but admitted he discussed with the Ukrainian president.

As to the first dispute, Robert Litt, who served as General Counsel to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence during the Obama administration, has lucidly laid out the legal complexities. In an article for Lawfare, he concludes that “the argument that the law did not require the DNI to transmit the [whistleblower’s] complaint to Congress . . . is not a frivolous one.” Moreover, if the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel determined that the president’s actions weren’t matters of urgent concern as defined in the federal law for intelligence whistleblowers, the DNI might well feel bound to block the transmission of the complaint.”

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