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Democrats to build case for abuse of power against Trump next week

Jennifer Haberkorn, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

"I trust Nancy's judgment," the moderate lawmaker said, citing how Pelosi held Democrats back from pursuing impeachment earlier over the findings in special counsel Robert Mueller's report regarding Trump's alleged efforts to block the investigation.

But progressives -- many of whom supported impeachment even before learning about Trump's actions with Ukraine -- want the articles of impeachment to include other allegations of misconduct, saying it's a dereliction of their responsibility to pursue some violations and ignore others.

"Of course we don't want to pile every complaint we've ever had about the president into articles of impeachment," said Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii. "On the other hand, this is a serious matter, and if we fail to include clear violations of the Constitution and clear abuses of power, then we're not meeting the moment."

There is some support for crafting an article around the president's violation of the Constitution's ban on the president profiting from his office, known as the emoluments clause. House and Senate Democrats have filed a lawsuit on the issue but it could be tied up in court for months. Democrats are weighing whether the evidence against the president on this issue is as ironclad as they believe the argument for abuse of power to be, according to a Democratic lawmaker.

There is growing consensus around including obstruction of justice and obstruction of Congress. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff, D-Calif., has said that the White House's instruction that witnesses, such as former national security adviser John Bolton, not testify would serve as evidence of the president's obstruction of Congress.

And some Democrats are advocating for obstruction to include evidence documented by Mueller in his report.

"It would be foolish of us to ignore obstruction. Obstruction is a crime. It's documented in great detail in the Mueller report. He pretty much says it occurred at least 10 times," Connolly said. "If we ignore obstruction we are saying to future generations, that it's off the table when a president commits it, if you're looking at impeachment."

 

The precedent argument is likely to carry significant weight with veteran lawmakers who are most invested in protecting the power of congressional subpoenas.

But given how little support there was for impeachment over the Mueller report and how badly the report rollout went for Democrats, some Democratic aides recoil at his name, suggesting reluctance to incorporate Mueller-related charges in the articles.

The hearings next week will be in the House Intelligence Committee, but five other committees are expected to send work related to the impeachment inquiry to the House Judiciary Committee as soon as this month. It is that panel that will write articles and determine which should be voted upon by the full House, possibly by the end of the year.

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