As the House Intelligence Committee Monday kicked off the first public hearing in its impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, a coalition of progressive groups released draft articles of impeachment they say better capture Trump's "smorgasbord of impeachable offenses."
"Trump's offenses related to Ukraine are not an aberration — they are the latest examples of him subverting our democracy to advance his own interests," said Alexandra Flores-Quilty, executive director of By the People. "If we don't address the full magnitude of criminality, bigotry, and corruption, Trump's abuses of power will become the new normal."
The misconduct at the center of the impeachment inquiry is Trump's alleged use of a quid pro quo by pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to carry out a politically beneficial investigation into the Biden family or see its military aid withheld. A better approach, according to the organizations' "Impeachment for the People," is for lawmakers to carry out an inquiry far broader in scope.
The preamble of the new 24-page document (pdf) — drafted by Free Speech For People and backed by groups including By the People, CREDO Action, and Women's March — states, "We, the people, deserve an impeachment and removal process that covers the full range of Trump's abuses of power."
The articles fall under six categories:
- Abuse of power to target political adversaries, critics, and the press;
- Corruption of electoral processes;
- Abuse of office to promote discrimination, hostility, and unlawful violence;
- Corruption and self-enrichment;
- Obstruction of the administration of justice and Congressional inquiries;
- and Misuse of armed forces and abuse of emergency powers.
The categories capture alleged offenses including Trump misusing "his official position to promote discrimination, hostility, or unlawful violence on the basis of race, color, religion, or national origin"; accepting emoluments from foreign, federal, and state governments; and abusing "emergency powers to build a border wall against Congressional opposition."
The seventh and final point — "omnibus" — is meant to ensure a successful outcome. "The value of an omnibus or 'catch-all' article (most recently used by Congress in 1989) was famously demonstrated in the 1936 impeachment trial of Judge Halstead Ritter, when the Senate failed to assemble a two-thirds majority to convict on any particular article alleging specific misconduct, but reached two-thirds to convict on the omnibus article."
It is only through such a broad scope of inquiry, the groups say, that an impeachment process can
- Defend our democracy and bring us closer to ensuring that its promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness be made real for every person who calls the United States home — no matter their race, gender, sexuality, religion, country of origin, or class;
- Establish that we are a country where all are equal before the law, and set a precedent for what is acceptable by all those who serve in our nation's highest office;
- Protect us, our families, and our communities from this administration's attacks; and
- Deliver a government that fiercely and bravely represents the people, rather than serves political parties or the powerful.
Free Speech For People board chair Ben Clements, in a statement, welcomed the inquiry House Democrats are currently carrying out, noting that the impeachment hearing concerns "Trump's efforts to bribe and extort Ukraine using hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money to leverage foreign assistance in his reelection bid."
"But," he continued, "this brazenly lawless action was the direct result of Congressional failure to hold Trump accountable for the smorgasbord of impeachable offenses he committed to secure the 2016 election and on a daily basis throughout his presidency. Trump's lawless and abusive self-dealing, obstruction, racism, bigotry, incitement to violence, and subversion of the Constitution is well documented and well suited for expedited proceedings in the House."
"If Congress is serious about defending the Constitution and our democracy and restoring the rule of law now and for future presidents," Clements said, "it must address these egregious and dangerous impeachable offenses and it must move efficiently and urgently toward a vote on comprehensive articles of impeachment."
According to Flores-Quilty, lawmakers agreeing to the "Impeachment for the People" would provide "a first step toward achieving a democracy that works for all of us."
"Now, our elected representatives must make a choice," she said, "will they fulfill their constitutional duty by impeaching for the people or will they betray the country by protecting a dangerous and lawless president?"