House Democrats are rapidly nearing a second impeachment of President Donald Trump, with help from lawyers who worked on the first attempt to remove the president from office.
Democrats on Monday unveiled the new articles of impeachment against Trump over his incitement of the violent mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol last week during the ratification of President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory. Trump is being charged with one count of “incitement of insurrection,” for “willfully inciting violence against the government of the United States,” in connection with the Jan. 6 deadly riot.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, said this weekend the House will first take up a resolution calling on Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. If Pence does not do so and Trump does not resign, she said, the House will move forward with impeachment. Republicans on Monday objected to the 25th Amendment resolution, triggering a full House vote on the measure.
The House could vote on the latest articles of impeachment as soon as Wednesday. So far, 214 Democrats have signed onto the articles, putting them close to the 217 simple majority needed to pass them. Rep. David Cicilline, one of the Democrats co-leading the articles, said Monday that they have the votes to impeach.
No Republicans have publicly aligned themselves with the articles, although some have called for Trump’s removal from office and others have said he should resign. Democrats may not immediately transmit the articles to the Senate, as doing so would trigger an impeachment trial during the first days of the Biden administration. While the senators could not remove Trump from office after his departure, they could vote to block him from holding office in the future.
This latest push is led by those closely tied to the past impeachment of Trump: Cicilline is joined by Reps. Jamie Raskin and Ted Lieu—all members of the House Judiciary Committee—in co-leading the articles. Behind the scenes, House Judiciary attorneys Arya Hariharan, Matt Morgan and Sarah Istel helped draft the new articles, according to a source familiar with the situation.
Also likely involved is House general counsel Douglas Letter, whose office played a role in the past Trump impeachment. It does not appear that any private attorneys are formally working on this latest effort, after outside counsel including Kramer Levin partner Barry Berke and Kaplan Hecker & Fink partner Joshua Matz joined the House Judiciary Committee to work on the past impeachment proceedings. Pelosi has said Democrats are consulting constitutional law experts about the new push to remove Trump from office.
Hariharan, Morgan and Istel, all permanent staff for Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee, played key roles in the past Trump impeachment proceedings, giving them the background in a little-known legal arena that would certainly be an asset in this more rapid push to impeach the president.
Norm Eisen, the former special counsel to the House Judiciary Committee who helped draft the previous articles against Trump, described their roles in a book published last year. Eisen wrote that he, Berke, Morgan and Hariharan began working on draft articles of impeachment against Trump in August 2019, before the whistleblower report of Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that ultimately served as the focus of the past impeachment was made public.
According to Eisen, after House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler unsuccessfully tried to include a third article of impeachment against Trump for obstruction of justice more closely tied to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, Eisen and Matz included language in the remaining articles of impeachment alleging that Trump repeatedly engaged in obstruction of justice that touched back on the Mueller probe.
The latest articles against Trump also establishes a pattern of behavior by the president. The resolution invokes Trump’s call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in which the president asked him to “find” more votes for him in the state, which Biden won. Raffensperger and his general counsel, Ryan Germany, rebuffed Trump’s efforts during the call, which leaked to the Washington Post and other news outlets.
Matz said in an interview last week, after a draft version of the articles were released but before the final version was made public, that he believed Democrats were correct to include the Raffensperger call in the articles as it underscores Trump’s behavior in trying to undermine democratic processes.
“In all this, President Trump gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of government,” reads the new impeachment resolution. “He threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperiled a coequal branch of government. He thereby betrayed his trust as president, to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.”
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