In a House Judiciary Committee report set to accompany articles of impeachment this week, Democratic lawmakers contend that President Donald Trump committed “multiple federal crimes” worth at least 20 years in prison.
According to Politico, in the 169-page report, Democrats allege that Trump committed the criminal acts of bribery and wire fraud, which are addressed under the remarkably vague first article of impeachment, “abuse of power.” The latter crime, they note, carries a 20-year prison sentence.
“Although President Trump’s actions need not rise to the level of a criminal violation to justify impeachment, his conduct here was criminal,” Democrats on the committee argue.
“The Framers were not fools. They authorized impeachment for a reason, and that reason would have been gutted if impeachment were limited to crimes,” they continue, specifically justifying their decision to not name specific crimes in the articles of impeachment.
Trump’s behavior, they add, “betrayed the people of this nation” and was indeed “both constitutional and criminal in character.”
What are the details?
The report alleges that Trump’s most egregious “abuse of power” came during his infamous July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, where Trump requested that Zelensky announce investigations into 2016 election interference and then-Vice President Joe Biden and son, Hunter Biden’s, involvement with Ukrainian gas company, Burisma.
The request became criminal, the report alleges, when Trump subsequently froze $391 million in military aid to Ukraine until the request was met. This action, they say, along with other pressures, constituted criminal bribery under federal law.
Democrats also argue that Trump violated the honest services wire fraud statute during the July 25 phone call. The report claims that those “foreign wire communications” were done “in furtherance of an ongoing bribery scheme.”
In the 18-page dissent, Republicans, led by Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) slam the Democrats’ articles of impeachment as “vague,” “hyperbolic” and “misleading,” Politico reports.
Republicans also slammed Democrats for not offering any articles of impeachment that allege specific crimes.
“While individual articles of impeachment have been passed against prior presidents that do not allege criminality, no president has been impeached solely on non-criminal accusations,” Collins writes.
What’s the background?
Since filing articles of impeachment last Tuesday, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee have been sharply criticized for not naming specific crimes, failing to match the constitutional standard of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”
Instead, after months of public criminal accusation, Democrats decided to file two vague articles of impeachment — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
The “abuse of power” article, they have maintained, constitutes the highest crime and can include specific crimes such as bribery, but that argument has not been particularly convincing to Republicans.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) later struggled to answer why “bribery” is missing from impeachment articles.
“Where is the crime? That’s what we’ve been asking the whole time,” House Judiciary member Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) said, according to Roll Call. “I think it’s an indication that they’ve committed political malpractice.”
BlazeTV host Glenn Beck ridiculed the Democrats’ seemingly ever-changing impeachment accusation against Trump after they moved from quid pro quo to bribery last month in lieu of focus group results.
“They’re throwing spaghetti up into the wall to see what sticks,” Beck quipped.
The House is expected to conduct a floor vote on the articles of impeachment Wednesday.