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Commentary: The Risk of Not Pursuing an Impeachment Inquiry

Posted on Thursday 5/23/2019
David Driesen

By Professor David Driesen

(Re-published from Newsday | May 23, 2019) As House Democrats wrestle with the question of whether to begin an impeachment inquiry, they need to consider the danger failing to do so poses to congressional oversight authority.

That was made clear on Wednesday when President Donald Trump declared that he could not work with Democrats as long as Congress continues to exercise its oversight of his administration, calling it “phony investigations.”

In response, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has pushed back against calls for impeachment from members of her Democratic caucus, said Trump is obstructing justice and that his actions amount to an impeachable offense.

That was bracketed by favorable rulings on the release of Trump’s tax returns and his financial records by federal courts this week. But that should not obscure the risks congressional oversight faces from a Supreme Court deeply skeptical of Congress.

An impeachment inquiry most likely would help the House obtain favorable rulings to overcome the administration’s stonewalling, as conservative judges recognize the need to investigate in the impeachment context.

There are signs the House understands that an impeachment inquiry would bolster the case for judicial enforcement of subpoenas. The resolution seeking a contempt citation against Attorney General William Barr for failing to provide the unredacted Robert Mueller report mentions determining “whether to approve articles of impeachment” against Trump and other officials as one of the purposes of the Judiciary Committee investigation now underway ...

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