The Articles of Impeachment Against Donald J. Trump: A Draft

The Articles of Impeachment Against Donald J. Trump: A Draft

- in House of Representatives

Calls for President Trump’s impeachment are getting louder. Since the release of Robert Mueller’s report, White House stonewalling of congressional subpoenas and Mr. Mueller’s first public comments, almost 60 House Democrats, a quarter of the caucus, have said they support an impeachment inquiry.

If Democrats do move to impeach Mr. Trump, the articles of impeachment drafted against past presidents will probably guide them. The Constitution leaves “high crimes and misdemeanors,” the term that describes impeachable offenses, vague, notes the historian Timothy Naftali, a co-writer of a recent book on impeachment. “So if you are doing your constitutional duty as an elected member of Congress, how do you define high crimes and misdemeanors?” he asked. “One of the ways you do it is by looking at past practice.”

What might impeachment articles against Mr. Trump look like? To find out, we reviewed the articles of impeachment drawn up against Richard Nixon in 1974 and Bill Clinton in 1998. Then we edited them — by removing and adding passages — to match the president’s conduct as described in the Mueller report and elsewhere.

Impeachment is often said to be a political process. But when you assess Mr. Trump’s conduct by the bar for impeachment set by past Democratic and Republican lawmakers for past presidents of both parties, the results are striking. The pathway to a possible Trump impeachment is already mapped out in these historical documents.

RIchard Nixon announced on television in 1974 that he would give transcripts of White House tapes to impeachment investigators.
Associated Press

Based on Nixon’s Impeachment

In July 1974, the House Judiciary Committee approved three articles of impeachment against Nixon, who resigned before the full House could vote on them. Mr. Trump’s behavior maps neatly onto the first and third Nixon articles, which dealt with obstruction of justice. Nixon interfered with a federal investigation of the Watergate break-in by refusing to turn over documents, pressuring witnesses, lying to the public and firing the special prosecutor assigned to the case. In response to Mr. Mueller’s and Congress’s inquiries, Mr. Trump has similarly stonewalled subpoenas, tried to influence witness testimony, lied and attempted to fire Mr. Mueller.

Article I

The Russian government engaged in a sophisticated campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election. On June 17, 1972, and prior thereto, agents of the Committee for the Re-election of the President committed unlawful entry of the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in Washington, District of Columbia, for the purpose of securing political intelligence.May 17, 2017, a special counsel was appointed to investigate Russian interference, including any links or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump campaign. The special counsel was also given “the authority to investigate and prosecute federal crimes committed in the course of, and with intent to interfere with, the special counsel’s investigation, such as perjury, obstruction of justice, destruction of evidence, and intimidation of witnesses.” Subsequent thereto, Richard M. NixonDonald J. Trump, using the powers of his high office, engaged personally and through his close subordinates and agents, in a course of conduct or plan designed to delay, impede and obstruct the investigation of such illegal entryRussian contacts and potential obstruction of justice; to cover up, conceal and protect those responsible; and to conceal the existence and scope of other unlawful covert activities.

The introduction in the first impeachment article against Nixon sets up the main argument Congress would likely use against Mr. Trump: The president attempted to impede a federal investigation into his actions and those of his associates.

The means used to implement this course of conduct or plan included one or more of the following:

* making false or misleading statements to lawfully authorized investigative officers and employees of the United States;

* withholding relevant and material evidence or information from lawfully authorized investigative officers and employees of the United States, including congressional committees;

Like Mr. Trump, Nixon never submitted to questioning from F.B.I. investigators. But Nixon misrepresented or lied about his involvement in the Watergate cover-up to Justice Department officials and his own aides.

Mr. Mueller’s investigators deemed Mr. Trump’s written answers about Russia-related topics “inadequate,” but they did not accuse him of providing false information. Like Nixon, however, Mr. Trump did provide false information to potential witnesses, including his own aides. He has also refused to allow congressional committees access to relevant information, including the unredacted Mueller report and witnesses.

* 3 approving, condoning, acquiescing in, and counsellingencouraging witnesses with respect to the giving of false or misleading statements to lawfully authorized investigative officers and employees of the United States and false or misleading testimony in duly instituted judicial and congressional proceedings;

* interfering or endeavoring to interfere with the conduct of investigations by the Department of Justice of the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the office of Watergate Special Prosecution Forcethe office of the special counsel and congressional committees;

* approving, condoning, and acquiescing in, the surreptitious payment of substantial sums of money for the purpose of obtaining the silence or influencing the testimony of witnesses, potential witnesses or individuals who participated in such unlawful entry and other illegal activities;

* endeavoring to misuse the Central Intelligence AgencyDepartment of Justice, an agency of the United States;

* disseminating information received from officers of the Department of Justice of the United States to subjects of investigations conducted by lawfully authorized investigative officers and employees of the United States, for the purpose of aiding and assisting such subjects in their attempts to avoid criminal liability;

* making or causing to be made false or misleading public statements for the purpose of deceiving the people of the United States into believing that a thorough and complete investigation had been conducted with respect to allegations of misconduct on the part of personnel of the executive branch of the United States and personnel of the Committee for the Re-election of the PresidentTrump 2016 campaign, and that there was no involvement of such personnel in such misconduct; or

* endeavoring to cause prospective defendants, and individuals duly tried and convicted, to expect favored treatment and consideration in return for their silence or false testimony, or rewarding individuals for their silence or false testimony or endeavoring to intimidate individuals who offered testimony.

In all of this, Richard M. NixonDonald J. Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as president and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.

Wherefore Richard M. NixonDonald J. Trump, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office.

Most of the above charges against Nixon required only modest tweaks to match Mr. Trump’s conduct. Mr. Trump asked the Department of Justice, not the Central Intelligence Agency, to go after his political rivals. Mr. Trump’s misconduct focused on covering up actions by members of his presidential campaign rather than the Committee for the Re-election of the President, a fundraising committee separate from the rest of the Nixon campaign apparatus.

An impeachment article against Mr. Trump could argue the president encouraged witnesses to give false or misleading statements to investigators and to the public, or focus on how Mr. Trump interfered with the investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia.

Article II

Using the powers of the office of president of the United States, Richard M. NixonDonald J. Trump, in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of president of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in disregard of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has repeatedly engaged in conduct violating the constitutional rights of citizens, impairing the due and proper administration of justice and the conduct of lawful inquiries, or contravening the laws governing agencies of the executive branch and the purpose of these agencies.

This conduct has included one or more of the following:

* He has, acting personally and through his subordinates and agents, endeavored to obtain from the Internal Revenue Service, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, confidential information contained in income tax returns for purposed not authorized by law, and to cause, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, income tax audits or other income tax investigations to be initiated or conducted in a discriminatory manner.

* He misused the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Secret ServiceDepartment of Justice, and other executive personnel in violation or disregard of the constitutional rights of citizens, by directing or authorizing such agencies or personnel to conduct or continue electronic surveillance or other investigations for purposes unrelated to national security, the enforcement of laws, or any other lawful function of his office; he did direct, authorize or permit the use of information obtained thereby for purposes unrelated to national security, the enforcement of laws or any other lawful function of his office; and he did direct the concealment of certain records made by the Federal Bureau of Investigation of electronic surveillance.

* He has, acting personally and through his subordinates and agents, in violation or disregard of the constitutional rights of citizens, authorized and permitted to be maintained a secret investigative unit within the office of the president, financed in part with money derived from campaign contributions, which unlawfully utilized the resources of the Central Intelligence Agency, engaged in covert and unlawful activities, and attempted to prejudice the constitutional right of an accused to a fair trial.

* He has failed to take care that the laws were faithfully executed by failing to act when he knew or had reason to know that his close subordinates endeavored to impede and frustrate lawful inquiries by duly constituted executive, judicial and legislative entities concerning the unlawful entry into the headquarters of the Democratic National CommitteeRussian interference in the 2016 election, and the cover-up thereof, and concerning other unlawful activities including those relating to the confirmation of Richard Kleindienst as attorney general of the United States, the electronic surveillance of private citizens, the break-in into the offices of Dr. Lewis Fielding, and the campaign financing practices of the Committee to Re-elect the President.

* In disregard of the rule of law, he knowingly misused the executive power by interfering with agencies of the executive branch, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Criminal Division and the Office of Watergate Special Prosecution Force, of the Department of Justice, and the Central Intelligence Agency, in violation of his duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.

In all of this, Richard M. NixonDonald J. Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as president and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.

Nixon’s abuses of presidential power, the subject of his second article, were manifold. They involved pressuring federal agencies to punish or surveil his perceived political enemies. While much of this second article doesn’t match what we know of Mr. Trump’s conduct, Mr. Trump has undermined the purpose of the federal government by attacking the rule of law and calling for investigations of figures like Hillary Clinton and James Comey.

“The spirit he’s cultivating is that the federal bureaucracy only exists to serve the needs of Donald J. Trump,” said Mr. Naftali, the historian.

Article III

In his conduct of the office of president of the United States, Richard M. NixonDonald J. Trump, contrary to his oath faithfully to execute the office of president of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has failed without lawful cause or excuse to produce papers and things as directed by duly authorized subpoenas issued by the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives on April 11, 1974, May 15, 1974, May 30, 1974, and June 24, 1974April 19, 2019, April 22, 2019, and May 21, 2019; the Committee on Oversight and Reform of the House of Representatives on April 15, 2019; the Committee on Financial Services of the House of Representatives on April 15, 2019; the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence of the House of Representatives on April 15, 2019, and May 8, 2019; and the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives on May 10, 2019, and willfully disobeyed such subpoenas. The subpoenaed papers and things were deemed necessary by the committee in order to resolve by direct evidence fundamental, factual questions relating to presidential direction, knowledge or approval of actions demonstrated by other evidence to be substantial grounds for impeachment of the president. In refusing to produce these papers and things Richard M. NixonDonald J. Trump, substituting his judgment as to what materials were necessary for the inquiry, interposed the powers of the presidency against the lawful subpoenas of the House of Representatives, thereby assuming to himself functions and judgments necessary to the exercise of the sole power of impeachment vested by the Constitution in the House of Representatives.

In all of this, Richard M. NixonDonald J. Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as president and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice, and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.

Wherefore, Richard M. NixonDonald J. Trump by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office.

Bill Clinton just before making a statement on his impeachment inquiry outside the White House in 1998.
J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

Based on Clinton’s Impeachment

The first article of impeachment passed by the Republican-controlled House against Bill Clinton was based on testimony he gave before a federal grand jury. Because Mr. Trump refused an in-person interview with Mr. Mueller’s investigators, did not agree to provide written answers to questions about obstruction and never testified before the grand jury, little of this first article is relevant to Mr. Trump’s conduct.

Resolved, That William Jefferson ClintonDonald J. Trump, president of the United States, is impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors and that the following articles of impeachment be exhibited to the United States Senate:

Articles of impeachment exhibited by the House of Representatives of the United States of America in the name of itself and of the people of the United States of America, against William Jefferson ClintonDonald J. Trump, president of the United States of America, in maintenance and support of its impeachment against him for high crimes and misdemeanors.

Article I

In his conduct while president of the United States, William Jefferson ClintonDonald J. Trump, in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of president of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has willfully corrupted and manipulated the judicial process of the United States for his personal gain and exoneration, impeding the administration of justice, in that:

On Aug. 17, 1998, William Jefferson Clinton swore to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth before a federal grand jury of the United States. Contrary to that oath, William Jefferson Clinton willfully provided perjurious, false and misleading testimony to the grand jury concerning one or more of the following: (1) the nature and details of his relationship with a subordinate government employee; (2) prior perjurious, false and misleading testimony he gave in a federal civil rights action brought against him; (3) prior false and misleading statements he allowed his attorney to make to a federal judge in that civil rights action; and (4) his corrupt efforts to influence the testimony of witnesses and to impede the discovery of evidence in that civil rights action.The Russian government engaged in a sophisticated campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election. On May 17, 2017, a special counsel was appointed to investigate Russian interference, including any links or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump campaign. Subsequent thereto, Donald J. Trump, using the powers of his high office, engaged personally and through his close subordinates and agents, in a course of conduct or plan designed to delay, impede and obstruct the investigation of such Russian contacts and potential obstruction of justice; to cover up, conceal and protect those responsible; and to conceal the existence and scope of other unlawful covert activities.

In doing this, William Jefferson ClintonDonald J. Trump has undermined the integrity of his office, has brought disrepute on the presidency, has betrayed his trust as president and has acted in a manner subversive of the rule of law and justice, to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.

Wherefore, William Jefferson ClintonDonald J. Trump, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States.

But any case for impeaching Mr. Trump would likely rest on obstruction of justice, the focus of Mr. Clinton’s third article. (Republicans also drafted a second and fourth impeachment article against Mr. Clinton, but neither passed the full House.)

We’ve re-ordered the obstruction charges arrayed against Mr. Clinton to better match the timeline of Mr. Trump’s potentially obstructive acts. The quotations describing each of Mr. Trump’s acts come from the redacted Mueller report.

Article III

In his conduct while president of the United States, William Jefferson ClintonDonald J. Trump, in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of president of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has prevented, obstructed and impeded the administration of justice, and has to that end engaged personally, and through his subordinates and agents, in a course of conduct or scheme designed to delay, impede, cover up and conceal the existence of evidence and testimony related to a federal civil rights action brought against him in a duly instituted judicial proceedinginvestigation.

The means used to implement this course of conduct or scheme included one or more of the following acts:

* On or about Dec. 17, 1997Feb. 14, 2017, William Jefferson ClintonDonald J. Trump corruptly encouraged a witness in a federal civil rights action brought against himattempted to persuade the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to execute a sworn affidavit in that proceeding that he knew to be perjurious, false and misleading.end the F.B.I.’s investigation into the national security adviser.

* On or about Dec. 28, 1997, William Jefferson ClintonDonald J. Trump corruptly engaged in, encouraged or supported a scheme to conceal evidence that had been subpoenaed in alimit the scope of a federal civil rights action brought against himinvestigation, including by firing the F.B.I. director and attempting to get the attorney general to “unrecuse” himself from overseeing the special counsel investigation.

* On or about Jan. 18 and Jan. 20-21, 1998June 17, 2017, William Jefferson ClintonDonald J. Trump related a false and misleading account of events relevant to a federal civil rights action brought against him to a potential witness in that proceeding,ordered the White House counsel to have the special counsel removed in order to corruptly influence the testimony of that witnesscourse of a federal investigation.

The obstruction case laid out against President Clinton was largely based on his behavior toward witnesses in the investigation into his conduct. As you can see from our rendering of a Trump indictment, Mr. Trump arguably took more extensive steps than Mr. Clinton did to thwart investigators. Beyond interfering with witnesses and encouraging the giving of false testimony, Mr. Trump tried to limit the scope of Mr. Mueller’s investigation and have the special counsel removed.

* 4On Jan. 17, 1998In January and February 2018, at his deposition in a federal civil rights action brought against him, William Jefferson ClintonDonald J. Trump corruptly allowedengaged in repeated efforts to get his attorneythe White House counsel to makecreate a false and misleading statements to a federal judgerecord characterizing an affidavitthe president’s efforts to remove the special counsel, in order to prevent questioning deemed relevant by the judge“deflect or prevent further scrutiny of the president’s conduct towards the investigation.”. Such a false and misleading statementsrecord were subsequently acknowledged by his attorneythe White House counsel in a communication to that judgethe office of the special counsel.

* Beginning on or about Dec. 7, 1997, and continuing through and including Jan. 14, 1998in spring 2018, William Jefferson ClintonDonald J. Trump intensified and succeeded in an effort to secure job assistance todiscuss pardons with a potential witness in a federal civil rights action brought against himinvestigation in order to corruptly prevent the truthful testimony of that witness in that proceeding at a time when the truthful testimony of that witness would have been harmful to him.

* On or about Jan. 21, 23 and 26, 1998In summer 2018, William Jefferson ClintonDonald J. Trump made false and misleading statements“used inducements in the form of positive messages…and then turned to attacks and intimidation” totoward a potential witnesseswitness in a federal grand jury proceedinginvestigation in order to corruptly influence the testimony of those witnessesthat witness. The false and misleading statements made by William Jefferson Clinton were repeated by the witnesses to the grand jury, causing the grand jury to receive false and misleading information.

* On or about Dec. 17, 1997Aug. 22, 2018, William Jefferson ClintonDonald J. Trump corruptly encouragedpraised a witness in a federal civil rights action brought against himinvestigation to give perjurious, false and misleading testimonyfor not “flipping” if and when called to testify personally in that proceeding, which “had the potential” to corruptly prevent the truthful testimony of that witness at a time when the truthful testimony of that witness would have been harmful to him.

In all of this, William Jefferson ClintonDonald J. Trump has undermined the integrity of his office, has brought disrepute on the presidency, has betrayed his trust as president and has acted in a manner subversive of the rule of law and justice, to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.

Wherefore, William Jefferson ClintonDonald J. Trump by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States.

Below you can see what articles of impeachment against Mr. Trump alone might look like. These rewritten articles against Mr. Trump don’t include other potentially impeachable offenses that lack a clear precedent in the Nixon and Clinton cases, such as hush-money payments to women or possible violations of the Constitution’s emoluments clause.

An impeachment inquiry against Mr. Trump is far from guaranteed. And whether impeaching him would politically help or hurt Democrats remains an open question. But there is no question that by the standards for high crimes and misdemeanors applied to past presidents in living memory, Donald J. Trump has committed impeachable offenses.

Trump’s impeachment

Article I

The Russian government engaged in a sophisticated campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election. On May 17, 2017, a special counsel was appointed to investigate Russian interference, including any links or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump campaign. The special counsel was also given “the authority to investigate and prosecute federal crimes committed in the course of, and with intent to interfere with, the special counsel’s investigation, such as perjury, obstruction of justice, destruction of evidence, and intimidation of witnesses.” Subsequent thereto, Donald J. Trump, using the powers of his high office, engaged personally and through his close subordinates and agents, in a course of conduct or plan designed to delay, impede and obstruct the investigation of such Russian contacts and potential obstruction of justice; to cover up, conceal and protect those responsible; and to conceal the existence and scope of other unlawful covert activities.

The means used to implement this course of conduct or plan included one or more of the following:

* withholding relevant and material evidence or information from lawfully authorized investigative employees of the United States, including congressional committees;

* approving, condoning, acquiescing in, and encouraging witnesses with respect to the giving of false or misleading statements to lawfully authorized investigative officers and employees of the United States and false or misleading testimony in duly instituted judicial and congressional proceedings;

* interfering or endeavoring to interfere with the conduct of investigations by the Department of Justice of the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the office of the special counsel, and congressional committees;

* endeavoring to misuse the Department of Justice, an agency of the United States;

* making or causing to be made false or misleading public statements for the purpose of deceiving the people of the United States into believing that a thorough and complete investigation had been conducted with respect to allegations of misconduct on the part of personnel of the executive branch of the United States and personnel of the Trump 2016 campaign, and that there was no involvement of such personnel in such misconduct; or

* endeavoring to cause prospective defendants, and individuals duly tried and convicted, to expect favored treatment and consideration in return for their silence or false testimony, or rewarding individuals for their silence or false testimony or endeavoring to intimidate individuals who offered testimony.

In all of this, Donald J. Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as president and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.

Wherefore Donald J. Trump, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office.

Article II

Using the powers of the office of president of the United States, Donald J. Trump, in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of president of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in disregard of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has repeatedly engaged in conduct impairing the due and proper administration of justice and the conduct of lawful inquiries, or contravening the laws governing agencies of the executive branch and the purpose of these agencies.

This conduct has included one or more of the following:

* He misused the Department of Justice, and other executive personnel, by directing or authorizing such agencies or personnel to conduct investigations for purposes unrelated to national security, the enforcement of laws, or any other lawful function of his office.

* He has failed to take care that the laws were faithfully executed by failing to act when he knew or had reason to know that his close subordinates endeavoured to impede and frustrate lawful inquiries by duly constituted executive, judicial and legislative entities concerning Russian interference in the 2016 election, and the cover-up thereof.

* In disregard of the rule of law, he knowingly misused the executive power by interfering with agencies of the executive branch, including the Department of Justice, in violation of his duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.

In all of this, Donald J. Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as president and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.

Article III

In his conduct of the office of president of the United States, Donald J. Trump, contrary to his oath faithfully to execute the office of president of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has failed without lawful cause or excuse to produce papers and things as directed by duly authorized subpoenas issued by the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives on April 19, 2019, April 22, 2019, and May 21, 2019; the Committee on Oversight and Reform of the House of Representatives on April 15, 2019; the Committee on Financial Services of the House of Representatives on April 15, 2019; the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence of the House of Representatives on April 15, 2019, and May 8, 2019; and the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives on May 10, 2019, and willfully disobeyed such subpoenas. The subpoenaed papers and things were deemed necessary by the committee in order to resolve by direct evidence fundamental, factual questions relating to presidential direction, knowledge or approval of actions demonstrated by other evidence to be substantial grounds for impeachment of the president. In refusing to produce these papers and things Donald J. Trump, substituting his judgment as to what materials were necessary for the inquiry, interposed the powers of the presidency against the lawful subpoenas of the House of Representatives, thereby assuming to himself functions and judgments necessary to the exercise of the sole power of impeachment vested by the Constitution in the House of Representatives.

In all of this, Donald J. Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as president and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice, and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.

Wherefore, Donald J. Trump by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office.

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