House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is giving senators a big headache with her decision to hold a “snap impeachment” of President Trump without witnesses or evidence.
The problem, according to constitutional scholar Jonathan Turley, is that she’s delivered to them an article of impeachment with no evidence to back it up.
“The problem is not what was sent to the Senate but what was not. There was no record. For the first time in history, the House of Representatives sent an article of impeachment to the Senate without any hearing, any testimony, any response from the president. Not a word. It just sent a poorly crafted article of impeachment like a conclusion in search of proof,” he explained in column on his website.
Trump has been charged with incitement to insurrection for statements he made at a rally after the U.S. Capitol was breached on Jan. 6. Constitutional scholars contend Trump’s statement’s were protected by the First Amendment. And some who have been charged in the riot are accused of planning it weeks in advance.
Complicating the issue is the fact that the objective of impeachment is to remove an official from office and Trump already is gone. And it’s unlikely, with the 50-50 split, that Democrats can get 17 Republicans to vote with them to convict.
Turley said the impeachment trial “appeared to effectively end before it even began” when 45 senators voted in favor of a resolution declaring the trial unconstitutional.
Turley pointed out the “fundamental error” in Pelosi’s case.
“The issue is whether the Senate wants to legitimize this radical departure from the traditions of both chambers,” he said. “Some of us called for the House to hold at least a day of hearings to allow the chance for the president to respond. Yet the House refused to call any witness or hold any hearing. House leaders said there was not a day to spare then did nothing. They waited almost two weeks to submit the article to the Senate.”
The Democrats’ first impeachment of Trump had insufficient evidence, he noted, but this time, “instead of submitting an insufficient record, it submitted no record at all in a second impeachment of the same president.”
“For Senate institutionalists, that comes across as a virtual taunt,” Turley said. “Even one hearing in the House could have supplied some evidence on the intent of Trump for the riots at the Capitol. Witnesses could have addressed whether the National Guard was offered to Congress in advance or whether Trump obstructed any such assistance. Answers could have been demanded from the White House. Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller gave interviews on Oval Office discussions about that issue but was not called to testify.
“It is not about what Trump did but what the House failed to do in sending a bare article to the Senate, which was effectively asked to carry the burden for both chambers,” he said.