Washington, D.C.: US President Donald Trump on Wednesday vowed to fight any effort by congressional Democrats to impeach him after Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia inquiry, promising to take the matter to the Supreme Court even though the US Constitution gives Congress complete authority over the impeachment process.
“If the partisan Dems ever tried to Impeach, I would first head to the US Supreme Court,” the Republican president, who is seeking re-election next year, wrote on Twitter, without offering details about what legal action he envisioned.
Democrats, who control the House, remain divided over whether to proceed with the impeachment process even as new fights flare in their intensifying investigations into Trump and his administration. A fierce legal battle is taking shape over Trump’s bid to fight House subpoenas for documents and testimony from his administration that potentially could head to the Supreme Court.
The Constitution gives the sole power of impeachment and removing a president from office to the House of Representatives and the Senate, not the judiciary, as part of the founding document’s separation of powers among the three branches of the federal government.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders have remained cautious over launching impeachment proceedings against Trump ahead of the 2020 election, although they have left the door open to such action. Others in the party’s more liberal wing have demanded impeachment proceedings.
Mueller’s findings, released in a redacted report last week, detailed about a dozen episodes of potential obstruction of justice by Trump in trying to impede the inquiry but stopped short of concluding that he had committed a crime.
The report said Congress could address whether the president violated the law. Mueller separately found insufficient evidence that Trump’s campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy with Russia in the 2016 presidential race.
Under the Constitution, Congress is a coequal branch of government alongside the executive branch and the judiciary.
The Constitution empowers Congress to remove a president from office for “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanours.” The House is given the power to impeach a president — bring formal charges — and the Senate then convenes a trial, with the senators as jurors, with a two-thirds vote needed to convict a president and remove him from office.
The Constitution gives no role to the Supreme Court in impeachment, though it does assign the chief justice the task of presiding over the Senate trial. Conservative John Roberts currently serves as chief justice.
That would not preclude Trump from proceeding with litigation to tie up the issue in the courts, despite Supreme Court precedent upholding congressional impeachment power. In 1993, the nation’s top court ruled 9-0 in a case involving an impeached US judge that the judiciary has no role in the impeachment process.
Some congressional Republicans have urged that the country to move forward after the Mueller report, while a few, including Senator Mitt Romney, have condemned Trump’s actions. Some conservatives outside of Congress have urged congressional action in the wake of Mueller’s report.
“We believe the framers of the Constitution would have viewed the totality of this conduct as evidence of high crimes and misdemeanours,” Checks & Balances, a group of conservative lawyers, said in a statement on Tuesday that backed more investigations.
Trump has said Mueller’s findings cleared him of any wrongdoing. “We waited for Mueller and WON, so now the Dems look to Congress as last hope!” he tweeted on Wednesday.
House Democrats have stepped up their oversight of the Trump administration on numerous fronts since taking control of the chamber in January, from Trump’s tax returns and White House security clearances to the investigation into Russian interference in US politics.
Trump has ramped up his fight against congressional oversight, ordering officials not to comply with subpoenas and filing a lawsuit to prevent material from being turned over to lawmakers.
“There is no reason to go any further, and especially in Congress where it’s very partisan — obviously very partisan,” Trump told the Washington Post in an interview on Tuesday.