There is some point at which the president’s conduct is so egregious that the House has no choice under the Constitution but to begin impeachment proceedings. The only question is where to draw the line.
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Though Democratic leadership remains hesitant, members of the House Committee on the Judiciary are voicing support for an impeachment inquiry. But the moral urgency of impeachment can only remain ripe for so long.
Where his predecessors since Watergate have been gradually reacquiring power for the White House, President Trump might find himself giving power back.
On April 23, Benjamin Wittes hosted a panel discussion at the Brookings Institution unpacking what we learned from the redacted version of the Mueller report. The panel featured Susan Hennessey, Chuck Rosenberg and Margaret Taylor. They discussed the factual record Mueller established on Russian interference and collusion, whether the president's conduct constitutes obstruction of justice and how Congress and the American people might react to the report.
The options for checking a president who abuses his power to the degree that Trump has are functionally impeachment proceedings or nothing.
Congress has managed twice to obtain federal grand jury information in prior special counsel investigations, but the legal and factual landscape surrounding those situations is distinct from the landscape surrounding the Mueller report.
There is a tendency to think of impeachable offenses as like landmines: If the president steps on one, then it explodes and he suffers the consequences. This is the wrong way to think about impeachments.
“It would be unthinkable if this material were kept from the House of Representatives in the course of the discharge of its most awesome constitutional responsibility.”
—Letter from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Peter Rodino, Mar. 8, 1974
The Senate has a responsibility to do so—but not an express constitutional obligation. And in a time of disregard for established institutional practice and norms, the current leadership of the Senate could choose to abrogate them once more.
A response to some counterarguments.