Dispatch September 9, 2019

Congress’s Critical Impeachment Inquiry

As they return from the August recess, Congress is rightly moving forward with an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump’s collusion with Russia and his efforts to obstruct the investigation. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation resulted in the most damning document ever released about a sitting president. His report, which specifically “does not exonerate” Trump, is nothing short of an impeachment referral. With Department of Justice precedent barring Mueller from indicting a sitting president, it falls to Congress to hold Trump accountable. Doing so will solve the urgent national security crisis created by a president who is compromised by Russia and continues to try to advance Putin’s agenda from the White House. 

The Mueller report contains hundreds of pages of evidence that Trump and his campaign colluded with the Russian government to win the 2016 election.

  • Trump and his campaign had more than 270 contacts with Russia-linked operatives during the campaign.
    • A campaign aide learned before almost anyone else that Russian operatives had stolen and planned to release thousands of emails from the Clinton campaign.
    • Trump’s personal lawyer spent much of the campaign trying to develop Trump Tower Moscow, a project that entailed direct Kremlin contact.
    • Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and his deputy Rick Gates shared polling data and campaign strategy with a suspected Russian agent, on the understanding that he’d pass the information to Putin’s inner circle.
    • Donald Trump Jr. enthusiastically accepted an offer of dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Russian government and brought Jared Kushner and the campaign chairman to a meeting where he hoped to get this valuable material from the Russians.
    • After WikiLeaks began releasing emails stolen by the Russian government, the Trump campaign allegedly set up a backchannel to WikiLeaks to get advance information about what Russia planned to release next.
  • Rather than inform law enforcement, the intelligence community, or the American public, the Trump campaign did everything they could to conceal the Russian activity and outreach, all while sowing doubt about whether Russia was interfering at all.

The report also shows that Trump obstructed justice to cover up his and his campaign’s wrongdoing during the campaign.

  • The Mueller report outlines 11 instances of Trump trying to impede an investigation he knew could hurt him, including at least four that fit all of the criteria to prosecute obstruction of justice.
  • In his congressional testimony, Special Counsel Robert Mueller confirmed that, after refusing to sit for an interview, Trump submitted written answers that were “not only inadequate and incomplete” but also “contradicted other evidence … gathered during the investigation” and “showed he wasn’t always being truthful.”
  • If anybody else did what Trump has done, they would be in jail—like his campaign chairman, deputy campaign chairman, personal lawyer, and national security adviser, who have pleaded guilty for their roles in the coverup.
  • More than 1,000 former federal prosecutors have signed an open letter saying that, if Trump weren’t the President of the United States and therefore protected by DOJ precedent against indicting a sitting president, he would have been indicted for obstruction of justice.

Trump’s fealty to Putin poses an unprecedented and ongoing threat to national security.

  • The Russian government knows more about Trump’s wrongdoing during the 2016 election and beyond than anybody in the U.S., even Mueller. That leaves him deeply compromised, and almost certainly contributes to his willingness to bend over backward to please Putin.
  • Trump’s behavior at last month’s G-7 summit in France showed just how far Trump will go to advance Putin’s interests:
    • Trump reportedly derailed events with other world leaders by calling for Russia to be reinstated while repeatedly minimizing the event that led to Putin’s 2015 ostracization: Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine.
    • Meanwhile, Politico reported that Trump is intentionally slow-walking aid to Ukraine, questioning whether it’s “in the best interests” of the U.S. to keep helping the country fight back against Russia’s aggression.
  • Even Trump’s own government appears to consider him a national security threat: According to CNN, after Trump spilled classified information to Russian officials in the Oval Office in 2017, the CIA—under then-CIA Director, now-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo—extracted a top source from Russia out of fear that Trump would blow their cover. (The CIA and the White House have denied the report.)
  • Trump and his accomplices—chief among them Senate Majority Leader “Moscow Mitch” McConnell—are doing everything they can to prevent the government from taking action to secure America’s elections against future foreign attacks.
  • This is all despite repeated warnings from Mueller and intelligence community leadersincluding some that Trump himself appointed—that Russia will attack the 2020 election too.

The impeachment inquiry into President Trump’s conduct is critical, as Congress is the only body constitutionally able to hold Trump accountable and protect the country.