Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) introduced an article of impeachment on July 12 in the House of Representatives, seeking to remove President Trump from office for a charge of obstruction of justice. Rep. Al Green (D-TX) was a co-sponsor of the article.
Sherman first brought up the subject of impeachment of the president on obstruction of justice charges in June. His argument was based up Trump’s alleged interference with an FBI investigation of Michael Flynn, who was his national security advisor at the start of his term.
The congressman believes that when Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, who has argued that he was let go in retaliation for investigating Flynn, this was obstruction of justice.
Sherman stated in a press release that recent disclosures from the president have shown that his campaign wanted assistance from Russia. It seems likely, Sherman claimed, that the president was trying to hide something when he tried to stop the investigation of Flynn and a wider probe about potential illegal activity with Russia. Sherman concluded that he thinks that his conversations with Comey and his subsequent firing are obstruction of justice, an impeachable offense.
Sherman also stated that Trump has engaged in conduct that is not becoming of a president but that these are not impeachable offenses. He stated that the constitution does not allow the president to be removed for impulsive or incompetent behavior, but it does allow a president to be removed for high crimes and misdemeanors, such as obstruction of justice.
House Will Not Move Forward With Impeachment Proceedings
Given that the House of Representatives is controlled by the Republicans, the body will obviously not move forward with impeachment hearings. But Sherman is hopeful that raising the option could spur the House to action in two major ways.
First, he hopes that filing articles of impeachment will inspire Republicans to have an intervention with the White House. If they see that impeachment could really happen, Sherman hopes that Trump’s ‘incompetent’ White House will be more careful and thoughtful. He hopes that Trump’s ‘uncontrollable impulses’ will be more controlled, and perhaps the country will face less danger.
Second, Sherman said that filing articles of impeachment is just the first step on ‘a very long road.’ He thinks that if Trump’s ‘incompetence’ continues, that Republicans will eventually agree to impeach Trump.
However, the response from the White House indicated that the impeachment article was not taken seriously. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders slammed the action, saying that the impeachment article was the worst type of politics, and was ‘utterly and completely ridiculous.’
Other Democrats Don’t Support Impeachment
Most other Democrats on the Hill do not support impeachment at this time. Democratic leaders in particular have distanced themselves from any impeachment talk. They believe that it only serves to energize Trump’s supporters, and given the fact that there is no chance of impeaching while Republicans hold the House, the effort is pointless.
CNN added last week that there are just two Democrats that will even mention impeachment at this point. Both of the men who are supporting the current article are in safe Democratic districts and may even increase their standing there by filing the article.
CNN also noted that House Democrats fought over supporting impeachment of the president in a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill in June. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was reportedly wary of Democrats getting too quickly on the idea of impeachment.
Sherman filed the article of impeachment a day after Donald Trump Jr. admitted that he met with a Russian attorney during the presidential campaign. The subject of the meeting was about possibly damaging information regarding Hillary Clinton. The meeting was set up via email with an intermediary representing the Russian.
Trump stated that he received no information of value at the meeting. But some legal experts argue that simply meeting with a foreign person to talk about obtaining damaging information about a political opponent is against federal election laws.
No definite proof of collusion has been proven, but the emails, legal experts say, show how a special counsel investigation in this case could work. Those who have worked in the White House when under special investigation, such as during the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal, have said that special counsel can go in many different directions if there is any evidence found of any type of wrongdoing.
Obstruction of Justice Charges Different from Others
A federal charge of obstruction of justice is quite different from others because there has not been any harm alleged against a person or property. Also, obstruction of justice can encompass many different crimes. There are both federal and state statutes for most of these crimes, and laws have existed for them in the US for hundreds of years.
Federal law states that obstruction of justice involves elected officials who use a corrupt threat of force against due justice administration. Obstruction of justice therefore means that a person allegedly tried to interfere with official government or office duties, including the destruction of evidence.
For an official to be convicted of this federal criminal charge, three things must be proven in a federal investigation:
- There was some type of legal proceeding or process that could be obstructed
- There was a link that is obvious between the proceedings and the person’s attempts to obstruct
- The defendant was aware of the link
However, this charge also may be brought against those who have not been elected to office, if it has been shown that they somehow prevented justice from being served in criminal or civil courts. This can include intimidating or retaliating against witnesses, falsifying evidence, interfering with the personnel in a court, and other offenses.
An obstruction of justice charge also can be brought against a former president; a former US attorney general recently stated that President Obama could be charged with obstruction of justice in the Hillary Clinton email scandal.
An obstruction of justice charge can be either a misdemeanor or a felony. Punishment usually includes prison time and fines; a maximum sentence of 20 years can be imposed.