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EDITORIAL: Impeachment report highlights colossal overreach

Updated December 4, 2019 - 11:36 pm

Adam Schiff’s impeachment report landed this week, with House Democrats — having downloaded the template on Nov. 9, 2016 — accusing President Donald Trump of “placing his own personal and political interests above the national interests” by urging Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, a potential election opponent.

There are few new revelations in the document, which will be forwarded to the House Judiciary Committee. That panel will now hold show hearings before drafting the inevitable articles of impeachment against the president.

Most notably, Rep. Schiff’s report — telegraphing the colossal overreach inherent in the case — includes obstruction of justice accusations against the White House. This is astonishing on many levels.

It was only two decades ago that Democrats rejected the notion that obstruction was an impeachable offense. President Bill Clinton had lied to a grand jury and tampered with two witnesses. Yet most House Democrats rose to his defense, insisting that such criminal misconduct during a federal investigation did not constitute grounds for removing a president from office.

But that was then, and this is now.

The Schiff manifesto insists that President Trump should face impeachment because, among other offenses, he refused to serve as a willing foil in the more-than-three-year effort by Democrats to overturn the 2016 election.

“Donald Trump,” the report states, “is the first president in the history of the United States to completely obstruct an impeachment inquiry … He has publicly and repeatedly rejected the authority of Congress to conduct oversight of his actions.” It goes on: “No other president has flouted the Constitution and power of Congress to conduct oversight to this extent.” These allegations are based largely on the fact that the White House told aides to ignore House subpoenas and resisted efforts for certain documents.

But there is nothing in the Constitution that compels a president to participate in his own defenestration. There are legitimate legal issues about executive privilege in play, and there is nothing inappropriate about Mr. Trump asking the courts to weigh in on congressional demands upon his administration. Obstruction would certainly apply had the president refused to comply with a duly issued legal order after exhausting all appeals. But to maintain the White House committed obstruction by seeking judicial review of House subpoenas is ludicrous and tantamount to asserting that Congress itself is immune to judicial scrutiny.

In fact, Rep. Schiff and his fellow resistance warriors want no part of the courts because the game plan is to rush the impeachment process so that it doesn’t bleed too far into an election year, perhaps leading independent voters to question the point. In other words, they might be accused of placing “political interests above the national interests.”

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