US District Judge Beryl A. Howell on Friday directed the Trump Administration to hand over secret grand jury evidence to House Democrats, allowing them to further their move to impeach the president. Howell’s 75-page opinion confirmed that the impeachment inquiry is legal under her interpretation of the Constitution.
Although Congress would usually have no right to view the evidence gathered by special counsel Robert Mueller, that standard changes when dealing with the possibility of impeachment. This precedent was set in 1974 when courts ruled Congress’ right to view confidential information when they were deciding whether or not to impeach President Nixon.
"Impeachment based on anything less than all relevant evidence would compromise the public's faith in the process," Howell said.
Howell also stated her bias by opining that Congress’ need to view the grand jury evidence has escalated in light of the fact that the Trump Administration has thus far refused to cooperate with Congress:
“The White House’s stated policy of noncooperation with the impeachment inquiry weighs heavily in favor of disclosure,” Howell wrote. “Congress’s need to access grand jury material relevant to potentially impeachable conduct by a president is heightened when the executive branch willfully obstructs channels for accessing other relevant evidence.”
Howell’s ruling provides a major victory for House Democrats trying to impeach President Trump however they can. However, the confirmation of the legality of the impeachment inquiry is just that – a confirmation of its legality. Judge Howell’s ruling says nothing about whether or not the president should be impeached or ultimately convicted and removed from office.
There are many things to consider regarding the impeachment of presidents. Previous rulings and the precedents set in the cases of President Nixon and President Clinton, of course, play an enormous role. However, the Constitution of the United States stands above all other rulings and precedents. Thus, the Constitution is what both House Democrats and every citizen of this country should look to first when judging Trump’s actions.
The Constitution describes the impeachment process in Article I, Section III. Later, in Article II, Section IV, the Constitution states what is required for a civil officer to be impeached and removed from office: conviction of “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” As yet, there is no conclusive evidence that Trump has engaged in any such behavior.
So, while Judge Howell’s ruling is far from favorable for the president, Constitutionally-minded people of all political stripes should be happy when the courts make sound, Constitutionally-based decisions.
Besides, even if Howell’s ruling was not Constitutional, the simple assertion that the impeachment inquiry itself is legal will not weigh heavily in deciding whether or not Trump will be impeached. And, even if he is, it still must be the conviction of two-thirds of the Senate that he committed a high crime or misdemeanor in order for him to be removed from office.
Amidst the chaos of today’s political environment, it is vital to remember that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land. The House Democrats’ complaints can do no more to remove Trump from the office than the latter’s insults can do to prevent his removal if he is found guilty.
We, as citizens, must do all we can to remind our government’s officials – whether they are Democrats or Republicans – to look first to the Constitution when making important decisions about our country’s future.
Ruth Moreno is an opinion contributor to TheRichValdes.com