By Steve Geimann
WASHINGTON - The House Judiciary Committee defended the process to build a case for impeachment against Donald Trump, dismissing the president's complaint about a lack of firsthand evidence and his claim to exert sweeping powers.
The 55-page majority staff report reviews the historical record on impeachment as envisioned by the drafters of the U.S. Constitution, which was the subject of a hearing this week.
The report also tackles "six falsehoods" about the process, including the lack of firsthand evidence, the lack of a role for Trump's lawyers in the House proceeding, and Trump's claim that he can "do whatever I want."
"The Constitution does not prescribe rules of evidence for impeachment proceedings," the Democratic staff said in the report released Saturday. "The House is constitutionally authorized to consider any evidence that it believes may illuminate the issues before it."
Judiciary Committee Democrats are working this weekend, and by Thursday could begin to draft the articles of impeachment that will shape debate in a Senate trial. The next formal step is a hearing on Monday where counsels for both parties on the Intelligence and Judiciary committees will lay out the findings of the investigations.
Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, said the current inquiry has raised "several issues of constitutional law" not considered during the Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton cases.
"The framers worst nightmare is what we are facing in this very moment," Nadler said in a statement releasing the report. "President Trump abused his power, betrayed our national security, and corrupted our elections, all for personal gain. The Constitution details only one remedy for this misconduct: impeachment."
The report dismissed Republican arguments that the president's actions weren't impeachable because the aid approved by Congress for Ukraine - a major focus of the impeachment inquiry - eventually was released, and an investigation Trump sought into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son never began. "Attempted presidential wrongdoing can be impeachable," it said.
The report also rejected Trump's assertion, made on July 23 in front of a group of students, that his actions were protected by a clause in the Constitution that outlines the powers of the president.
"This claim is wrong, and profoundly so, because our Constitution rejects pretensions to monarchy and binds Presidents with law," according to the report. "That is true even of powers vested exclusively in the chief executive."
The report said the factual record so far is "formidable" with "highly reliable" evidence, even without additional witnesses sought by the House.
"It goes without saying, however, that the record might be more expansive if the House had full access to the documents and testimony it has lawfully subpoenaed from government officials," according to the report. "The reason the House lacks such access is an unprecedented decision by President Trump to order a total blockade of the House impeachment inquiry."
The report notes that when prosecutors present evidence to a grand jury in a criminal case, the person under investigation has no right to question witnesses before charges are filed. A president's right to question evidence is "properly secured at trial in the Senate, where he may be afforded an opportunity to present an evidentiary defense and test the strength of the House's case," the report said.
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