Rep. Houlahan: It’s time to start the impeachment inquiry

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

You may or may not have heard much about the testimony of former FBI Director and Special Counsel Robert Mueller this past week before Congress.

While many in the media seem fixated on the optics — Mueller wasn’t showy, and demurred on answering a number of questions — for those who paid attention (and read his 400-page plus report), it is increasingly evident that President Donald Trump may have committed a number of different felonies, ranging from campaign violations, obstruction of justice and perjury.

And yes, Trump’s supporters, will scream “No collusion, no obstruction” in a mantra, but the facts — and Mueller — say otherwise.

Mueller defines some 10 instances of likely obstruction of justice in his report, ranging from witness tampering to attempting to get former White House Counsel Don McGahn (no relation) to make false statements about being ordered to fire Mueller by Trump. Trump is cited on a Southern District of New York indictment of Michael Cohen as an unindicted principal in a scheme to illegally pay off Stephanie Clifford (AKA, porn star Stormy Daniels). Lastly, during Wednesday’s hearing, Mueller testified that Trump was dishonest in his written, sworn answers to the Special Counsel.

For any private citizen, any one of these multiple allegations would be enough to empanel a grand jury. Now, obviously, any criminal grand jury might decide there is not enough evidence to indict — but the process is an important piece in our legal system.

Legal scholars feel fairly strongly that a sitting president cannot be indicted — that such a legal proceeding is inappropriate when the Constitution specifies another option for high officials who commit misdeeds: impeachment.

Now let us be clear: impeachment is not removal. An impeachment inquiry is not the House of Representatives passing articles of impeachment. It is a first step to establish facts.

An impeachment inquiry is essentially a grand jury, made up of the Judiciary Committee of the House. That body would be empowered to investigate the allegations cited in the Mueller Report, as well as abuse of power allegations related to Trump’s refusal to allow any member of the administration to testify — ignoring Congressional subpoenas was one of the articles of impeachment prepared for President Richard Nixon before he resigned.

Formally beginning an inquiry would give Congress legal power to investigate and compel witness testimony under oath. It is the surest path to the truth, whatever it might be (keep in mind, the investigation could show no clear evidence of wrongdoing and clear Trump, to be fair).

Without this process, the House is basically saying that Trump is above the law — a view he seems to share, noting in comments this past week that Article 2 of the Constitution gives him power to do anything he wants (obviously not true, but nonetheless terrifying).

As of this writing, about 100 House members are publicly in favor of starting an impeachment inquiry — media reports suggest that privately, that number is higher.

Yet, Democrats in the House — led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi — are timid, noting political considerations, rather than the facts on the ground, arguing for a “go slow” approach.

This seems to be the approach of our U.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-6):

Mueller Testimony 7/24

Yesterday, Mr. Mueller came to testify before Congress. Let me be clear – this President is threatening our democracy. But I am committed to making sure we build an undeniable case to present to the Senate, and until then, we must trust the process. Hear more below.

Posted by U.S. Representative Chrissy Houlahan on Thursday, July 25, 2019

Respectfully, it’s hard at this point not to disagree. More than most folks, I get that Houlahan has to avoid the more extreme positions of some in her party, coming from what is clearly a swing district. I don’t expect — or in any way suggest — she should come out for the Green New Deal, free college for all or Medicare for All. With those issues, it is more likely that incremental progress on those fronts will be both more successful in terms of process and more palatable to the moderate voters of Chester County.

But determining whether the President of the United States has committed multiple felonies is not something that can been seen as incremental. It is black and white.

Either we are a nation of laws — laws no one is above — or we are not.

That is the stark choice members of Congress now face.

Yes, it is unlikely that the U.S. Senate, even if there were video documentation of Trump committing a crime, would vote to convict. But the people would know the truth and the truth is a very powerful thing, witness the events in Puerto Rico over the last few days.

Houlahan’s voice is YOUR voice. If you agree that no president should be above the law and that a formal inquiry is required, you must let her know.

Whatever the facts, we need to know them. If the allegations are false, we need to know — and obviously, if true.

The time has come.

***

Is that flop sweat coming from State Sen. Tom Killion (R-9)?

The incumbent state senator is seen by many political insiders as a “dead man walking” due to the massive shifts in voter performance in his southern Chester County/Delaware County district (much like State Rep. Steve Barrar’s decision to retire — knowing he likely could not win in 2020).

But, wow. I happened to get the weakest excuse for a push poll in, well, the history of ever the other day.

Not only could this guy not pronounce Killion’s last name — he gave up when I corrected him four times and swapped to “Sen. Tom” — the call trotted out his talking points for the upcoming election, which screamed “epic fail.” Said caller also struggled with the names of potential opponents, too.

Killion argued he was a big supporter of school funding, noting the extra $100 million Gov. Tom Wolf extracted from the GOP-controlled legislature, after years of flat or funding cuts (over the last generation, public school funding has dropped from nearly 50% to about 31% — and Killion was in the legislature for the last 15 years and a was a dependable vote to continue to slash funding).

He also argued he is a big supporter for extraction fees from fracking. Very 2011 of him. The problem is this: between the issues with the pipeline and a lot of concern about the safety of fracking, the entire concept is increasingly unpopular in the southeast, with many calling for an outright ban on fracking. And bragging about the $100 million in funding from the fees for infrastructure again underlines Killion’s failure to fight for badly needed road and bridge funding (ironically, more than twice that number has been sucked out of the road fund to pay for State Police coverage of towns without police).

The poller also claimed that Killion has support from environmental groups — but declined to name the groups. Somehow, I doubt Penn Environment is rolling out the red carpet for him.

He noted his support for pipeline safety. You know what makes a pipeline safe? Not having one poorly built, poorly maintained and run at excessive pressure with little or no state regulation. Killion continues to support the project, near as I can tell.

He then noted his support to ban puppy mills. Like anyone supports puppy mills. Weak.

Lastly, and this was political malpractice of the highest order, he noted he is “pro-life.” Just for the record, within the 9th District, polls suggest anywhere between 65 and 70% support for abortion rights — and with the greater likelihood of a federal overturn of Roe v. Wade, this becomes a front-and-center issue for many voters who might not have even turned out in the past.

The final evidence of flop sweat? A query as to whether you were so angry with Donald Trump that you would vote against all Republicans in 2020. I bet President will love to hear that’s being polled in his “beloved” Pennsylvania.

The idea that question would even be used here is a deep indication of how screwed Republicans are likely to be in the southeast in 2020.

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