Ranking Member Collins Op-Ed: Pelosi Knows Impeachment Is Weak
WASHINGTON—The following column by Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, January 21, 2020.
Pelosi Knows Impeachment Is Weak
Follow the speaker’s own advice: reject a partisan and unconvincing case against the president.
Compelling, overwhelming and bipartisan: These are the criteria Speaker Nancy Pelosi drew as she publicly announced last March that she wouldn’t support impeachment. Back then she claimed impeaching the president with anything less would be divisive and irresponsible. Ten months later, however, Mrs. Pelosi has transmitted two articles of impeachment that fail to meet any of her criteria, let alone those of the Founders.
As the Senate considers how to fulfill its constitutional role, Mrs. Pelosi’s words from March ring true. An impeachment supported by only one party is a failure. Refusing to proceed in a bipartisan manner reveals the Democrats’ lack of thoroughness and seriousness and, above all, their lack of compelling evidence. This impeachment is antithetical to the letter and spirit of the Constitution and, as the speaker would have agreed until recently, deeply damaging to the country.
Whether Democrats accept it or not, the House’s primary role in this matter is now complete. One hundred senators now hold the president’s fate. They should refuse to accept the House Democrats’ sham process. The articles of impeachment before the Senate warrant not only acquittal of the president, but also the Senate’s absolute rejection of the dangerous precedent that has already been set.
Since the day Donald Trump was elected, House Democrats have sought to trigger the nuclear option by removing a duly elected president from office, an action never completed in U.S. history. Democrats claim Mr. Trump represents a continuing threat to American democracy. In the name of urgency, Democrats ram-rodded their impeachment case through the House. Yet for nearly a month, Mrs. Pelosi wouldn’t stand behind her own caucus. She refused to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate for trial, belying Democrats’ supposed fear of an imminent threat. She waited because she knew House Democrats ran a sham process and have no substantive case to pass on to the Senate.
The House’s duty in impeachment is to build the case for removal by questioning witnesses and gathering evidence. But House Democrats were unwilling to spend the time to conduct a thorough and fair investigation. The result is a case, as liberal law professor Jonathan Turley testified, with “one of the thinnest records to ever go forward on impeachment.”
House Republicans repeatedly cautioned our Democratic colleagues that the impeachment process they formulated in their authorizing resolution was unfair and ineffective. Previous impeachments allowed presidents to have their lawyers question witnesses. Take David Kendall’s cross-examination of independent counsel Kenneth Starr during the impeachment of President Clinton. What similar opportunities were Mr. Trump and his team afforded? Only the chance to question liberal law professors and Democratic donors who doubled as committee Democrats’ temporary consultants.
House Republicans cautioned that the Judiciary Committee was the appropriate venue—and committee of precedent—for substantive impeachment hearings. During both the Nixon and Clinton impeachment proceedings, the deliberative nature of the proceedings allowed for a true and compelling story to emerge. The only question for the committee was whether impeachment was the proper legal remedy. The facts were presented, and members on both sides of the aisle couldn’t deny the evidence. By contrast, during this impeachment the House Intelligence Committee released a report—with evidence collected primarily behind closed doors—and handed it off to the Judiciary Committee to cherry-pick facts on which to base its legal conclusions.
House Republicans cautioned that impeachment merits serious investigation. The Nixon and Clinton impeachment efforts were preceded by thorough independent investigations that took months, even years. The number of days between the House’s authorization of the inquiry to the passage of articles of impeachment against Mr. Trump? Forty-eight—and the president was invited to engage in the process for nine of those days, during which only two hearings were held. By that point, the fix was in.
House Republicans cautioned that impeachment should be conducted with at least some semblance of objectivity. The Nixon and Clinton investigations were conducted by counsels independent from Congress, but this time around House Democrats empowered Rep. Adam Schiff—best known for his empty claim of discovering “more than circumstantial evidence” of Russian collusion. He assumed the role of lead prosecutor and did what he does best: overpromise and under-deliver, while attempting to distract the American people with boldfaced lies.
Throughout this sham impeachment, Democrats refused House Republicans’ calls to follow precedent by slowing down, seeking redress in the courts and permitting the president’s counsel to participate in a meaningful way. One thing remained clear: House Democrats were fixated on a self-imposed deadline—a clock and a calendar—and nothing could get in their way. Not even the facts.
The Senate faces a historic decision that will set the standard for impeachment for generations to come. The case House Democrats built in support of their impeachment articles is unconvincing and unsupported by evidence. The process by which they built that case was demonstrably unjust. There is only one path that will uphold the Founders’ vision and safeguard the will of the American people: Reject the temptation of partisan impeachment and expeditiously acquit the president.