U.S. President Donald Trump, in his latest bucking of constitutional norms, is threatening to proactively take his case to the Supreme Court if the House of Representatives considers impeaching him.
“If the partisan Dems ever try to impeach, I would first head to the Supreme Court,” Trump announced Wednesday on Twitter.
“Not only are there no ‘High Crimes and Misdemeanors,’ there are no Crimes by me at all,” the president stated in a pair of tweets in his latest comments about the special counsel’s report on the two-year investigation into whether there was collusion between Trump’s 2016 election campaign and Russia.
Since the redacted report’s release, Democrats, who control the House, have been debating whether to commence impeachment proceedings against the president.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is urging caution, although some members of her party worry Democrats will pay a political price with liberal voters if they do not begin impeachment.
Roles of House, Senate, Supreme Court
Trump’s threat to approach the Supreme Court puzzles three constitutional scholars, contacted Wednesday by VOA, who do not see the high court intervening.
“Giving the Supreme Court a role in the impeachment process was considered but deliberately discarded by the framers [of the U.S. Constitution] in 1787,” Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe told VOA. “The only [Supreme Court] justice who has a role is the chief justice, who presides at the impeachment trial of the president.”
Robert Pushaw, a law professor at Pepperdine University, agrees.
“The Supreme Court has held — correctly, in my view — that impeachment is a political question committed by the Constitution to Congress, not a ‘justiciable’ legal issue for courts. Therefore, any such request by President Trump would almost certainly be rejected,” he said.
“The Constitution says that the House shall have the sole power of impeachment, and has authority to determine its own rules of proceeding. On its face, that appears to shut out the courts,” Heritage Foundation senior legal fellow Thomas Jipping, a former chief counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee, told VOA. “That said, House members all have an obligation to ensure that such constitutional responsibilities are not hijacked for partisan political purposes.”
The Supreme Court also ruled in 1993 that courts would have no role in the impeachment process.
After any such proceeding in the House, under the law, the Senate, which is controlled by Trump’s Republican Party, would be responsible for determining whether to convict the president.
Only twice in American history has the Senate voted on whether to convict a president. Both Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1999 were acquitted on all charges.
‘Fighting all the subpoenas’
Trump, since launching his presidential campaign in 2015 as a political novice, has broken with convention, both in rhetoric and action — delighting his supporters and infuriating detractors.
“Whether currently indictable or not, it is clear that the president has, at a minimum, engaged in highly unethical and unscrupulous behavior which does not bring honor to the office he holds,” Pelosi said in a letter to her party colleagues Monday.
Trump is clearly indicating his administration will defy requests from Democratic lawmakers for information and testimony.
“They want to know every deal I’ve ever done,” Trump told reporters Wednesday on the White House South Lawn, before he boarded the Marine One helicopter. “We’re fighting all the subpoenas.”
The president accused opposition party lawmakers of using their investigations as a strategy for next year’s presidential election.
The House Judiciary Committee has issued a subpoena for former White House counsel Don McGahn, while the House Oversight Committee is moving to hold former White House personnel security director Carl Kline in contempt for failing to appear at a hearing.
Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings said in a statement Tuesday, “it appears that the President believes that the Constitution does not apply to his White House, that he may order officials at will to violate their legal obligation, and that he may obstruct attempts by Congress to conduct oversight.”
A second demand from House Democrats for Trump’s tax returns spanning a six-year period has been defied by the Treasury Department.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin sent a letter Tuesday to the House Ways and Means Committee saying he would give a final response on May 6, noting that the request raises “serious constitutional questions” and his department is continuing to consult with the Justice Department.