Rule of Law

OP-ED: High Crimes

The In-Depth Case for Trump’s Impeachment

WHEREAS our nation’s Founders established a system of government with checks and balances to ensure the nation’s leaders would work to advance the public interest, not their own corrupt personal interest;

WHEREAS the Constitution gives Congress the impeachment power to preserve the integrity of this system of government;

WHEREAS whatever other abuses of office might also warrant President Donald Trump’s impeachment and removal from office, there is abundant evidence that for more than two years, he has been abusing his office in an effort to benefit himself, both financially and politically, to the peril of our national security and democracy;

RESOLVED that Donald Trump, President of the United States, is impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors, and that the following articles of impeachment be sent to the United States Senate:

Article I

In his conduct while President of the United States, Donald Trump, in violation of his constitutional oath to execute faithfully the Office of President of the United States, has abused the office of the presidency by employing the powers of the office to advance his own political interests, rather than the interests of the nation, in that:

  1. On July 25, 2019, on a call between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and President Trump, Zelensky sought the restoration of military aid that the Trump administration had previously ordered be withheld from Ukraine.
  2. In response to Zelensky’s request, Trump pressured Zelensky to do him “a favor though” and investigate the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump’s potential general election opponent in 2020.
  3. Trump also pressed Zelensky to launch an investigation into the thoroughly discredited conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, was responsible for interference in our 2016 election, and that a Democratic National Committee server was hidden somewhere in Ukraine.
  4. The evidence of this conduct is clear: President Trump’s own White House released a summary of the phone call with President Zelensky, revealing details about the damning exchange. President Trump himself, on camera at the United Nations, admitted that he had, in fact, withheld military aid to Ukraine. And President Trump himself, on camera and on the South Lawn of the White House, also called on China to start digging up damaging information on Biden and his son Hunter. (Indeed, just days later, Chinese officials provided at least some material on Biden to a Trump adviser.)
  5. White House acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney confirmed at a press conference that the aid was withheld in part to pressure Ukraine into investigating the DNC server conspiracy theory. Asked if there was a quid pro quo, Mulvaney responded, “We do that all the time with foreign policy.” (Mulvaney subsequently distanced himself from that answer in a written statement, one almost completely devoid of credibility, since his original comments had, after all, been filmed and recorded.)
  6. Further, as additionally revealed in text messages between the U.S. ambassador to the European Union (Gordon Sondland, also a major Trump donor), a now ex-special U.S. envoy to Ukraine (Kurt Volker, who has since resigned), and a career U.S. diplomat in Ukraine (William B. “Bill” Taylor), the “most imp[ortan]t” reason for Trump’s call with Zelensky was to get Zelensky to commit to engaging in that investigation of the Bidens. These exchanges also explicitly stipulate that a future visit to the White House for this foreign leader was to be contingent on him delivering on the promise to dig up dirt on Hunter Biden.
  7. And if all that weren’t enough, Ambassador Taylor, Ambassador Sondland, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman (an expert on Ukrainian affairs serving on the National Security Council staff), and former National Security Council staffer Tim Morrison all provided sworn testimony to the House of Representatives confirming a quid pro quo. The evidence they’ve given plainly shows that Trump required Ukrainian officials to investigate Biden and the Democrats in exchange for reinstated military aid to Ukraine (to continue fighting Russian aggression), while also serving as a precondition for a planned meeting between presidents Zelensky and Trump.In pursuing this quid pro quo arrangement with Zelensky, President Trump has been willing to use some of the most important powers of his office to manipulate the nation’s foreign policy in order to help his reelection prospects. These sorts of abuses were exactly the kind that the Framers feared could take root when they gave such significant powers to one individual—and they were the exact sorts of abuses that motivated them to ensure that a powerful chief executive could be removed through means other than the ballot box. George Mason asked, apropos of such abuses, whether “the man who has practi[c]ed corruption & by that means procured his appointment in the first instance, be suffered to escape punishment, by repeating his guilt.” William Richardson Davie worried that a president might be tempted to use any “efforts or means whatever to get himself re-elected.” (Remember that in the original Constitution, which Mason and Davie were debating when they made these remarks, presidents could be reelected repeatedly because there was no term limit on the presidency until the Twenty-Second Amendment was ratified in 1951.) President Trump has brazenly disregarded the Framers’ well-founded fear of foreign influence in our republic’s affairs to benefit his own political prospects, inviting such unlawful interference and distorting American democracy.

Wherefore, Donald Trump, by such conduct warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States.

Article II

In his conduct while President of the United States, Donald Trump, in violation of his constitutional oath to execute faithfully the Office of President of the United States, has abused the powers of his office to try to prevent his wrongdoing and abuses of the public trust from being discovered, in that:

  1. As detailed in Volume II of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Report, there were no fewer than twelve episodes in which substantial evidence indicates that Donald Trump attempted to obstruct justice by interfering in Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s efforts to coordinate with Russian officials and Russian government-connected individuals to influence the 2016 campaign. Among these instances were President Trump’s attempts to fire the special counsel, his improper attempts to narrow the investigation, and his efforts to influence Paul Manafort not to cooperate with the special counsel’s investigation.
  2. For example, on or about June 17, 2017, Donald Trump called Donald McGahn, then-White House Counsel, at home from Camp David, telling McGahn something along the lines of, “You gotta do this. You gotta call Rod [Rosenstein, the then-Deputy Attorney General supervising Mueller],” to say that Mueller had conflicts of interest that precluded him from serving as special counsel. (To his credit, McGahn refused, comparing Trump’s demand to the commission of another Saturday Night Massacre—the infamous series of events that resulted in Richard Nixon having Archibald Cox, the independent special prosecutor during the Watergate investigation, dismissed.)
  3. On or about June 17, 2017, Trump called McGahn a second time—but this time with a direct order. “Call Rod, tell Rod that Mueller has conflicts and can’t be the Special Counsel,” Trump said. “Mueller has to go” and “Call me back when you do it,” Trump commanded.
  4. Shortly after the first two calls, Trump called McGahn demanding, “[H]ave you done it?” McGahn hadn’t done it, but according to the Mueller Report, McGahn was about to resign when other White House colleagues talked him out of it.
  5. In addition to those efforts to obstruct Mueller’s investigation, Trump has also engaged in unprecedented efforts to obstruct the House’s impeachment inquiry—abusing executive power to subvert a constitutional process the nation’s Founders intended as a check on abuses of executive power. At the same time that he disparages the very legitimacy of the House’s exercise of its constitutional authority to conduct this impeachment inquiry, Trump has refused to “participate” in it in any way, and he has attempted to intimidate potential witnesses into refusing to participate as well.

In engaging in this conduct and in committing the other trespasses thoroughly described in Special Counsel Mueller’s Report, Donald Trump has incontrovertibly demonstrated that he has no qualms about using the powers of his office to benefit himself rather than the nation, and considers himself above the law. Worried about what Mueller’s investigation would uncover, the President attempted to impede the special counsel’s work, and sought to prevent the American people from learning what Mueller might uncover. And now that the Ukraine scandal is driving the impeachment inquiry, Trump has once more reverted to his obstruction playbook, attempting to prevent the House from learning the full scope of his potentially impeachable offenses by refusing to cooperate in any way with the House’s investigation.

Wherefore, Donald Trump, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States.

Article III

In his conduct while President of the United States, Donald Trump, in violation of his constitutional oath to execute faithfully the Office of President of the United States, has been personally enriching himself in violation of the Foreign Emoluments Clause, in that:

  1. The Foreign Emoluments Clause states that no person holding an “Office of Profit or Trust” under the United States—which includes the President—may “without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”
  2. President Trump retains an ownership interest in the Trump Organization, and his annual financial disclosure forms confirm his continuing ownership interest in these properties. This means that every time the Trump Organization accepts benefits from foreign governments, the President is reaping those gains in violation of the Clause.
  3. Because President Trump has been accepting such benefits in secret without first obtaining Congress’s consent as the Constitution requires, it is impossible to know the full scope of his violations of the Clause. Nonetheless, public reporting—and indeed admissions by the President and his own privately held businesses—make clear that Donald Trump has repeatedly and brazenly violated the Foreign Emoluments Clause.
  4. The Trump Organization itself has acknowledged that it is receiving such payments from foreign governments and has supposedly established a “voluntary procedure by which [it] identifies and donates to the U.S. Treasury profits from foreign government patronage at its hotels and similar businesses during President Trump’s tenure in office.” Pursuant to this policy, the Trump Organization has made payments to the U.S. Treasury of $151,470 and $191,538 in 2018 and 2019, respectively. (It’s important to note, however, that these “voluntary donations” do not begin to redress Trump’s violations of the Foreign Emoluments Clause, which imposes an absolute prohibition on his acceptance of foreign government benefits unless Congress has first consented. Moreover, there is no reason to think that these amounts come close to the total sum of foreign government benefits he has accepted.)|
  5. Public reporting has also indicated that China’s trademark office provisionally approved more than three dozen Trump trademarks early in the President’s term; records of at least some of those foreign trademarks are publicly available.

In accepting these benefits and others without prior congressional consent, the President has been repeatedly violating the Foreign Emoluments Clause, the Constitution’s preeminent bulwark against the foreign corruption of the nation’s leaders. Indeed, as the clock on the President’s term has been ticking without any meaningful accountability for Trump’s repeated violations of the Clause, he has become even more brazen in his willingness to try to use his office for personal gain. In October 2019, for example, he was emboldened to announce that he was planning to host the next G-7 Summit at Trump National Doral Miami—which would have produced violations of the Clause so flagrant that even Trump’s Republican advisers eventually persuaded him to abandon the effort.

And in engaging in this conduct, the President confronts the American people with the frightening question of whether the President acts in his own financial interest rather than the nation’s interest when he appears on the world stage and makes critical foreign policy and national security decisions. As national security scholars have recognized in filings in various lawsuits against President Trump for his violations of the Clauses (including one in which we are counsel to the plaintiffs), “financial entanglements” between foreign governments and the President’s businesses “could leave vulnerable even the most important national security and foreign policy interests of the United States.”

  1. For example, on October 13, 2019, Donald Trump announced that he was withdrawing from northern Syria the U.S. troops who had been assisting Kurdish forces. Significantly, the Kurdish military—which has bravely allied itself with the United States time and again over the decades—has been the tip of the spear in fighting ISIS, and it was foreseeable that the withdrawal of American troops would lead to an attack on the Kurds by Turkey.
  2. As David E. Sanger wrote in The New York Times, “Rarely has a presidential decision resulted so immediately in what his own party leaders have described as disastrous consequences for American allies and interests.”
  3. While it is impossible to know with certainty what motivated Trump’s decision, the fact that he has business interests in Turkey—indeed, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was a guest at the opening of the Trump Towers Istanbul—raises the clear, and constitutionally perilous, possibility that President Trump’s Syria withdrawal may have been motivated by his financial self-interest, not the national interest.
  4. Notably, this is but one of many potential instances in which Trump’s business interests could be influencing his foreign policy decisions. National security scholars provide other examples in their amicus brief accompanying pending Emoluments litigation: “a nation that plays a central role in the balance of power in the Middle East, one of the most fraught regions for U.S. national security in the world [could] curry favor with the President by purchasing real estate from one of his companies”; “a rising superpower with whom the U.S. is engaged in a wide range of sensitive security and trade relations” could “pursue an advantage by granting intellectual property benefits to the President”; and “one of the largest economies in Latin America, a region with critical interests for the U.S. in areas ranging from oil to trade to immigration” could “approve a regulatory deal that personally enriches the President.” This is, as they explain at length, a deeply dangerous set of conditions because our nation’s “security decisions should be based on national interest, not private gain; the venues for foreign policy and national security decision making should be embassies and diplomatic meetings, not corporate board rooms and private resorts; the means should be diplomatic engagement, not unreported financial relationships.”
  5. Whether President Trump has yet actually made a foreign policy decision based on his interest in how it might affect his businesses’ bottom line is immaterial. He has been violating the Constitution, depriving the American people of assurance that when he makes critical foreign policy and national security decisions, he is doing so with undivided loyalty.

Wherefore, Donald Trump, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States.


In all of this, Donald Trump, by his conduct, has been undermining the integrity of his office, has brought disrepute on the presidency, has betrayed his trust as President and has acted in a manner subversive of the rule of law and justice, to the manifest injury of the people of the United States and our democracy. When the Framers drafted our enduring Constitution, they created a president, not a king. They gave this new president significant new powers that had not been centralized in a single person under our previous governing charter, the Articles of Confederation—but crucially, they also gave Congress the power to remove that new president if he dangerously abused those powers and used them for private gain. The power of impeachment should not, of course, be exercised lightly; it is an extreme remedy that removes from office our highest-ranking elected official and entails profound costs for the nation. But President Trump has repeatedly made clear that he views the presidency as a tool to benefit himself, rather than the American people, and is willing to sell out American security and democracy in the process. The totality of his abuses—which continue coming to light with stunning regularity—establish a clear-cut case for his impeachment.

Our system of constitutional democracy is being tested, with President Trump apparently intent on stretching it beyond a breaking point. With the nation facing this dire constitutional crisis, the somber remedy of impeachment, enshrined in our founding charter, is warranted.