Cruz: Democrats Lowering the Bar for Impeaching Presidents

By Patrick Goodenough | December 18, 2019 | 4:20am EST
Sen. Ted Cruz and President Trump in Houston in Oct. 2018. (Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)
Sen. Ted Cruz and President Trump in Houston in Oct. 2018. (Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

( – If the standard set by Democrats in their push to impeach President Trump on the “obstruction of Congress” charge holds, then “every president going forward will be impeached whenever the House is in [the hands of] the opposing party,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) argued on Tuesday.

Speaking at the Heritage Foundation on the eve of the House debate and vote on two articles of impeachment, Cruz highlighted the fact that neither charge leveled against the president alleges criminal conduct.

As such, Trump could become “the first president in history who is impeached without an article claiming a criminal violation.”

Trump stands accused of abusing the power of his office in his dealings with Ukraine, and of obstructing Congress in its investigation into the matter.

Cruz said there was no federal statute making “abuse of power” a criminal offense. He noted that the House Democrats had retreated from almost everything they first accused the president of, including “bribery.”

“They couldn’t prove their case,” he said.

The U.S. Constitution states that a president can be removed from office for “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” When the House voted to impeach President Clinton in 1998, “abuse of power” was one of the articles of impeachment, but it failed. Clinton was impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice.

Cruz – a lawyer who has argued nine cases before the Supreme Court, most as solicitor general of Texas – contended that the entire current process is a political one.

“They don’t like the job Donald Trump is doing as president. They disagree with his policies, they disagree with just about everything about him,” he said. “Well you know, look, there is a remedy. If you disagree with someone politically, if you disagree with someone’s policies, the remedy that the Constitution sets up are called elections.”

“We have them every four years, and you go to the American people and you make your case. And the Democrats are entirely entitled to make the case to the American people that they disagree with his policies or his politics or anything else,” he said.

“But they’re not entitled to abuse the Constitution’s impeachment proceedings by impeaching him with no allegations of a crime, and no facts or evidence that support that he’s committed an impeachable offense.”

‘Jaw-droppingly weak’

With regard to the second article of impeachment – obstruction of Congress – Cruz was even more scathing, calling it “a jaw-droppingly weak article.”

Cruz said that while “obstruction of justice” is a crime, the Democrats couldn’t prove that against Trump.

Instead, they are alleging obstruction of Congress – “and the predicate for that is the White House claimed legal privileges for administration employees.”

Cruz raised the case of former National Security Advisor John Bolton. When asked to testify before the House inquiry, he instead sought a district court ruling on whether he should comply with the House request, or comply with the White House instruction not to testify, based on executive privilege.

Former National Security Adviser John Bolton with President Trump at the White House.. (Photo by Oliver Contreras-Pool/Getty Images)
Former National Security Adviser John Bolton with President Trump at the White House.. (Photo by Oliver Contreras-Pool/Getty Images)

But the House Democrats, rather than await the judge’s ruling, “said ‘never mind’ and they went away. They didn’t even subpoena John Bolton.”

By contrast, he said, in the case of President Nixon the House went to court to enforce subpoenas. The Nixon White House asserted executive privilege, and the case went up to the Supreme Court. The court ordered the White House to hand over incriminating Oval Office tape recordings. Nixon resigned days later.

Had Nixon instead defied the Supreme Court order, Cruz said, “you might well be able to put forward an impeachable count of ‘obstruction of Congress.’”

“But they haven’t done that,” he said of the Democrats in the current situation. “They’ve simply said the mere fact that you assert a privilege, is itself impeachable.”

“By the way, if that is impeachable conduct, all 45 presidents we’ve had in the United States have committed impeachable conduct. It is an absurd standard to say asserting a privilege is a ‘High Crime and Misdemeanor.’”

“One of the scary thing about this standard – what the House Democrats are doing is they’re just treating impeachment as a political weapon.

“Impeachment was meant to be an extraordinary remedy. It was not simply meant to be a tool for one party to attack the other party. And if this becomes the standard, every president going forward will be impeached whenever the House is in [the hands of] the opposing party.”

Senate trial could last 2-6 weeks

Looking beyond Wednesday’s likely vote to impeach, Cruz said he would expect a Senate trial to begin in early January, and to “last anywhere from two to six weeks.”

The House managers and White House would file briefs, the Chief Justice will swear in all 100 senators as jurors, and the House managers and White House teams will present their case.

He pointed out that senators are not permitted to speak in open session.

“As much fun as it may be to go 15 rounds with [Sen.] Elizabeth Warren in the trial – which I would be more than happy to do – under Senate rules that can only happen in closed session, which means when the TV cameras are off.”

Cruz said senators are required to be present – on pain of imprisonment – and are also not allowed to have electronic devices, a prohibition which he joked “is liable to hospitalize half of us.”


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