Philbin: ‘If It’s a Legitimate Inquiry in the National Interest, That’s the End of It’

By Melanie Arter | January 30, 2020 | 5:47pm EST
Patrick Philbin, who serves on President Donald Trump’s defense team
Patrick Philbin, who serves on President Donald Trump’s defense team

( - Patrick Philbin, who serves on President Donald Trump’s defense team, said Thursday that House managers believe that the investigation into possible corruption because of Vice President Joe Biden’s connection with Burisma was “baseless.”

Supreme Court Justice John Roberts read a question posed by Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa): “If a president asks for an investigation of possible corruption by a political rival under circumstances that objectively are in the national interest, should the president be impeached if a majority of the House believes the president did it for the wrong reason?”

House impeachment manager Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) answered first. He said that the investigation into Biden occurred only after the former vice president announced his candidacy for presidency and that Trump was only interested in the announcement of an investigation, not the investigation itself.

The president of course is entitled to conduct our foreign policy, is entitled to look into corruption in the United States or elsewhere. He’s entitled to use the Department of State or any other department for that purpose. He is not entitled to target an American citizen specifically, nor did he do so innocently here. It was only after Mr. Biden became an announced candidate for president that he suddenly decided the Ukraine ought to look into the Bidens, and he made it very clear that he wasn't interested in an investigation.

He was interested in an announcement of an investigation just so the Bidens could be smeared. So it's probably never suitable for a president to order an investigation of an American citizen. If he thinks there's general corruption and there’s an investigation ongoing, the Justice Department can certainly ask a foreign government for assistance in that investigation, but that wasn't done here. The president specifically targeted an individual with an obvious political motive, and I would simply say that that is so clear that there’s no question that this is a political motive against specific individuals. There are about 1.8 million companies in the Ukraine. The estimates are that half of them were corrupt. The president chose one. And that was Mr. Biden. 


Philbin said the president should not be impeached and that the question was addressing the issue of “mixed motives.”


Mr. Chief justice and senators, the short answer is no, the president should not be impeached, and I think the focus of the question is getting at to a situation of mixed motives, which has come up a couple times here. If the president is chief law enforcement officer, head of the executive branch, is in a situation where there is a legitimate investigation to be pursued, and he indicates that it should be pursued, is it possible that he should be impeached for that if there’s some dispute about his motives where there is a legitimate basis for that conduct, and the answer is no.

The House managers themselves in the way they framed their case have recognized this. In the House Judiciary Committee report, they repeatedly say that the standard they are going to have to meet, they’re going to have to show that these are sham investigations. These are baseless investigations that they’re alleging the president wanted to initiate, and if they had no legitimate, there was not any legitimate basis for pursuing the investigation. 

I'm pretty sure that's page five of the House Judiciary Committee report, and they use that standard, and they talked about there not being a scintilla of evidence about anything that anyone could reasonably want to ask about related to the Bidens and Burisma, because they know that they can't get into a mixed motive scenario, because if you have a legitimate basis for asking a question about something, if there is legitimate national interest there, it's totally unacceptable to start getting into the field of saying we’re going to impeach the president and remove him from office by putting him on the psychiatrist’s couch and trying to get inside his head and find out was it 48% this motive and 52 the other or did he have some other rationale? 

If it’s a legitimate inquiry in the national interest, that’s the end of it, and you can’t be saying that we’re going to impeach the president, remove him from office, decapitate the executive branch of the government, disrupt the functioning of the government of the country in an election year by trying to parse out subjective motives, and which percentage of the motive was this good motive or some other motive, something like that. If it's a legitimate inquiry in the national interest, if that's a possibility is there, if the national interest is there, that's the end of it. 


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