WASHINGTON, D.C., March 21, 2019 – In the latest edition of Yeomans Work, AFJ Senior Justice Fellow Bill Yeomans writes that Democratic leaders in the House have batted away the idea of impeaching President Trump, saying the House has pressing legislation to pass and that House committees will conduct oversight investigations that will expose misdeeds of the Trump administration.
But a solution focused on House investigations may prove inadequate to get to the bottom of the matter, says Yeomans, noting that “the limits of that approach became glaringly obvious this week when the White House made clear it would stonewall requests for documents.” He points out that the House Judiciary Committee document requests failed to produce a single document or witness in response, while administration sources confirmed that the White House planned to resist almost all requests.
There are other obstacles as well. Subpoenas may be ignored by individuals who are determined to push back. Civil litigation to compel those individuals to appear or provide information could drag on until the administration has left office. And claims of executive privilege may be invoked to resist disclosure of information — with the possible exception, Yeomans notes significantly, of an inquiry that is focused on impeachment: “The needs of a specialized and focused impeachment inquiry…provide a justification at least as compelling as a criminal investigation and should defeat the [executive] privilege,” he writes.
The bottom line? Congress can and should investigate, but garden-variety investigations may be successfully stonewalled by Trump and his allies. “The House would greatly increase its likelihood of prevailing in those disputes, and of exposing more quickly the misdeeds of the Trump administration, if it were conducting an impeachment inquiry,” Yeomans concludes.
Yeomans Work focuses on the challenges to the justice system in the era of Trump. Bill Yeomans is available for media interviews. Contact Laurie Kinney, Communications Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-464-7367.