Democrats Drop Bribery and Other Crimes In Favor Of A Two-Article Impeachment

by | Dec 10, 2019


The Democratic leadership announced today that it has decided that President Donald Trump will be accused of just two articles of impeachment: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. I commend the Committee in dropping the previous claims of bribery, extortion, campaign finance and obstruction of justice. While my fellow witnesses made good-faith arguments for those articles, my testimony primarily focused on the legal and constitutional flaws in claiming those criminal acts. I also commend the Committee in not following the suggested course of many in ignoring the legal definitions of those crimes to claim an impeachable offense. Finally, Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler is correct as he stated yesterday that I repeatedly stated that President Donald Trump could be impeached for a non-criminal act like abuse of power if it could be proven. I also said that he could be impeached for obstruction of Congress, if proven. However, this record falls considerably short of the record needed to support such claims for a submission to the Senate.

I also testified against adding claims from the Mueller investigation. I have long been critical of claims that obstruction of justice, campaign finance violations and other claimed “proven” offenses by members. The Committee wisely is not going forward with such articles, though it might reference obstruction history.

That leaves the problem that was the focus of my testimony: speed. I do not believe that Chairman Nadler is the one pushing for this rocket docket of impeachment. The problem with these two claims is not their constitutional basis but their evidentiary record. This is the thinnest record created in the shortest time of any modern presidential impeachment. Rather than wait and build a viable case, the Democrats are moving to submit an incomplete and undeveloped record to the Senate. The committees have burned three months where they could have secured judicial review and at least one decision on the missing witnesses. It took two months between the ruling of Judge Sirica in the Nixon case and the final ruling of the Supreme Court that led to Nixon’s resignation.

Nevertheless, while I believe this impeachment is premature and half-formed, I am relieved that the House Judiciary Committee did not toss out the legal definitions of crimes for acts like bribery, extortion, campaign finance, and other crimes declared established by some experts.

There is a reason by President Donald Trump encouraged Democrats to stick to its “impeach by Christmas” pledge. This is the case that Trump would want: one-sided and undeveloped. It is a case that will not withstand Senate scrutiny.

Here is my testimony that includes sections on Obstruction and Abuse of Power.

Reprinted with permission from


  • Jonathan Turley

    Professor Jonathan Turley is a nationally recognized legal scholar who has written extensively in areas ranging from constitutional law to legal theory to tort law. He has written over three dozen academic articles that have appeared in a variety of leading law journals at Cornell, Duke, Georgetown, Harvard, Northwestern, University of Chicago, and other schools.

    View all posts