One of President Trump’s most frequent and unexpected detractors on Twitter has been the conservative Republican attorney George Conway, the husband of the president’s senior White House advisor Kellyanne Conway.
Now the anti-Trump Conway has joined up with Neil Katyal, the former acting Solicitor General of the Obama administration, to write an op-ed for The Washington Post slamming the president’s claims of virtually unlimited power — claims contained in his court filings that are fighting congressional efforts to investigate his administration — and explaining why beginning impeachment proceedings is imperative as a result of those claims.
The two lawyers begin their op-ed with a reframing of the primary issue surrounding the calls for Trump’s impeachment away from any crimes he potentially committed and towards his basic suitability for the office under the “defining principles of our Constitution” and his abuses of power.
They then accuse the president of providing “direct evidence of his contempt toward the most foundational precept of our democracy — that no person, not even the president, is above the law” through the brief he filed in his case where he is trying to evade the disclosure of documents subpoenaed by congressional committees.
Calling Trump’s legal position “spectacularly anti-constitutional,” Conway and Katyal deride the president’s claim that “Congress cannot investigate the president, except possibly in impeachment proceedings” and call his dubious legal argument “nothing if not an invitation to commencing impeachment proceedings that, for reasons set out in the Mueller report, should have already commenced.”
They arrive at this conclusion after Trump attempts to claim in his brief that Congress is “trying to prove that the President broke the law” and that Congress is forbidden from doing so since it’s “an exercise of law enforcement authority that the Constitution reserves to the executive branch.”
The two legal minds writing the op-ed then deftly counter that flawed argument with plenty of examples that prove its falsity.
“But in fact, Congress investigates lawbreaking, and potential lawbreaking, all the time. Mobsters, fraudsters, government employees, small companies, big companies — like it or not, all types of people and businesses get subpoenaed from time to time, so that Congress can figure out whether current laws are effective, whether new laws are needed, whether sufficient governmental resources are being devoted to the task, whether more disclosure to the government or the public is required, or greater penalties, and so on,” they write.
Katyal and Conway remind their readers what the crafters of the Constitution had in mind when they set up a system of government featuring three co-equal branches.
“England’s King George III was above the law, but the founders of our republic wanted a system that would divide power and have the branches check each other. The idea that only the president can investigate the president is an argument for autocrats, not Americans,” they remind us.
“Trump says “trust me,” but that was exactly the argument the founders rebelled against. They knew that public officials would not always be angels, and that power had to be checked and dispersed. As James Madison put it in Federalist No. 51, ‘It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government’,” they continue.
For these reasons — and the president’s continued refusal to honor congressional subpoenas — the two patriotic barristers view Trump’s legal brief as “an invitation to commence impeachment proceedings” and end their op-ed thusly:
“For the past three decades, many constitutional law classes have begun with Nixon’s breathtaking statement to David Frost in May 1977: “Well, when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.” Generations of students have gasped, shocked that a former president could say such a thing. This time, it’s not a former president, but a sitting one. Every principle behind the rule of law requires the commencement of a process now to make this president a former one.”
When a conservative Republican and an Obama Democratic appointee can come together with a strong constitutional argument for Trump’s impeachment, it’s time for the Democratically controlled House of Representatives to heed their call.
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