It’s as if nothing happened. Special counsel Robert Mueller and the Justice Department found no wrongdoing by President Trump, so House Democrats stepped up their calls for impeachment. Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler issued a subpoena for millions of pages of evidence gathered by Mr. Mueller, including grand-jury material, which is secret under the law. When the department didn’t comply, Democrats said there was a “constitutional crisis,” and the committee voted to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt.
Yet if there is a constitutional crisis, its source is the Democrats. They are abusing the powers of investigation and impeachment in an illegitimate effort to unseat a president they despise.
Congressional Democrats claim they have the power to investigate the president to conduct “oversight” and hold him “accountable.” That elides an important constitutional distinction. As the Supreme Court said in Watkins v. U.S. (1957), Congress may “inquire into and publicize corruption, maladministration or inefficiency in agencies of the Government.” Executive departments and agencies are created by Congress and therefore accountable to it. The president, by contrast, is not a creature of lawmakers. He is Congress’s coequal, accountable to Congress only via impeachment.
To commence impeachment, the House has a constitutional obligation to articulate clear evidence of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” A two-year Justice Department investigation did not find that Mr. Trump had committed crimes. On the Russian collusion issue, Mr. Mueller reported that his investigation “did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
Regarding obstruction of justice, Mr. Mueller “did not draw ultimate conclusions about the President’s conduct,” so the duty to do so fell on his boss, Mr. Barr—who, with senior Justice Department officials, concluded that the evidence was “not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.”
House Democrats claim they’re entitled to see Mr. Mueller’s underlying materials. But Congress may not use its subpoena power for a prosecutorial do-over. . . . Turnover of prosecutorial materials would allow Congress to hide behind the fact-finding and legal determinations of the other branches, thereby diminishing its own political accountability. Because the nation’s law-enforcement officials have concluded Mr. Trump has not committed any crimes, Democratic representatives cannot legitimately draft articles of impeachment accusing him of criminal conduct involving the same offenses of which he was cleared by the Mueller investigation.
The desire to get rid of Trump through non-electoral means, when a Presidential election looms next year, is literally insane. In the words of Bill Barr:
“One of the ironies today is that people are saying it is President Trump who is shredding our institutions. I really see no evidence of that. From my perspective, the idea of ‘resisting’ a Democratically elected president and basically throwing everything at him, and really changing the norms on the grounds that we have to stop this president. That’s where the shredding of our norms and institutions is occurring.”
Related: “Once again, people who consider Donald Trump too impulsive, emotional, and vindictive to be President are instead revealing those qualities in themselves, and in the institutions they control and represent. So far, the defining feature of the Trump presidency has been the exposure of how hollow our institutions have become. In trying to delegitimize him, they demonstrate their own illegitimacy.”