Two members of Hawaii’s congressional delegation say it’s still not time to begin impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump, despite a growing wave of Democrats calling for that.
Sen. Brian Schatz talked at a town hall Tuesday night in Honolulu, while Rep. Ed Case met with the Civil Beat Editorial Board on Wednesday morning.
In between those events, Special Counsel Robert Mueller made his first public comments in Washington, D.C., since completing his report on possible collusion with Russia during the 2016 election, saying while his investigation did not charge Trump with obstruction of justice, it also did not exonerate the president.
Rep. Ed Case: “Our Constitution requires us to be very deliberative about this.”
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Case said after Mueller’s statements that Congress must first focus on acquiring the complete, unredacted report.
“I think every member of Congress takes impeachment extremely seriously,” Case said. “… Before we address the question of whether to formally commit to impeachment proceedings, we need to issue the responsible and appropriate subpoenas if the information is not provided voluntarily.”
Case said the courts must decide whether lawmakers’ exercise of subpoena power over members of the executive branch who have refused to testify before congressional committees was appropriate.
“If at the end of the day we have that information, we’ve heard from everybody, it appears clear that there was obstruction of justice, I’m not at all shy about commencing impeachment,” Case said. “But I think that our Constitution requires us to be very deliberative about this.”
Case said that it was important not to ignore the Mueller report’s “incredibly serious” findings that the Russian government systematically tried to interfere with the 2016 election.
“All of the focus is on the second half of that report, which is potential obstruction of justice by the president,” he said. “… But the Russian interference is massive. And we definitely need oversight there.”
Sen. Brian Schatz takes questions during a town hall meeting in Honolulu on Tuesday. Information outside the Mueller report may hold the key to whether the president should be impeached, Schatz said.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Schatz met with constituents during a town hall meeting at Washington Middle School before Mueller’s public statements. The senator could not be reached for further comment Wednesday.
Schatz said that lawmakers should not be constrained to the findings of the Mueller report, as offenses such as abuse of power that do not necessarily violate statutory law could still be grounds for impeachment.
“Let’s suppose that the president started using his pardon authority to interfere with a House process,” Schatz said. “That would be squarely within the president’s constitutional authority, and it would also be impeachable. And so I think we need to understand that the universe of impeachable offenses is not contained in that document.”
Noting some members of Congress have pushed for Mueller to testify before them, Schatz said, “If we want to hear from Robert Mueller, I do not think that will be a game changer.”
Schatz said Trump’s business dealings with foreign countries such as Russia may violate the Constitution’s emoluments clause, which states that federal officials may not accept gifts or payments from foreign governments.
“Jimmy Carter divested from his peanut farm for a reason, because we don’t want to have to worry about a president who has the side deals,” Schatz of the former president. “And this president has a little more than side deals.”
Schatz said that while impeachment is a “process” and needs more time for official inquiries to finish, it would be “extremely unwise” to take impeachment off the table.
“I think the mistake that people make is either they want it now or they don’t want it at all,” he said.
Case said that support for Trump in the Republican-controlled Senate, which would determine whether to convict Trump and remove him from office if the House impeaches him, should not deter the House beginning proceedings after investigations finish.
“I’ve got my job to do: My job in the House is to decide whether to impeach,” Case said. “… Hopefully, if it ever got to the point where we did actually impeach, we would have done so on such a clear, factual record that the question of whether the Senate would actually convict would be moot.”
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Joel Lau is a Civil Beat summer news intern. He grew up on Oahu and graduated from Hawaii Baptist Academy.
He is a student at Boston University, majoring in journalism and political science, and plans to return there for his sophomore year in September.