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Professor Ryan Goodman Outlines the Road to Impeachment

goodmanLeague President Leah Dembitzer, Professor Ryan Goodman and Cindy DunneThe luncheon topic could not have been more timely. During the same week that House Democrats announced they would hold public hearings on the impeachment of President Donald J. Trump, the League of Women Voters of Scarsdale hosted a luncheon with an expert on the impeachment process. They invited Ryan Goodman, Professor of Law at New York University and a co-editor in chief of the website Just Security.org to discuss, “Ukraine and The Impeachment Process: What are the Strongest Arguments on Either Side? What's Next?”

Perhaps that’s the reason the event was sold out.

Introducing Goodman, League President Leah Dembitzer read the following statement from the national League of Women Voters:

The League of Women Voters of the United States believes that presidential power should be exercised within the constitutional framework of a dynamic balance between the executive and legislative branches. Accountability and responsibility to the people require that unnecessary secrecy between the President and Congress be eliminated.”

“The League of Women Voters of the United States believes that structures and practices of the U.S. Congress must be characterized by openness, accountability, representativeness, decision-making capability, and effective performance.”

Goodman’s talk highlighted what happens when the balance between the legislative and executive branch is off kilter and there is loss of accountability. He provided a timeline and an analysis of what he expects to happen in the coming weeks.

He said, “We’re going to have an impeachment vote in the House by the end of the calendar year and it will be a yea vote. It will be on a single charge – about allegations about Ukraine.”

Why limit the articles to the Ukraine issue? Goodman said, “Congressman who come from purple districts said they would vote yes on impeachment on this issue. This is an issue that the public can easily understand.”

He went on to say, “The President pressured a foreign government to intervene in our elections. The articles of impeachment will be specific to Trumps dealings with Ukraine and will include a number of options. Representatives can decide which ones to vote for.

Goodman believes the articles of impeachment will be drafted based on those brought against Richard Nixon.

The first will be abuse of power. He said, even without a quid pro quo, the mere solicitation to a foreign government to interfere in our elections, constitutes an abuse of power. Add to that the quid pro quo, which was economic aid in exchange for an investigation of Hunter Biden, constitutes a second abuse of power. In other words, Trump used the power of the office, in violation of his oath, and solicited a foreign government to act for his personal gain.

The second article of impeachment will be for contempt of Congress. These charges results from the administration’s interference with Congressional committees and the White House’s refusal to produce witnesses or documents. In fact, the White House Counsel sent a letter to Congress saying they would not engage in any form of accommodation.

The third article will be for obstruction in that the White House engaged in a plan to cover-up and conceal the evidence and to intimidate the witnesses. About the whistle blower who initially made the report about the President’s conduct, Trump said, “I want to know who’s the person who gave the whistle-blower the information because that’s close to a spy,” Mr. Trump said. “You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart with spies and treason, right? We used to handle it a little differently than we do now.”

According to Goodman, “that’s intimidating witnesses.”

Though a vote to impeach needs only a majority vote to pass in the House, in the Senate, a 2/3 majority is required. That means that 20 Republican senators would need to vote in favor of impeachment.

Though it’s unlikely that so many will cross party lines, Goodman predicted that if public opinion continues to move against Trump, there is a “non-trivial” chance that the Senate could also vote to impeach.

Goodman outlined three possible outcomes of the vote in the Senate:

-Conviction

-Acquittal

-A near miss – which could make it nearly impossible for Trump to be re-elected and continue in office. Goodman said, “That’s what happened to Andrew Johnson.”

What factors might determine these outcomes?

The strength of the indictment

Goodman believes the evidence to impeach is “damning” and “has been proven to a great certainty.” He called the transcript of Trump’s phone call to the Ukrainian president, “the smoking gun.” He continued, “The text messages between the ambassadors includes the quid pro quo itself. We are holding military aid.” Furthermore, he said, “90% of the whistle blower complaint has been corroborated.”

The bi-partisan vote

The composition of the vote will also be a factor. How will the house vote? How do people who are up for re-election vote? Do Republican representatives break with their party?

The procedural fairness and irregularities of the proceedings

Goodman explained, “The White House has raised legitimate concerns. The President’s lawyers cannot call or question witnesses. The perception of the fairness is important as well. What is the public’s perception of the fairness of the proceedings?

Goodman explained that in his view, even if Trump is not convicted in the Senate, the nature and perception of the proceedings and the make-up of the vote, could leave Trump unable to govern or get re-nominated by the Republicans to run for a second term.

According to Goodman, there is a “non-trivial” chance that President Trump will be convicted in the Senate. He says, “Public opinion is important. The most recent Fox poll showed that 51% of the public favor impeachment and removal from office. This might climb – to 60% or even higher. If so, the Republicans will have a problem on their hands when they look at the electorate.

Goodman also predicted that Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, could affect the outcome of an impeachment trial. Goodman said, “many think Giuliani has great criminal exposure and is already under criminal investigation. Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman have already been indicted, and presumably the FBI has their phones and transcripts of their communications with Giuliani. Will Giuliani flip in order to arrange a plea deal?

If so, his evidence could be even more damning to his boss.

Goodman gave a concise and insightful analysis of the situation to date. With new developments every day, the only certainty is that the impeachment inquiry will continue to dominate headlines, at least through the end of the year.

Kudos to the League for bringing a scholar and an expert to town. To dig deeper on this issue, visit Goodman’s website at justsecurity.org.

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