Bruce Fein, a former senior official in the Department of Justice and a constitutional scholar, has identified 12 impeachable offenses committed by Donald Trump. But, as he notes, many of these constitutional violations are not unique to the Trump administration. They have been normalized by Democratic and Republican administrations. These long-standing violations are, for this reason, ignored by Democratic Party leaders seeking to impeach the president. They have chosen to focus exclusively on Trump’s attempt to get the Ukrainian president to open an investigation of Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, in exchange for $400 million in U.S. military aid and a visit by the Ukrainian leader to the White House. Ignoring these institutionalized violations during the impeachment inquiry, Fein fears, would legitimate them and lead to the death of democracy.
In a letter on Friday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, also signed by Ralph Nader and Louis Fisher, Fein warns that Trump is “shattering our entire constitutional order.” He lists as the president’s most serious constitutional violations the “defiance of congressional subpoenas and oversight; spending billions of dollars on a southern border wall not appropriated for that purpose; continuing or expanding presidential wars not declared by Congress; exercising line-item veto power; flouting the Emoluments Clause; and, playing prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner to kill any person on the planet based on secret, unsubstantiated information.” But he also notes that many of these violations are not unique to Trump and were also carried out by Barack Obama and George W. Bush.
“Many of the Democrats in the past have been complicit in these violations,” Fein said when I reached him by phone in Washington, D.C. “They have unclean hands. They have acquiesced in illegal surveillance, as revealed by Edward Snowden. The most serious constitutional violations are the ones that are institutional usurpations. These usurpations [by both parties] have permanently weakened, if not eviscerated, the power of the legislature versus the executive.”
“We have a Congress whose members, by and large, do not want the responsibilities the Constitution entrusts them with,” Fein continued. “They like to give away everything to the president and then clamor if something goes bad. The most worrisome constitutional violations are, unfortunately, ones many members of Congress rejoice in.