- John Bonifazattorney and political activist specializing in constitutional law and voting rights. He is the co-founder and president of Free Speech for People, one of the organizations calling for Trump’s impeachment. Bonifaz is the co-author, with Ron Fein and Ben Clements, of The Constitution Demands It: The Case for the Impeachment of Donald Trump.
Democratic lawmakers are continuing to push for the impeachment of President Donald Trump, despite House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaking out against impeachment in an interview earlier this week. Impeachment rumors have been swirling since the Democrats regained control of the House in January. Congressmember Rashida Tlaib of Michigan said last week that she will formally introduce articles of impeachment this month. We speak with John Bonifaz, an attorney and political activist specializing in constitutional law and voting rights. He is the co-founder and president of Free Speech for People, one of the organizations calling for Trump’s impeachment.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Democratic lawmakers are continuing to push for the impeachment of President Donald Trump, despite House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaking out against impeachment in an interview earlier this week. Impeachment rumors have been swirling since the Democrats regained control of the House in January. But Pelosi told The Washington Post Monday she is not planning on launching impeachment proceedings against Trump, saying, quote, “He’s just not worth it,” and that it was too divisive. She called Trump “ethically and intellectually unfit” for the presidency, but said Congress would require an overwhelming and bipartisan reason for impeachment.
But some Democratic lawmakers have pushed back on Pelosi’s comments. Washington congressmember and Progressive Caucus co-chair, Pramila Jayapal, said that congressional investigations should determine the appropriate course of action and that evidence of a, quote, “consistent pattern of abuse of power, [or] of obstruction of justice,” would be grounds for impeachment. Congressmember Rashida Tlaib of Michigan said that she would continue with plans to formally introduce articles of impeachment this month. This is Tlaib announcing plans to impeach Trump last week.
REP. RASHIDA TLAIB: If we don’t hold impeachment proceedings today, start them today, and hold him accountable to following the United States Constitution, think about that. This is not going to be the last CEO that runs for president of the United States. This is not going to be the last person that tries to get away with this. And what does that say about the most powerful, most important body of—most important position in the world?
AMY GOODMAN: Detroit congressmember—that is Congressmember Rashida Tlaib. Democratic Congressmember Al Green of Texas also said he’ll bring impeachment proceedings to the House floor, regardless of Pelosi’s comments.
REP. AL GREEN: It’s time for people to decide: Are we going to take on bigotry, or are we going to allow it to fester and grow? You don’t—you don’t eliminate bigotry by dealing with it in a politically expedient way. You have to take it head on.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, for more, we’re joined by John Bonifaz, attorney and political activist specializing in constitutional law and voting rights; co-founder and president of Free Speech for People, one of the organizations calling for Trump’s impeachment; co-author, with Ron Fein and Ben Clements, of The Constitution Demands It: The Case for the Impeachment of Donald Trump.
John Bonifaz, we’ve had you on a few times in the last two years. The latest, this latest development of the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi saying now is not the time for impeachment, your response?
JOHN BONIFAZ: Amy, thanks for having me. The president is a direct and serious threat to our republic. He is, almost on a daily basis, attacking our Constitution, our democracy and the rule of law, and he has created a constitutional crisis through this conduct. So, for Speaker Pelosi to say that we’re not going to focus on impeachment, in the midst of this constitutional crisis, is a real abdication of her responsibility, the oath she took to defend and protect our Constitution as a member of Congress. The framers placed the impeachment power in the Constitution precisely to address this kind of constitutional crisis we face today. And it is not a question of waiting for an election to deal with that crisis, when you have a present threat to the republic. When you have a president who so defies the rule of law, and the multiple impeachable offenses he has committed, Congress must address that crisis now through the impeachment process.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Could you list some of those impeachable offenses, the precise grounds on which Trump could be impeached?
JOHN BONIFAZ: Yes. The first impeachable offense was when he took the oath of office without divesting fully from his business interests all across the world, in direct violation of the Foreign Emoluments Clause and the Domestic Emoluments Clause, treating the Oval Office as a profit-making enterprise at the public expense. These anti-corruption provisions of the Constitution were designed to ensure that we would not have a president in the Oval Office who would be beholden to foreign interests or play favorites with certain states with business interests in the United States.
The second is obstruction of justice. We already have seen the firing of James Comey, when he didn’t get what he wanted, by trying to stop the Russia investigation. That’s why we have Robert Mueller as a special counsel investigating this matter.
We’ve seen conspiracy to violate federal campaign finance law with secret hush-money payments to influence the 2016 election. Federal prosecutors have already named Donald Trump as individual one, the person who was directing that criminal conspiracy.
Abuse of the pardon power, by abusing—by pardoning former Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, when he had violated thousands of people’s constitutional rights and then was found in criminal contempt of court for refusing to stop.
The undermining of the freedom of the press.
The cruel and unconstitutional imprisonment of children and their families at the southern border, in violation of their due process rights, their equal protection rights and their rights under the Eighth Amendment against cruel and unusual punishment.
The funding and building of a wall by declaring emergency—a national emergency at the southern border, in violation of the separation of powers principle, that makes clear that Congress, and only Congress, has the power to appropriate moneys. And here, Congress had explicitly refused to fund this wall.
You know, even that, that last impeachable offense this president has committed, on this declaration of a national emergency, raises the question: With a president so dangerous in the Oval Office, what more will he declare an emergency on? Shutting down the internet? Arresting protesters he doesn’t like? Engaging in, starting, issuing martial law? I mean, this is the danger we have with someone in the Oval Office who so threatens our republic, and is precisely why the framers placed the impeachment power in the Constitution.
AMY GOODMAN: John, President Trump tweeted Wednesday, “I greatly appreciate Nancy Pelosi’s statement against impeachment, but everyone must remember the minor fact that I never did anything wrong, the Economy and Unemployment are the best ever, Military and Vets are great—and many other successes! How do you impeach a man who is considered by many to be the President with the most successful first two years in history, especially when he has done nothing wrong and impeachment is for 'high crimes and misdemeanors'?” Your response?
JOHN BONIFAZ: Well, this is precisely why members of Congress should get behind Congresswoman Tlaib’s resolution she’s going to be introducing soon in the U.S. House of Representatives, because it will be the way to start an impeachment investigation. What Congress needs to do is initiate an impeachment inquiry into all the impeachable offenses this president has committed. That’s the first step in the impeachment process.
And Congresswoman Tlaib is an American heroine for standing up and the courage and leadership she’s shown to defend our Constitution and our democracy, as is Congressman Al Green. The responsibility of members of Congress, in this moment of crisis, is to defend our Constitution and our democracy, and that’s what’s required here. We do not need traditional congressional oversight. We need impeachment hearings.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: But, John Bonifaz, is there anything to indicate that there would be sufficient support in Congress to bring about impeachment?
JOHN BONIFAZ: I think the grassroots pressure continues to grow all across the country. Millions of people have signed petitions demonstrating they want Congress to act on this, and we will only hear more from people across the country as the evidence grows. But really what’s required here is Congress to follow their oaths of office and defend our Constitution. And for people who want to get engaged and demand that their member of Congress stand up, they should join us at ImpeachmentProject.org and join this overall movement to protect our republic.
AMY GOODMAN: And Nancy Pelosi saying you just don’t have the numbers, we would not do this unless it was bipartisan? Do you think she has good cause here to be opposed to impeachment at this moment?
JOHN BONIFAZ: I mean, what’s happening here, Amy, is that Speaker Pelosi is completely ignoring history. If the bipartisan requirement had been placed in 1973 before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee by the House leadership at that time in investigating whether or not President Richard Nixon should face impeachment, there never would have been any impeachment proceedings against Richard Nixon. Less than 30 percent, in polling, supported impeachment proceedings against President Nixon at that time, and yet the House Judiciary Committee moved forward and started Judiciary Committee proceedings. Further, there was no evidence whatsoever at that time that 67 senators would vote to convict President Nixon. But as time went on, as impeachment hearings began, as the nation learned about the abuses of power and abuse of the public trust that President Nixon had committed, the public came to understand what was at stake.
That’s the responsibility of Congress here. If Nancy Pelosi is putting forward a standard that would never have been put forward in 1973, 1974, President Nixon never would have faced the impeachment proceeding. That’s not the standard for impeachment. The standard is: Are there abuses of power, abuse of the public trust? The House must carry out their responsibility, issue those charges and send those to the Senate.
AMY GOODMAN: John Bonifaz, we want to thank you for being with us, attorney, political activist specializing in constitutional law and voting rights, co-founder and president of Free Speech for People, one of the organizations calling for Trump’s impeachment.
This is Democracy Now! When we come back, a new book is out, Until We Reckon: Violence, Mass Incarceration, and a Road to Repair. Stay with us.