Resolved: The House should vacate its impeachment of President Trump
The debate is finished. The distribution of the voting points and the winner are presented below.
After not so many votes...
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The House, having the constitutionally mandated “sole power of impeachment,” [Article I, section 2, clause 5], is the only body of government that can take the unprecedented responsibility to vacate the impeachment of President Donald Trump. The basis for this resolve will be fully developed in arguments from the Pro side [the side I take] during rounds of the debate. Con will take the opposing view that such vacating of an impeachment is not appropriate even when demonstrated violation [as Pro will demonstrate by evidence] of House Rules occurred.
The power of impeachment: “The House of Representatives shall chose their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.” - U.S. Constitution, I.2.5. This is the sum total verbiage in the Constitution relative to impeachment of a federal officer.
Impeachment: Relative to the Constitution, the authorized means for the House of Representatives of the United States to charge a federal officer [the President, Vice President, and all federal officers of the United States] with “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors” [U.S. Constitution, Article II, section 4] via Articles of Impeachment submitted to the Senate for an impeachment trial.
Background: On December 18, 2019, the House officially voted [230 – 197] to impeach President Donald Trump on charges of two Articles of Impeachment: Abuse of power, and obstruction of Congress. On January 16, 2020, trial on the impeachment began in the Senate, delayed by an unprecedented hold of the Articles of Impeachment by Nancy Pelosi [D-CA], Speaker of the House. On February 35, 2020, the Senate voted [52 – 48 on Article 1, 53-47 on Article 2] to acquit President Trump of all charges.
The burden of proof shall be shared by participants.
Rounds 1, 2, 3: Argument/Rebuttal/Defense
Round 4: Final Defense and Conclusion. No new argument allowed.
I Argument: Russia, Russia, Russia
I.a There is little doubt, and absolutely solid evidence that an investigation into the alleged collusion of Donald Trump and his presidential campaign, and just about anything with the common denominator, Russia, was begun by official Obama Administration officials even before the 2016 election.
I1.b The Mueller Report,issued to the public in 18 April 2019, released in two volumes, stated as conclusions to each volume:
I.b.1“Further, the evidence was not sufficient to charge that any member of the Trump Campaign conspired with representatives of the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election."- Mueller Report, "Executive Summary to Vol 1," pg. 9
I.b.2 "…this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime" - Mueller Report, "Conclusion," Vol. 2, pg 182
I.c Yet, as reported by the New York Times, 24 July 2019, “Under intense questioning, Mr. Mueller said the president had not been cleared of obstructing justice, nor had he been completely exonerated…” This statement completely contradicts the above quotes from the Mueller Report. Such is the zeal held by the mainstream media for the removal of President Trump from office.
I.c.1 The media’s position on the matter has been known since 20 January 2017; the day of Trump’s inauguration. Within one hour of his swearing into office, The Washington Post published the following headline and article: “The campaign to impeach President Trump has begun– The effort to impeach President Donald J. Trump is already underway. At the moment the new commander in chief was sworn in, a campaign to build public support for his impeachment wet live at ImpeachDonaldTrumpNow.org, spearheaded by two liberal advocacy groups aiming to lay the groundwork for his eventual ejection from the White House.”
At the time, the actions of the President amounted to walking down a street in D.C, in a parade, hand-in-hand with his wife – just as every inaugurated President has done in recent memory. Impeachable? No.
II Argument: Scandal, scandal, who has the scandal?
II.a In addition to the Mueller Report, there seemed to be a series of alleged Trump scandals, each of which was intended to derail the presidency, from accusations by Stormy Daniels to urine tapes held by Vladimir Putin, and each of which failed to have its desired effect.
III Argument: “I am announcing…” – Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House
III.a Pressers are a great way to get information out to the public quickly, easily, and effectively. Unfortunately, the House Rules, mandated by the United States Constitution [“Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behaviour, and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member.”.The House Rules for the 116thCongress, were apperoved by the convened House on 3 January 2017 and includes the protocol for conducting House investigations, including impeachment investigations. I will cite those germane rules a little further on. Let it be understood that those rules do not include conducting a presser to authorize such an investigation.
III.b On the basis of the presser, alone, Nancy Pelosi engaged six separate House committees to begin investigation, and announced their authority to issue witness subpoenas. This is in violation of House Rules of the 116thCongress, Rule XI,2,[m][A][ii][C], which stipulates that “Compliance with subpoena issued by a committee or subcommittee under subparagraph [B] may be enforced only as authorized or directed by the House.” This is accomplished only by a majority vote on the House floor. A House-authorizing vote on the House floor never occurred until the House voted to impeach the President on 17 December 2019.
III.b.1 Further, the Supreme Court has at least three precedents established to require that Congress engage an investigation into any subject, and to specifically authorize committees to issue subpoenas by majority House vote. Ref. Quinn v. U.S. , Watkins v. U.S. ,and Fuentes v. Shevin . These precedents are:
1. Congress [both chambers] will obtain the majority vote of its chamber before launching any investigation.
2. Congress [both chambers] will define the legislative purpose of the proposed investigation.
3. Congress [both chambers] will reveal the scope of the investigation and the questions it proposes to have answered during investigation.
"The Speaker shall refer each bill, resolution, or other matter listed under a standing committee named in clause 1 of rule X in accordance with the provisions of this clause" 
"...refer portions of the matter reflecting different subjects and jurisdictions to one or more additional committees..." 
“The Power to sit and act; subpoena power” that “For the purpose of carrying out any of its functions and duties under this rule and rule X (including any matters referred to it under clause 2 of rule XII), a committee or subcommittee is authorized (subject to subparagraph (3)(A))- (A) to sit and act at such times and places within the United States, whether the House is in session, has recessed, or has adjourned, and to hold such hearings as it considers necessary; and (B) to require, by subpoena or otherwise, the attendance and testimony of such witnesses and the production of such books, records, correspondence, memoranda, papers…” (emphasis added)
"In authorizing an investigation by a committee, it is essential that the Senate or House should spell out the committee's jurisdiction and purpose with sufficient particularity to insure that compulsory process is used only in furtherance of a legislative purpose." 
"The authorizing resolution, the remarks of the chairman or members of the committee, or even the nature of the proceedings themselves, might make the "question under inquiry" sufficiently clear to avoid the "vice of vagueness"...
"In authorizing an investigation by a committee, it is essential that the Senate or House should spell out the committee's jurisdiction and purpose with sufficient particularity to insure that compulsory process is used only in furtherance of a legislative purpose." (emphasis added)
We [the Supreme Court] are not concerned with the power of the Congress to inquire into and publicize corruption, maladministration or inefficiency in agencies of the Government. That was the only kind of activity described by Woodrow Wilson in Congressional Government when he wrote: ‘The informing function of Congress should be preferred even to its legislative function.’ Id. at 303. From the earliest times in its history, the Congress has assiduously performed an ‘informing function’ of this nature.”
According to the 7/25/2019 telephone transcript, when President Donald Trump spoke with President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump asked for a favor [only ONE], he spoke to the subject of Crowdstrike first, and then Robert Mueller, then Ukrainian corruption, and then Zelensky spoke for a while. Then Trump resumed with talk about Rudy Giuliani [a private citizen, working on behalf of the President as an attorney working pro bono],then William Barr [Attorney General of the United States], and then Marie Yovanovich [former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine], and then, finally... “the other thing,” ignoring all the previous conversation: Biden’s son, and, by association, Joseph Biden [former Vice President, and 2020 candidate for the Democrat presidential nomination]. So, the Democrats cherry-picked the last on that list as Trump's one favor. By seven degrees of separation? In what universe does that happen?
Only in the universe of Rep. Adam Schiff [D-CA28], lead Manager of the House impeachment trial in the Senate, who skipped the previous seven items of discussion in his parody written and read into the Congressional Record on the first day of his ‘official’ duty as Chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence investigating the possible impeachment of President Trump. Note that Mr. Schiff never read the actual transcript into the record. Just one of many problems: the parody was not, is not, and never will be evidence on which to base an impeachment hearing, let alone to propose Articles of Impeachment.
IV.a.2 Charge: Former Vice president Joseph R. Biden is a political opponent
As of now, Mr. Biden is the presumptive nominee, but the designation of “nominee” is still a future event. At this juncture in the Democrat presidential election campaign, even Democrats are expressing concerns that Joe Biden may not be the candidate to nominate. According to the referenced source, 26% of Democrats, including 40% of Democrats less than 45 years of age, think the Party should choose another candidate.
Moreover, does it matter if one considers Mr. Biden as a political opponent of President Trump? Does Mr. Biden’s candidacy somehow make him immune to a legitimate vetting investigation? His own statement recorded on video in January 2018 acknowledged the direct link to the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor with the release of $1 billion in U.S. aid to Ukraine.
IV.a.3 Charge: Russia alleged Ukraine interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election is a debunked theory.
If the theory was debunked, why, did Democrats bother to make an issue of it? To Democrats, that should table the matter as unfounded. What should it matter how it relates to President Trump’s foreign policy of Ukraine? Further, how does it relate to the 7/25/2019 telephone call between Presidents Trump and Zelensky since neither mentioned anything about any election?
IV.a.4 Charge: The President’s corrupt motives included conditions on the favor request noted above – see [IV.a.1].
Since [IV.a.1] and [IV.a.2] are rebutted, the notion of any further corrupt action on the part of President Trump is likewise rebutted for the following two reasons:
One: While means, motive, and opportunity are critical factors in the identification of a perpetrator of crime, motive is the most difficult of the three to determine, as it requires a virtual invasion of the suspect’s mind to identify it. This is why, legally, motive is typically not an absolute in statutory law. Admittedly, there are some references to it, but it is rarely possible to prove as evidence. Therefore, any claim made by the prosecuting House Managers should prove its presence and proof to justify impeachment by statutory or Supreme Court precedent.
Two: ‘Corruption,’ like ‘motive,’ must have a statutory/precedential reference, or it is a blind, open-season charge. Corrupt by what definition? Corrupt by what resulting malfeasance? Corrupt by what intent? By the verbiage of the 7/25/2019 telephone transcript, the definition/malfeasance/intent is conditional on the favor request. What favor? Crowdstrike? Mueller? Ukraine corruption? Zelensky’s commentary and actions? Giuliani, Barr, Yovanovich? Or do we zap all the preceding and charge directly to Biden? And what condition, therefore? Is the condition the same for whichever item happens to tickle one’s assumption?
IV.a.5 Charge: President Trump held release of $391M in aid to Ukraine.
GAO claimed that President Trump broke the law by holding the transfer of the $391M in aid to Ukraine. GAO cited 2 USC, Chapter 17B, §686, but that statute makes use of the term “deferral,” not “hold.” GAO interprets the former as a simple delay. No. Both in legal and financial circles, “Deferral” is notdefined as an arbitrary hold on transfer of funds. It is a deferralbeyond the natural end of a financial cycle, such as 9/30/2019, which just happened to be the end of fiscal 2019. Since the payment was eventually released well before the 9/30 deadline on 9/11/2019, there was no deferral in effect, regardless, let alone a hold.
The House charge, however, is that the release occurred only after the alleged deferral became public, and that the release was an attempt to cover up. Since there was no deferral by legal/financial definition, or a hold by definition of the fiscal year-end deadline, is it covered up by its release?
Further, no soldiers died, as now claimed by Democrats, as a result of the alleged hold since that last payment of aid due by 9/30 was for Ukraine expenditures beginning fiscal 2020, not for use in fiscal 2019.
IV.a.5 Charge: President Trump has denied President Zelensky’s request for a visit to the White House.
Ignoring for the moment that such a charge goes not to the President’s alleged malfeasance, but to a matter of foreign policy [are benign issues such as State visits fodder for impeachment?], the President stated in the 7/25/2019 telephone call with President Zelensky, “Whenever you would like to come to the White House, feel free to call. Give us a date and we’ll work that out.” He made a similar invitation in the 4/21/2019 telephone conversation between presidents Trump and Zelensky.
IV.a.6 Charge: The President released the Ukraine aid[see IV.a.5]only after threat of public revelation of his actions.
The public was aware that aid to Ukraine was released prior to the established fiscal year end deadline of 9/30/2019. In addition, President Trump released the transcript of his 7/25/2019 telephone call with President Zelensky prior to 9/30. Therefore, there was nothing to hide from the public or anyone else, unless one was not paying attention.
IV.a.7 Charge: President Trump previously invited foreign interference in U.S. elections.
This charge is made, though lacking any citation of alleged previous invitations. Recognizing the questionable use of assumption, let us presume this has reference to the 2016 presidential debate when Trump jokedthat Russia should begin looking among the documents they had hacked for Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 missing emails. Ignoring that it was a joke – that it was a serious “invitation” – by Ms. Clinton’s own previous statements, the emails were not the subject of the election, nor pursuit of foreign influence in same, but “yoga exercises,” and “Chelsea’s wedding plans.” As a private citizen’s matters, the alleged invitation to find them does not rise to impeachable offense, even if not a joke.
IV.b Article II: Obstruction of Congress
IV.b.1 The House of Representatives has engaged in an impeachment inquiry.
There is sufficient Supreme Court precedent to address this lack of House protocol, such as U.S. v Rumley and Watkins v. U.S. ,not to mention House Rules.
My opponent has argued against the SCOTUS decisions in his round 1, and I will address my rebuttal to him in my round 3, but, even if his argument is valid, this “charge” is not of effect on President Trump. It is a statement of fact. The House did engage an inquiry. So, what?
IV.b.2 Charge: The White House defied a lawful subpoena from the House Committee
The President has full authority, by recognized executive privilege, sustained by the Supreme Court, to overrule House subpoenas. The House has the power to attempt to overrule an executive privilege impasse by taking the matter to Court, as previous Congresses have done in the face of such impasses. That Speaker Pelosi chose to deny that available option due to a clock, does not lead to a valid impeachable offense. The Constitution imposes no clock on impeachment investigation.
IV.b.3 Charge: The White House defied a lawful subpoena from the House Committee to obtain documents and records.
See the rebuttal of item IV.b.2, above.
IV.b.4 Charge: President Trump directed current and former Executive Branch officials to not cooperate with the Committee.
See the rebuttal of item IV.b.1, above.
IV.b.5 Charge: President Trump continued to engage previous efforts to undermine the United States Government.
See the rebuttal of item IV.b.2, above.
The President, not Congress, nor any one else, establishes foreign policy, and his establishment of policy is the United States Government foreign policy, not the whim of any member of Congress in either chamber.
IV.b.6 Charge: No president has ever ordered complete defiance of an impeachment inquiry.
See the rebuttal of item IV.b.2, above. And, so what? There’s a first time for everything. There must be a justification of the charge by vote of the Senate. The House failed to obtain that.
IV.b.7 Charge: President Trump will remain a threat to the Constitution
Given the lack of substance in any of the above, there is no threat to the Constitution. It may be a threat to the Democrat chances in the 2020 election, but that is political rivalry that does not rise to impeachable offense. That’s politics.
IV.b.8 Charge: President Trump warrants removal from office, and disqualification to hold any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States.
These underlined words are direct quote from the Constitution, Article I, section 3, clause 7, but they do not conclude the clause. It continues, “…but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.” Article 1 of 2 alleges that, according to the GAO, the President broke the law, as mentioned in commentary under Article 1, IV.a.5. However, that commentary describes the law cited by GAO, and its incorrect interpretation of “deferred” by that body. Since the Article does not suggest further legal action against the President, even the very charge indicated in Article 1, IV.a.5 is incomplete, even though, by strict understanding of Article 1, section 3, clause 7 of the U.S. Constitution, by virtue of the included word “nevertheless” [one must be prepared to understand the word in context of 18thcentury syntax], and contrary to current DOJ policy, the President can be indicted while a sitting President.
My opponent has laid out an interesting argument against the impeachment of the President. That being said, we are not here to debate the facts of this particular impeachment, and it is not the duty of the House of Representatives to re-litigate and revisit impeachment simply because there are some who find the grounds lacking. Such a duty, to provide stricter scrutiny to the charges of a particular impeachment, is granted to the Senate, where the impeachment is then tried. It is at this Senate trial that the facts are given a fuller hearing and are weighed against other concerns and the findings of the House. In the case of President Trump, the Senate voted on both counts to acquit the President. So the issue, then, should be moot.
Vacating the impeachment would only serve partisan political ends. Even if one maintains, and I readily concede that one fairly can, that the impeachment of the President was at least in part politically motivated, there is no substantive reason to now vacate an impeachment the charges of the which the President has been acquitted of. To vacate an impeachment on the grounds that such an impeachment was lacking in evidence is an absurdist and triumphalist act when it would serve no substantive end. As I noted before, the President was acquitted, and as such the vacating of his impeachment by the House would be simply pointless. It would be a show of partisan force, rather than an attempt to see justice done.
In total, nineteen federal officials had been impeached by the United States House of Representatives before that body voted to impeach President Trump.  Not once has their been a concerted effort to vacate any of these impeachments. Three Presidents have been impeached by the House, not one was convicted by the Senate, and yet the House never sought to vacate these impeachments. In fact, in many past impeachments we can see even graver partisanship than that alleged here, but never has the House sought to rectify this by vacating an impeachment it had previously made. It is clear, then, that vacating an impeachment would be unprecedented, and it is therefore fair to argue that it is not something we should do for light or transient causes. For the House to break with over 230 years of precedent simply because some feel that the President was unfairly impeached on weak grounds is unthinkable, especially when the President was then acquitted by the Senate.
If the House were to consider the vacating of an impeachment, it would first need to establish from where it derives the power to vacate an impeachment. Article I of the Constitution grants the House “… the sole power of impeachment” but this does not by any means give the House the power to then vacate or retract an impeachment once it has voted to impeach. Notably, one has to seriously question the procedure by which the House would even attempt to vacate an impeachment. An impeachment is, to borrow an old English legislative phrase, “spent” as soon as the Senate has debated and voted on the matter. To vacate an impeachment would be like trying to ‘repeal” the budget of a previous year, or to repeal any act that had a one time effect. To vacate an impeachment would therefore be of great procedural difficult, and it would ultimately be futile.
But, let us entertain for a moment the idea that an impeachment, not even this particular impeachment, but any impeachment, could be vacated, and that the House were able to overcome any possible procedural challenges. What grounds should we require for the vacating of an impeachment, duly passed by the House, following their own rules of procedure? Perhaps there could be some extraordinary case in which vacating an impeachment would be justified, but frankly this is not one of them. We can agree or disagree on the interpretation of the facts, but simple factual disagreements, surely, can not be enough to over ride over 230 years of Constitutional and procedural precedent.
I would also note that impeachment, since its inception, has been a “political” process. One can go back to the birth of the common law and see even in the 14th century that it was a “political” rather than a legal procedure. Theodore F. T. Plucknett noted as much, writing that impeachment as a procedure was “… confined to political prosecution, frequently of royal ministers”.  It is vital, then, that we consider first and foremost the precedent we set with impeachment, as it is impacted as much by our politics and precedent as by our laws, if not more so. To decide here that an impeachment, the charges of which the President has been acquitted of, and stemming from a case in which there has been no substantial change in factual basis, would be to cast a serious shadow over the very practice of impeachment. In fact vacating impeachments would, if anything, make the process more common as it would make it less serious. From a purely precedent minded standpoint, then, it is vital that we do not take any steps to trivialize impeachment, and whatever ones opinions of this particulate impeachment, vacating it would only serve to trivialize the process.
I will close this section simple by noting that, when it comes to vacating an impeachment, the underlying impeachment should not be the main focus of debate. Indeed the attempt by my opponent to re-litigate the entire episode, though interesting, is extraneous to the issue at hand. In impeachment, the House acts as a grand jury would, and thus we must be willing to concede that a reasonable decision to pursue impeachment further can be made even is we disagree with it. To now, for the sake of partisan gamesmanship, go back and engage in an unprecedented attempt at vacating an impeachment would devalue the process, weaken the House, and even further polarize our politics. Thus, for all concerned, weather you agree with the impeachment or if you where vehemently opposed, it is better to allow the impeachment by the House to stand as we should allow the acquittal by the Senate to stand. The issue is spent, and we should not go digging it up to score political points.
 Plucknett, A Concise History of the Common Law, Second Edition, pg. 184
Turning back to the law, my opponent makes reference once again to the Supreme Court’s decision in Quinn v United States, and this time charges that Quinn would protect the President against the charges of obstruction of congress. The wording citied would seem, at first blush and when taken out of context, to support this.
“If an objection to a question is made in any language that a committee may reasonably be expected to understand as an attempt to invoke the privilege, it must be respected both by the committee and by a court in prosecution under § 192. Pp 349 U.S. 162-163.” 
Petitioner's references to the Fifth Amendment sufficiently invoked his constitutional privilege against self-incrimination. Pp. 349 U. S. 160-165. (emphasis added).
(c) No inquiry is an end in itself; it must be related to, and in furtherance of, a legitimate task of Congress. P. 187. 
I agree. It's quite a shame that no one has voted, I think it was a very reasoned and interesting debate.
I thought we had a great debate. Wonder why we're not attracting voters? Well if we tie with no voter, that's crumbled cookies.
I thank you for a spirited and intelligent debate as well, and I found this debate to be a true pleasure. I look forward to many more such debates.
Venberg, I congratulate you on your presentations over the four rounds. Very well done, easy to follow, and well documented by sources. I also appreciate your candor, while remaining positively civil throughout. Regardless of the outcome, it has been a pleasure debating with you, and I look forward to another debate in the near future. Thank you very much for a lively and challenging debate!
Are they still pushing that? I thought it was a settled matter...
I have modified the verbiage of the full description, removing the "unconstitutional" reference, exchanging it for violation of House Rules. You are correct, the Con issue will not be successfully engaged by demonstrating the constitutionality of the vacating, however, House Rules are affected by it.
"vacation is unconstitutional" is not the opposing view from the "house should vacate" although it is one argument against. Opposing views would be "house should vacate" vs. "house should not vacate" Whether vacation is unconstiutional depends on the definition of unconstitutional. The constitution does not mention such a power but gives the House the power to make the rules, including one presumes a rule for rettraction. So vacation is unconstitutional in the sense of non-constitutional but not in the sense of anti-constitutional.
DAs don't withdraw indictments just because the judge proved corrupt- I see no value to vacation except as an additional propaganda tool for use by an unchecked, destructive presidency.