Donald Trump delivered an unscripted, three-minute statement to reporters yesterday in which the president suggested he may be able to block the impeachment process through the judiciary.
“[I]t should never be allowed, what’s happened to this president…. What these guys are doing – Democrats – are doing to this country is a disgrace and it shouldn’t be allowed. There should be a way of stopping it – maybe legally, through the courts.”
There are a couple of relevant angles to keep in mind here. The first is how unsettling it is to see a president, whose authoritarian instincts are well documented, argue that an impeachment process shouldn’t be “allowed.” In our system of government, the Constitution plainly gives the U.S. House the authority to pursue impeachment; it’s unambiguous, black-letter law.
If Trump doesn’t like it, fine. If he wants to argue against it, fine. If he eventually comes up with some kind of coherent defense, fine. But the impeachment process is most certainly “allowed.”
But I’m even more intrigued by the idea that the president believes he can turn to “the courts” as a way of “stopping” the Democratic lawmakers’ efforts.
If this sounds at all familiar, it’s because the Republican has dabbled in this before. In April, during a mini-tantrum on Twitter, Trump declared, “If the partisan Dems ever tried to Impeach, I would first head to the U.S. Supreme Court.”
A month later, during a brief Q&A with reporters, someone asked the president whether he expects a congressional impeachment process. “They can, because they’re possibly allowed, although I can’t imagine the courts allowing it,” Trump replied.
If he seriously expects the courts to intervene and save him, the president is likely to be disappointed.
As we discussed in the spring, Congress is responsible for initiating, overseeing, and executing the impeachment process. Lawmakers, and no one else, determine whether a president has committed impeachable acts.
It’s not up to the judiciary to allow or forbid the legislative branch from exercising its legal authority.
When Trump is in a jam, he looks for a fixer. Indeed, he’s spent much of his presidency assuming that everyone from his attorney general to his congressional allies to his White House counsel can simply make his problems go away for him. Now, evidently, he’s making similar assumptions about the courts.
If Trump plans to sue to make his problem go away, he should probably start working on a Plan B.