May 23, 2019

The new case for impeachment

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Some House Democrats are convinced that they'd have better luck getting testimony and documents if they launch an impeachment inquiry against President Trump — which is why they've been pushing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi so hard.

Reality check: It's not like the Trump administration would suddenly drop its fight against Congress and dump a bunch of documents in Pelosi's arms. The big difference between an impeachment inquiry and a regular investigation, legal experts say, is that Congress might have a stronger hand in the courts to get some of the information it wants.

"If you have an impeachment proceeding, Congress is at the zenith of its power," said Michael Conway, a former counsel to the House Judiciary Committee during Watergate.

The two big differences:

1) Grand jury material: The courts would be more likely to rule that Congress' need to see grand jury materials — the kind of references that were redacted in the Mueller report — overrides the federal rule that requires those materials to be kept secret.

  • That's what happened during Watergate, Conway said, in a critical ruling by a federal judge that allowed the Judiciary Committee to see a grand jury report. (Conway wrote more about that ruling and others here.)

2) Legislative purpose: It would be harder for the Trump administration to win a court fight by arguing that Congress doesn't have a "legitimate legislative purpose," the reason Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin cited in his decision not to release Trump's tax returns to the House Ways and Means Committee.

  • No one questions the congressional power to impeach, so launching an impeachment inquiry "removes whatever doubt a court might otherwise have about the existence of a legitimate Article I purpose for demanding information of limited facial relevance to possible congressional legislation," Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe wrote in an email.

The bottom line: None of this affects the political decision of whether it's wise for House Democrats to move ahead. Pelosi says it isn't, and so far most of the Democratic committee chairs are siding with her. But it's not clear how long they'll be able to resist the pressure.

Go deeper: Which House Democrats are calling for Trump's impeachment

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Trump rules out quarantine in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut after pushback

President Trump on the White House grounds on Saturdya. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

President Trump tweeted Saturday night that he's decided not try and enforce a short-term quarantine on New York, New Jersey and parts of Connecticut, but a "strong" travel advisory will be issued for those states.

Why it matters: The president said hours earlier he was considering the move to combat the rise in novel coronavirus cases. But he received pushback, most notably from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), who told CNN it would cause "chaos." "This would be a federal declaration of war on states," Cuomo added.

Trump weighs quarantine of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

President Trump said Saturday he's considering a short-term quarantine of New York, New Jersey and parts of Connecticut, which have already taken steps to help residents isolate. Gov. Andrew Cuomo reacted to Trump's comments by telling CNN, "This would be a federal declaration of war on states" and that it would cause "chaos."

The big picture: With more than 121,000 people infected, the U.S. has the most COVID-19 cases in the world, exceeding China and Italy, per data from Johns Hopkins. A second wave of American cities, including Boston, Detroit, New Orleans and Philadelphia, are reporting influxes of cases.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 22 mins ago - Health

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7:30 p.m. ET: 660,706 — Total deaths: 30,652 — Total recoveries: 139,304.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 7:30 p.m. ET: 121,478 — Total deaths: 2,026 — Total recoveries: 1,072.
  3. Federal government latest: President Trump is considering a quarantine on New York, parts of New Jersey and Connecticut.
  4. State updates: Alaska is latest state to issue a stay-at-home order — New York is trying to nearly triple its hospital capacity in less than a month and has moved its presidential primary to June 23. Some Midwestern swing voters that supported Trump's handling of the virus less than two weeks ago are now balking at his call for the U.S. to be "opened up" by Easter.
  5. World updates: In Spain, over 1,400 people were confirmed dead between Thursday to Saturday.
  6. 🚀 Space updates: OneWeb filed for bankruptcy amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
  7. Hollywood: Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson have returned to U.S. after being treated for coronavirus.
  8. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  9. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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