First question: Who gave you the referenced guidance? Second question: What was the guidance? Clearly, somebody in the White House who was senior to Duffey told him to make sure to hold back foreign aid to Ukraine — and did it right after Trump’s call with Zelensky. The answer to these questions could provide information vital to understand Trump’s actions and motives toward Ukraine.
Ok, Duffey: explain the “sensitive nature” of the request to hold back funding from Ukraine? Why was it sensitive? Who told you it was sensitive? The answers to these questions could prove damning to Trump and his most senior officials.
Remember: the Duffey e-mail is just one piece of paper out of likely thousands, or more, that the administration has but refuses to turn over. If this one e-mail raises so many important questions, just imagine what we don’t yet know.
I believe we will see many or perhaps all of the documents that the administration is withholding — somehow, someday. The documents might come out, like the Duffey e-mail did, through Freedom of Information Act requests. Or they might become public through other lawsuits, subpoenas by Congress or prosecutors, disclosure by future administrations, or leaks. But, one way or another, we will eventually learn what this administration may be hiding.
The problem, of course, is that we may not know what the Trump administration is covering up until it is too late — until this administration is long gone, or until it is too late to fix the damage.
Now, your questions
Scott (Tennessee): If the Senate acquits Trump, but then he does something else later in his term that merits impeachment, can the House impeach him again? Or, is there a double jeopardy rule against impeaching a person twice?
The “in jeopardy of life or limb” language refers to criminal penalties — including imprisonment or execution — and not to impeachment, where the only penalty is removal from office.
Although second impeachment is legally possible, practical obstacles certainly would arise. It seems exceedingly unlikely as a political matter that the House would impeach a President, see that President acquitted in the Senate and then impeach him again for the same conduct.
If, however, a President was impeached, acquitted, and then committed new impeachable acts, the House could be more willing to impeach again.
Turtley (New York): House Republicans claim that all the evidence against Trump is indirect. Are criminal cases ever decided solely on indirect evidence?
Yes, a jury can convict in a criminal case based solely on indirect (also called “circumstantial”) evidence, if it finds that indirect evidence sufficient to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Here’s how judges explain the concept of direct versus indirect evidence to juries. Let’s say you looked out the window of the courtroom and saw raindrops falling down and hitting the window. That would be direct evidence that it is raining outside. Now let’s say the window shades were drawn, but you saw three people walk into the courtroom, all wearing raincoats, holding umbrellas and dripping wet. That would be indirect — but still relevant and potentially decisive — evidence that it is raining outside.
Marty (Texas): Now that Trump has been impeached, does he lose the ability to issue pardons?
On this point, the Constitution — venerable document that it is — loses points for ambiguity. Read one way, it could appear to say that after the President is impeached by the House, he loses the power to issue pardons. But read another way, it says that the President can issue pardons for criminal offenses but not for impeachment.
This makes sense in our broader system of checks and balances. The Constitution grants Congress the “sole power” to impeach, as one of its most powerful checks on the President and the executive branch. If the President could simply issue pardons to undo an impeachment, he could unilaterally deprive Congress of one of its vital tools, effectively rendering it moot.
Three questions to watch
1) How long will House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wait before formally sending Articles of Impeachment to the Senate?
2) Will Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer make any progress toward a negotiated deal for Trump’s Senate impeachment trial?
3) Will Trump and McConnell pursue an aggressive trial strategy, or will they go with a minimalist approach to get it over with quickly?