On Thursday’s episode of “The Andrew Klavan Show,” Klavan talks with constitutional lawyer Jenna Rives about the current state of the impeachment inquiry and how Nancy Pelosi has “painted herself into a corner.” Video and partial transcript below:
RIVES: [The Democrats are] perverting this system that is supposed to be non-partisan, non-political — impeachment should not be a political action. It should only happen when there is credible evidence that a president has gone against the interests of the United States of America: Treason, bribery, and other high crimes and misdemeanors, that’s the key terminology …
This isn’t just, you know, we think of misdemeanors as, “Hey, I ran a traffic light and I got a ticket.” That’s not the constitutional context. This is from the old English common law language, meaning offenses against the Crown — against the sovereign. This is something that should have an absolutely credible legal basis here, not simply because the Democrats hate President Trump. This is dividing the country, this is ridiculous. I mean everyone who votes for impeachment, if they do, should themselves be impeached for going against their oath of office to defend and protect the United States.
KLAVAN: You know the point that you just made, that these are high crimes and misdemeanors against the sovereign, and we should just add, for the people, that the sovereign here is the people. They had a sovereign who is the king or the queen, but we have a sovereign who is us …
Let me ask you something, last night we did one of these Backstages, and Ben asked me, if they found videotape of Donald Trump picking the guy up by the front of his shirt and throwing him against the wall and saying, “Listen Buster, if you don’t go and investigate Joe Biden” … I mean there’s nothing even remarkably even vaguely resembling this but, “…if you don’t investigate Joe Biden, I’m withholding military aid.” Would that, in your mind, be an impeachable offense?
RIVES: Actually, no. I mean let’s not forget that President Trump, as the president of the United States, can literally threaten to bomb a country, right. These are things, that threats in and of themselves, are not necessarily illegal. It depends on whether you can legally carry out that threat. For example, on behalf of a client, I as an attorney could threaten legal action. That doesn’t mean that a threat, inherently, is bad. …
So we have kind of this conflict here, because the Democrats want to try to paint him as he’s only looking for opposition research, and this is against election and campaign finance laws, and all of this quote-unquote “thing of value.” Well let’s not forget that, even though, yes, he’s running for re-election, he is still the sitting president of the United States and has to carry out obligations. That would be like saying whenever he uses Air Force One to get around the country, that somehow that’s a thing of value that goes against campaign finance. That’s simply not the case here. And so even though like you said, we have nothing remotely in terms of any actual evidence, the federal bribery statute — that is one of those terms in the Constitution — talks about bribing a United States federal officer. It doesn’t actually go to any sort of communication, or into relation on foreign policy, or dealing with other countries’ heads of state. America has, in our history, threatened action of some sort, threatened to withhold military aid for whatever reason. That’s something that the president of the United States can credibly do.
KLAVAN: We have a treaty with Ukraine that we can investigate corruption, that we can each investigate corruption for the other. Now looking at this from the Democrat side, has anything happened? I mean, you know, they used the word “impeachment” and everybody rushes to their camera, and … everybody’s yelling — but have they done anything? Has there been a vote? Have I missed something or is it all show?
RIVES: No it’s completely all show, and that’s the question I would really like Nancy Pelosi to answer is: When are you gonna call a vote? If you actually think that impeachment — if you’re not just trying to straddle the fence here and satisfy the hyper-crazy leftists who have been calling for impeachment since before President Trump was even sworn into office, you know once he won the election — is she willing to actually call a vote right now?
They haven’t even formulated a resolution in the House that would initiate formal inquiry proceedings. All they’re doing is saying, hey let’s run these you know cameras, Circus Kabuki Theater hearings like today, where [Congressman Adam] Schiff was simply trying to manipulate and spin legal terms into common usage. It was boring, it was ridiculous, it was completely politically partisan. Nothing has actually happened to initiate formal impeachment proceedings, so when are they going to do it? Are they going to do it? Nancy Pelosi has to decide.
KLAVAN: That’s my last question, and then I’ll let you go, because I know you’ve got to go to Fox. I mean the other thing that was said on the Backstage last night, Ben was saying he thinks there’s a 0% chance now that Pelosi can avoid impeachment. I don’t agree with that. I think that she has pushed the snowball downhill, [but] I just want to get your take on it — I know I bring you on for legal questions, but I’m just interested as an observer, what [do] you think of Pelosi’s chances of pulling out of this?
RIVES: You know I think that she put, definitely, the cart before the horse. Her statement that she made — her public statement — I think that was, you know, just a couple of days ago and she — before they actually saw the transcript, before she saw the whistleblower complaint, saying yes there is something somewhere that happened.
By her saying that, and saying we are moving forward with impeachment, she’s kind of painted herself into a corner. I think she can get out of it, I think she would be well advised to say, you know what, we were advised wrongly, now after looking at this, even though I fully disagree — and you know she can slam, paint him unethical and whatever partisan term she wants to say, but if she wants to retain any hope of the Democrats not losing a lot of seats in districts that are very important to them in 2020 … and impeachment historically has always done that for the impeaching party.
America doesn’t like this, they don’t like this especially when there is no smoking gun. There is no obvious instance of President Trump doing anything wrong. She would be very well advised to come up with some sort of statement, rein it in, and say, You know what, we will remain hypervigilant and we’re going to do our oversight job, but right now is not the time. We should hope that she has the intestinal fortitude to do that.