President Trump suggested Wednesday that he would ask the Supreme Court to intervene if Democrats move to impeach him — a notion that legal experts said showed a misunderstanding of the Constitution.
It was unclear how Trump would legally justify such a move, since the Constitution delegates impeachment proceedings to Congress, not the courts. Trump mentioned the idea briefly in morning tweets in which he lashed out at Democrats who are continuing to investigate him after the release of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report.
“I DID NOTHING WRONG,” Trump wrote. “If the partisan Dems ever tried to Impeach, I would first head to the U.S. Supreme Court. Not only are there no ‘High Crimes and Misdemeanors,’ there are no Crimes by me at all.”
A White House spokesman did not respond to a request to elaborate on what the president would seek from the court.
The notion was ridiculed by several legal experts, including Laurence Tribe, a Harvard law professor, who accused Trump of “idiocy.”
“Not even a SCOTUS filled with Trump appointees would get in the way of the House or Senate,” Tribe wrote on Twitter, adding that Trump apparently thinks his recent court appointments would give him a “ ‘get out of jail free’ card.”
Joshua Matz, a lawyer who specializes in constitutional law, said that Trump’s tweet “reflects a profound misunderstanding.”
While it’s possible that the court could play a role on “collateral disputes” arising from an impeachment proceeding, it has “no constitutional warrant to second-guess the substance of an impeachment judgment,” Matz said in an email.
“If the President were to seek judicial intervention in that fashion, the courts would almost certainly refuse to hear the case on the ground that it is a ‘political question’ textually entrusted to Congress by the Constitution,” Matz said.
Walter Dellinger, who served as head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel during the Clinton administration, said it is “a theoretical possibility” that a president could appeal to the courts if the House sought to impeach him for matters that fall outside the impeachment clause, such as unwise trade policies.
“But in the real world, it’s hard to imagine the court would interfere,” he said.
Dellinger also pointed to a 1993 Supreme Court ruling that held that authority over impeachment trials of federal officials “is reposed in the Senate and nowhere else.”
Trump’s tweets come amid growing calls from Democrats to launch impeachment proceedings even as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other party leaders say that the move is premature.
Asked about impeachment during a Tuesday interview for the Time 100 Summit in New York, Pelosi said that “if the . . . fact-finding takes us there, we have no choice. But we’re not there yet.”
After a nearly two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, Mueller said he did not find sufficient evidence to bring charges of criminal conspiracy with Russia against Trump or anyone associated with his campaign. Mueller did not offer a conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice.
Though Attorney General William P. Barr determined there was not sufficient evidence for obstruction of justice, Democrats are using episodes outlined in Mueller’s report to continue exploring that issue.
Trump more broadly is resisting efforts by House Democrats to scrutinize his actions in the wake of the Mueller report.
He told The Washington Post on Tuesday that he is opposed to current and former White House aides providing testimony to congressional panels.
“There is no reason to go any further, and especially in Congress where it’s very partisan — obviously very partisan,” Trump said.
Trump continued to push back against congressional scrutiny Wednesday morning as he talked to reporters before leaving the White House for a trip to Atlanta.
“We’re fighting all the subpoenas,” Trump said. “These aren’t like impartial people. The Democrats are trying to win 2020 . . . And they’re not gonna win against me. The only way they can maybe luck out, and I don’t think that’s gonna happen — it might make it even the opposite, that’s what a lot of people are saying — the only way they can luck out is by constantly going after me on nonsense.”
He also suggested Congress had misplaced priorities.
“Get back to infrastructure. Get back to cutting taxes. Get back to lowering drug prices,” Trump said.
Earlier this week, lawyers for Trump also filed a lawsuit in a bid to block a congressional subpoena of some of his financial records from an accounting firm.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in the District of Columbia, seeks a court order to quash a subpoena issued last week by the House Oversight Committee to Mazars USA.