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Norm Eisen Says He Drafted 10 Articles Of Impeachment A Month Before Inquiry

<em>A Case for the American People: The United States v. Donald J. Trump</em> by Norman Eisen
A Case for the American People: The United States v. Donald J. Trump by Norman Eisen

When Democrats took back the House of Representatives in 2018, the Judiciary Committee hired Norm Eisen to be special counsel.

He'd been a White House ethics czar and a U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic during the Obama administration. And when he showed up to work for Congress, he started preparing for the possibility that the House might impeach President Trump.

Less than a year later, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced an official impeachment inquiry.

Eisen's new book, A Case for the American People: The United States v. Donald J. Trump, describes this moment in time through the House vote to impeach Trump and the Senate trial, which ended in acquittal.

And the book reveals that Eisen had drafted 10 articles of impeachment a month before Pelosi's announcement.

"The speaker is a pretty savvy monitor of everything that goes on in Congress. So, I don't think it will come as a surprise to her," Eisen told NPR.

Interview Highlights

On why he cast such a wide net

President Trump's misconduct is so broad, and his whole pattern of misconduct, the collusion in the [Robert] Mueller report, the obstruction of justice that the special counsel found, the hush money payments, which are illegal campaign finance, and so much more. We've never seen anything like it in American history. So, we needed to start with a very broad base to work our way through to the articles that we thought could make it through the House. And that's just what we did.

On whether impeachment might have gone differently if a broader list of offenses had been presented

Having lived on the Hill for a year, I do think impeachment would have gone differently. I don't think there would have been an impeachment if we had insisted on all 10 of those articles, however meritorious I may feel they are. Politics is the art of the possible. And Chairman [Jerrold] Nadler of the Judiciary Committee, who I worked for; Chairman [Adam] Schiff of the Intelligence Committee, who is a leader on all these matters; and Speaker Pelosi ultimately were able to come together around a set of articles that unified the caucus and that we were able to get through.

On the idea of a possible quid pro quo happening not just beyond U.S. borders but also within the U.S.

Even before we knew about the pandemic, I think everyone in the room got a chill [during Stanford Law School professor Pamela Karlan's testimony] because she had so expertly put her finger on the quid pro quo transactional nature of President Trump's way of doing business. And his handling of COVID — it has all the same features of the Ukraine scandal or the Russia scandal before that. The retaliation against whistleblowers. And above all, this radical selfishness — it's all about Trump. We've never had a president like that.

On whether there is anything he wishes the Democrats had done differently to achieve a more bipartisan outcome

The vote in the House actually was bipartisan because Justin Amash, not a Democrat, supported the impeachment. [He's a] lifelong conservative and Republican who had to leave his party because he spoke out against Trump. And then in the Senate, for the first time in American history, you had a president who had a member of his party cross the aisle, Mitt Romney, to vote against a president of his own party in an impeachment trial. Now, it's true, we saw more polarization around this impeachment than we did in, say, the [Richard] Nixon one or even the [Bill] Clinton one. I never imagined that only Romney among them would be willing to do the right thing. And you know what makes it even more shocking? Lamar Alexander said the House proved its quid pro quo. And Sen. Ben Sasse said, many of us agree with Lamar. And yet they still weren't willing to call it an impeachable offense. Shame. Shame. ...

I do not believe that this constellation of Republicans could have been persuaded. No matter what. That being said, I'm very self-critical in the book. And I do talk about the mistakes that I made along the way. And I made plenty. So, yes, there are plenty of errors along the way. No, there was nothing we could have done, no matter how profound the offense. ...

We saw scandal with the Russian bounties, total Republican silence — near total Republican silence. The president's intentional misconduct on COVID has led to the deaths — you can't blame every death but certainly his baubles have led to the deaths — of tens of thousands of Americans. They've done nothing.

On whether the president has felt more empowered to take some steps because he got through impeachment

Since the beginning of his career, he knows exactly how to surf the bubble of the law, how to go to the edge of the law. He started with an alleged racial discrimination case in his properties at the very beginning of his career. And he understands what he's doing. It is a pattern — that is one of the fundamental points I make in the book. And I describe what's going to happen next. And it's not pretty because we're seeing him now turn, once again, his predations to the coming election. So, no, it was the right thing to sound the alarm. It did not embolden him.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.