In a Tuesday evening appearance on Fox News, Matt Whitaker, a former acting attorney general, asserted there were no grounds for impeachment because “abuse of power” — the essence of an impeachable offense — “is not a crime.”
That added to the uneasy sense that the president’s main impeachment defense may be that he is beyond the reach of the law.
On Monday, after a bipartisan outcry had prompted Mr. Trump to cancel plans to host the Group of 7 summit at his Miami golf resort next year, he griped to reporters about “this phony emoluments clause” — a reference to a part of the Constitution designed to limit corruption.
In federal court on Wednesday, his lawyer, while arguing that New York City prosecutors should not be allowed to obtain the president’s tax records, said that Mr. Trump cannot be prosecuted, or even investigated, for any offense — including shooting someone “in the middle of Fifth Avenue” — while in office.
Despite claims by the president and his die-hards, Democrats are not conducting “secret,” “Soviet-style” proceedings. At this stage, witness interviews are being conducted in private, with public hearings to be held later. This may not please Republicans, but it is not a sinister miscarriage of justice.
There are, in fact, plenty of good reasons Democrats are operating behind closed doors for now. The House’s impeachment inquiry is not a trial. It is more akin to a grand jury proceeding, where information is gathered and considered for the purposes of handing up an indictment. Any trial would be held in the Senate, with Mr. Trump represented by lawyers able to make all the substantive and process challenges he liked.
On Wednesday, Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio complained that Republicans were demonstrating out of frustration “at the idea that they can’t be a part of this.” Nonsense. Republicans are in every hearing room that Democrats are in and able to ask their own questions. During Mr. Taylor’s testimony Tuesday, Mr. Jordan had praised the Republican lawyers for their questioning of the witness.