There is nothing in the Constitution requiring a vote by the House to begin an impeachment inquiry.


Still, Trump and the GOP are pushing a narrative that unless the full House votes to begin an inquiry no impeachment investigation is legitimate.   Worse, the media “pushback” is at best half-hearted.   Even when journalists note the fact there is nothing in the Constitution stating an impeachment process must begin with the House voting to open an inquiry they go on to say that in the three prior instances the investigation process DID begin with such a vote.

I call B.S.

I was in high school in 1973, and some of my summer was spent watching hearings on TV.   Watergate hearings.   Those hearings were known as the Senate Watergate Hearings although officially they were the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities.   Got that?   It wasn’t the House, but the Senate that decided to open a formal inquiry into just WTF had taken place with the break-in at DNC Headquarters at the Watergate complex after it turned out (after the election) there was in fact some sort of connection between the burglars and the Nixon re-election campaign.

Now, it should be noted that at the time most in the GOP (and even many Democrats were dubious) didn’t think the mess reached all the way into the Oval Office.   Nixon was already in the process of throwing underlings under the bus, and given some of the amateurish aspects to the whole affair a lot of “old school” types simply couldn’t conceive of something so stupid (and unnecessary since Nixon was well ahead all along) being orchestrated by Nixon.   In fact, the ranking member of the Select Committee Howard Baker had a wholly inappropriate and secret meeting with Nixon at the WH to assure him that the hearings would do Nixon a favor by rooting out the bad apples that had given him (Nixon) such trouble.   Baker would, like others eventually change his mind as evidence mounted Nixon was up to his eyeballs in the scandal, but even when he uttered what would become THE question Baker still believed Nixon wasn’t involved.   Baker asked:

“What did the President know, and when did he know it?”

He really thought he was helping Nixon when he asked that question, but as things unfolded those words became an ever tightening noose around Nixon’s neck and Presidency.

Tens of millions of people tuned in during the summer of 1973, and not just for John Dean’s dramatic testimony.   For a time, it looked like Dean was out there all on his own, then we had Alexander Butterfield’s stunning revelation about the taping system for conversations in the Oval Office — which meant it could be proven who was lying (Nixon) and who was telling the truth (Dean) and also putting pressure on other witnesses who realized the “circle the wagons” mentality to protect Nixon could put them in legal jeopardy.

Those SENATE hearings laid the groundwork for what took place the following spring, when the House of Representatives formally authorized the House Judiciary Committee to open a formal impeachment inquiry.   And the Judiciary Committee made plenty of use of the evidence gathered by the Senate Watergate hearings.

Now, maybe even though I’m only in my early 60s I suffering from early dementia, but the way I remember those years it was a no-brainer that the Senate Watergate Hearings might uncover not just evidence of crimes by members of CREEP (Committee to Re-Elect the President — they really called it that!) but might even reach into the Oval Office.   As I’ve said, most Republicans at the outset thought the hearings would clear Nixon but everyone knew that if what Woodward & Bernstein had been reporting had truth to it Nixon himself could wind up implicated.   The point however is that we all knew that IF those hearings turned up any evidence or even strong leads that Nixon had direct involvement that impeachment was a real possibility.    IOW the Senate conducted an impeachment inquiry.

The Senate, not the House but the Senate conducted an impeachment inquiry.   The fact that at the beginning Republicans thought it would exonerate Nixon is irrelevant.

In the end, the House took up the matter to do things according to the Constitution and draw up Articles of Impeachment.   But from where I sit, the real heavy lifting was done over in the Senate.   Long before the House voted on anything like Trump and the GOP are now demanding.   I wish the media would point out just how much evidence that led to Nixon’s impeachment was uncovered by the Senate long before the House formally voted to take up the matter.

Put more plainly, the only impeachment that has led to a President’s not finishing his term (Nixon resigned once he knew he’d lose) started not with a vote by the House to open a formal inquiry, but by a Select Committee over in the Senate uncovering all kinds of information they didn’t even know to look for until they started investigating Nixon’s subordinates.

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2 Comments on "I Call Bull$**t On Trump, Media — Congress Did Not Start Watergate Investigation w/A House Vote"

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dana fairfield

It is difficult to draw any conclusions from past impeachment efforts because there have been so few of them.

elna benoit

Good points. I guess the Senate contained more spines and testicles back then.