But in fact, Congress investigates lawbreaking, and potential lawbreaking, all the time. Mobsters, fraudsters, government employees, small companies, big companies — like it or not, all types of people and businesses get subpoenaed from time to time so that Congress can figure out whether current laws are effective, whether new laws are needed, whether sufficient governmental resources are being devoted to the task, whether more disclosure to the government or the public is required, or greater penalties, and so on.
To this, Trump’s brief complains that “Congress could always make this (non-falsifiable) argument” to justify any investigation. But that’s simply the result of the fact that, as the district court explained, Congress’s “power to investigate is deeply rooted in the nation’s history.” Congress, relying on English parliamentary tradition, has performed this function since the founding.
To accept Trump’s argument to the contrary — to say Congress can’t look into matters that might involve crimes — would in many cases gut Congress’s ability to gain information it needs to legislate. And perversely, in Trump’s case, it makes a virtue of the fact that he has been accused of committing crimes.
Which brings us to the main point: England’s King George III was above the law, but the founders of our republic wanted a system that would divide power and have the branches check one another. The idea that only the president can investigate the president is an argument for autocrats, not Americans.
Trump says “trust me,” but that was exactly the argument the founders rebelled against. They knew that public officials would not always be angels, and that power had to be checked and dispersed. As James Madison put it in Federalist No. 51, “It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government.” FInish here: Opinion | Trump just invited Congress to begin impeachment proceedings