Nevada NewsMakers

News - October 29, 2019 - by Ray Hagar

Nevada's First U.S. House District Rep. Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, is in the eye of the storm in Congress surrounding the possible impeachment of President Trump.

Titus, a former Senate Minority Leader of the Nevada Legislature, sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which is currently holding closed-door hearings on Trump's attempt to pressure the Ukrainian government to help in his reelection bid for 2020.

Yet Titus is also the chair of the House’s Transportation Committee's subcommittee on economic development and public buildings. That group is specifically investigating Trump's International Hotel in Washington D.C. and its possible violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution.

Titus' public buildings subcommittee has jurisdiction since the hotel is located inside a federal building, the Old Post Office and has a lease to operate with the General Services Administration, a federal agency.

Yet Trump recently called the Emoluments Clause "phony," and Titus bristled at that during an interview aired Tuesday on Nevada Newsmakers.

"Obviously, he doesn't know the Constitution very well or thinks it is all phony," Titus told host Sam Shad. "He has no defense because it is very clear that what he has been doing is unconstitutional and illegal because it is in the (hotel) lease (with the GSA) itself.

"It is also unethical and I believe we have to call him on it because nobody is above the law," Titus added. "It says in the lease (with the GSA) you cannot profit if you are an elected official. It is kind of like the Nevada law. In Nevada, you can't be a member of the Legislature and give yourself a state contract or (if you are in) the governor's office. It is pretty straight forward and common around the country."

Although she is leading the House investigation into the Trump International, Titus said she has not been in it yet.

"I'm not going to spend any money with Donald Trump," Titus said.

She quickly added her committee has information that backs up the abuse of the Emoluments Clause at the property.

"We do have some information about foreign countries staying there," she said. "He had a big Filipino Day celebration, you have a couple of Kuwait National Day celebrations, the Greeks had an event there. People are spending money from foreign countries and that is a direct violation of the emoluments clause."

A case charging Trump with emoluments violations with his D.C. hotel were dismissed in federal court earlier this year. However, similar suits claiming similar violations are still in play.

The Trump Organization said it sends a check to the federal government on an annual basis for the profits from foreign government spending at Trump properties. Last last year's check was more than $190,000, according to the New York Times.

Three House committees and Titus' subcommittee are currently investigating issues tied to Trump's possible impeachment. Titus said Democrats have already amassed enough evidence to make a case.

"I think there is enough evidence there to be able to impeach him tomorrow," she said. "But we want to make sure we make the very strongest case we can, not just for the public but for the Senate because that is where this will be tried."

No deadline has been set, so the process could be drawn out, she said.

"I don't think anyone has put a deadline on it. Some have speculated that you want to get it done before Christmas or Thanksgiving. I think it will happen when it is ready," she said.

If the U.S. House impeaches Trump, Titus said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would have a difficult time stopping the Senate's trial for conviction, which would be the next step in the impeachment process.

"It is in the rules of the Senate that you have to take it up," she said. "So he'd have to change the rules of the Senate in order not to hear it. How they hear it, it will be up to him, and how long they take to do it. They maybe even will work on weekends.

"I think the pressure is mounting," she added. "Not only do you see public opinion polls in favor or it, it is also going to come out pretty strong on the House side so I don't think he (McConnell) can duck and run."

Some Republicans have demanded a more open process in Trump's impeachment, criticizing that the testimony is being done in secret. Titus likened the process to a grand jury.

"You are right that it is a political process and not subject to the same rules as a court of law," said Titus. "You need to think of it as you do a grand jury. That is where you meet and see if there is enough evidence to go forward with a trial.

"The House does that function. That's impeachment," said Titus, a former political science professor at UNLV. "Then the Senate does the trial. Politically, some people say, 'Oh, this just plays to Trump's base and just makes them strong.' Well, his base has always been in the 30 percentile so it is not gaining him any points. I think it works to the Democrats' advantage because as more information comes out, any reasonable person will think that this is wrong and so some of those swing voters and moderate Republicans, I think, will vote with the Democrats."

Titus was also a co-sponsor of the House resolution to condemn Trump’s decision to pull out and leave the Syrian Kurds on their own in the face of the Turkish military. Almost three weeks after the pullout and subsequent cease-fire brokered by the Trump administration, Turkish backed forces are killing civilians in areas abandoned by the U.S., according to TIME magazine.

"This just came out of nowhere, without the advice of our national security, defense or diplomacy," she said of Trump's resolution on Syria. "It was just something he decided to do.

"Now we have been fighting with the Kurds for years to hold back ISIS," Titus continued. "They have lost thousands of people in this fight. They have been our strongest ally. And now we are just pulling out and leaving them to the mercy of the Turks."

The U.S. pullout could have a chilling effect on our allies around the world.

"If we pull out from the Kurds, who else are we going to pull out from?" she said. "We already have had conversations from the President about pulling out of NATO. He doesn't like multi-lateral agreements. He pulled out of a test-ban treaty with Russia. What are our allies going to think? They are going to think that they can't count on us."