Should Congress impeach president Trump or shouldn’t they?
That’s the argument most people are having – on both sides of the aisle – subsequent to the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on his investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 election, and the president’s attempts to impede Mueller’s inquiry: should the House of Representatives draft articles of impeachment against Trump or not?
Since Mueller issued the results of his team’s investigation, which enumerated multiple acts perpetrated by Trump that could support criminal obstruction of justice charges, the debate rages throughout our body politic. As we reflect on the gravity of Mueller’s conclusions, though, we should remember that whenever a government seriously considers taking formal action to rebuke or even remove its leader based on allegations of significant criminal misconduct, it is a truly dizzying, momentous, terrifying and desolate time for that nation.
Of course, as is typical for America, we approach our national crisis differently. It almost seems that we don’t care about the substance of what Trump actually did. Instead, people are debating this case on ancillary or political grounds.
It’s bad for the country. Mueller didn’t specifically state that Trump committed any crimes. It’ll only help him get re-elected in 2020. It’ll take forever. The Senate will never convict, so what’s the point? It’s so divisive. He already said he would challenge impeachment at the Supreme Court. The Democrats need to focus on passing legislation, not impeachment.
All those points have some validity, to be sure. And many Democratic leaders, like Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, have been very deliberate in deciding whether to proceed down the path to impeachment. Yet, at the same time, numerous Democratic presidential candidates have spoken in favor of impeaching Trump. Notably, Senators Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren have been very forceful, arguing that Congress must impeach. Even some Republicans, including George W. Bush’s former speechwriter Michael Gerson, have supported impeaching the president, though many Republican leaders have been oddly silent since the issuance of the report.
Or perhaps their quietude is not strange at all. When nearly 400 pages of evidence has been amassed showing that the leader of your party has lied; tried to intimidate or bribe witnesses; tried to use his power to end an investigation into his conduct; participated in crafting cover-up stories; asked investigators to “go easy” on his cohorts; constantly attacked the fact finders; and asked his subordinates, multiple times, to commit crimes, would you want to defend him?
Unfortunately for most GOP representatives at this point, they have already laid bare their loyalties after two years of demonstrating fealty to that leader. While they might find some patriotic courage now, I suspect that any sudden change of heart would have much more to do with Trump’s poll numbers and their own chances at reelection rather than an epiphany about the disastrous choice they made by supporting Trump in the first place. Lindsay Graham famously said in May of 2016, “If we nominate Trump, we will get destroyed…and we will deserve it.” Even while they engage in tortured posturing to support Trump’s clear transgressions, they must be wondering now whether that moment is almost at hand.
Mind you, I am not one who seeks the destruction of the Republican party. Don’t misunderstand me, I would happily replace almost every single Republican in Congress – from the un-apologetically obstructionist Mitch McConnell (Merrick Garland, anyone?), to the quintessential hypocrite Graham (who once referred to Trump, prior to the election as a “kook” and “unfit for office” and later said IN DEFENSE OF TRUMP “I’m concerned by the media’s attempt to label Trump as a kook and unfit for office”), to the sanctimonious Ted Cruz, the spineless Susan Collins, and of course the white nationalist Steve King. However, there are legitimate policy nuances to make on the right as well as the left, and it requires a diverse polity to consider them. I just want to see honest brokers who will address momentous issues like climate change with sober analysis, not mocking videos of dinosaurs, such as Senator Mike Lee of Utah did this past March during a climate change debate. People’s lives are at stake. You don’t have to agree with any proposed legislation. But when you are a representative to the United States Congress, don’t your constituents deserve rational, considered responses to issues of grave concern?
This same analysis must apply to whether the Democrats decide to impeach Trump. Yes, it is distasteful, and could foment even more division in the country. Yes, there is the theory that impeachment would galvanize the right behind him, thus leading to his re-election and four more years of horrific Trump policies – and this could be a worse option than simply trying to defeat him at the polls. Yes, he has stacked the Supreme Court in his favor, even adding Justice Kavanaugh, who has famously questioned the unanimous Supreme Court decision which forced Nixon to turn over his Watergate tapes, creating the frightening scenario that Trump-appointed judges could actually shield him from prosecution.
Yes, yes, and yes, the road to impeachment is fraught with political risk and the journey should not be undertaken lightly, or without the utmost preparation. And even then the destination may result in disaster for the country.
But I would posit that if we DON’T start the impeachment process the magnitude of the damage would be worse.
The president encouraged Russia to hack the Clinton campaign. His son sought dirt on Clinton from operatives connected with the Russian government, at a meeting also attended by his son-in-law and campaign manager. That campaign manager shared polling data with a Russian oligarch, also connected to Putin. Whether the GOP likes it or not, this is collusion, regardless of if it was or wasn’t criminal conduct. Since Trump repeatedly denied Russia invaded us, despite the unanimous opinion of America’s intelligence services (not to mention his own Secretary of State), tried to ease sanctions against Russia and apparently obstructed justice in an attempt to cover up his conduct, Congress cannot ignore its Constitutional mandate to institute action against him.
In essence, Trump AT MINIMUM stood by, smiling, as one of our most bitter enemies committed cyber warfare against this sovereign nation, lied about it, AND BEGGED THEM TO DO IT AGAIN. Then, according to Mueller, he allegedly obstructed justice to prevent the investigation into this attack from even occurring.
The man who swore an oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” instead stood by and used his copy of that sacred document as a red cape to lure the Russian bull, waving it as the beast rushed by him and gored America. Then he patted the animal on the head, fed it dinner, pretended this was all normal and tried to hide the country’s wounds from us, while screaming that the television crew filming the match and the officials reviewing it were making it all up and out to get him in some nefarious plot, and THEY were the real criminals while HE was somehow wronged.
This is not Bill Clinton lying about whether he engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct with an intern. It’s not even Nixon covering up a burglary into his opponent’s campaign headquarters. No, what president Trump did was let a foreign country engage in a vicious attack against our free elections – the very foundation of our democracy – then cover it up, not only while claiming that he did nothing wrong, but by aggressively asserting that he was the VICTIM. It was Hillary. It’s the deep state. It’s a conflicted prosecutor (who has an impeccable record and was appointed by Trump’s own people). It’s angry Democrats. It’s a hoax. A witch hunt. Fake news.
Trump’s lies about the Russia investigation STILL haven’t stopped.
We cannot permit such indifferent, or perhaps calculated, malfeasance to our country’s security pass without a definitive, unconditional response. What’s more, these were the clumsy attempts of an ill-equipped political amateur to conspire with Russia. Imagine what he will accomplish with four years of experience under his belt, not to mention if he is abetted by a veteran Attorney General, well versed in Washington politics, who seems poised to do his bidding. Already we see that the administration is refusing to release the full Mueller report, refusing to comply with subpoenas, and refusing to follow clear statutes which direct the disclosure of documents, including his taxes. He is ordering both current and former employees – including private citizens – not to appear before Congress. He is suing private entities to prevent them from releasing documents pertaining to his finances. He is basically telling Congress that he can act as a potentate, do whatever he wishes, and there’s nothing they can do about it. Who knows, maybe he’ll declare another national emergency to end all oversight inquiries and expect that his hand-picked Supreme Court will approve it.
Our representatives cannot allow the Constitution to be reduced to tatters by a man with no respect for the office of the presidency, the separation of powers or the rule of law. We have always been told that one of the beautiful things about our democracy is no man is above the law, not even the president. However, today this is very difficult to believe, especially when the president has so much power at his disposal and exercises it in such corrupt fashion. With cronies in the Senate protecting him, along with his Attorney General, it sure looks as if the president is, in fact, above the law. And when that Attorney General testifies before Congress and says that “[i]f in fact a proceeding was not well-founded…if it was based on false allegations, the president does not have to sit there, constitutionally, and allow it to run its course,” he implies exactly that: a president can act as judge and jury, and end any proceeding initiated against him at any time, so long as he proclaims innocence.
Bill Barr is basically echoing Richard Nixon’s claim that “when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.” Apparently in Barr’s world, as in Nixon’s, the president IS above the law. We know how this turned out for Nixon. Trump seems almost determined to tread in his footsteps.
So despite any arguments to the contrary, impeachment is necessary to ensure confidence and viability in our political system.
But I think there’s an even more fundamental reason to start impeachment proceedings: Trump’s policies.
Normally a president’s political agenda should not give rise to removing him from office. Indeed, absent a significant crime I would generally argue vociferously against removal even if I were vehemently opposed to his agenda, as I am diametrically against Trump’s. Those are the consequences of elections: the majority gets to enact whatever bad legislation it can, such as the GOP tax law. It would be an exceedingly dangerous precedent to our entire system of government if we were to rid ourselves of a president simply because we find his politics distasteful.
Trump’s obstruction, however, has provided us with a unique opportunity to right some egregious wrongs. For how could any Democrat look in the eyes of an immigrant child who has been separated from her parents and tell her, I’m sorry you might never see your mother again; it might have been different if only we had impeached? Or tell a father after his daughter was killed in a school shooting, I’m sorry he vetoed that background check legislation; if only we had impeached? Or explain a decision to let the president’s conduct slide to someone who lost their health insurance, lost their right to vote, lost their job due to tariffs or was adversely affected in a devastating way by any one of the seemingly endless stream of bad Trump policies.
While removal is extremely unlikely, and perhaps impossible with the composition of the Senate, that must not stop Democrats from doing the proper thing. The ethical thing. The morally correct thing.
They must impeach.
Thankfully, House Democrats are building on the Mueller report with committee hearings designed to elicit testimony and proof of the allegations raised therein. While they are proceeding too slowly and cautiously for some, they recognize the hurdles they must overcome in order to get this country back on the right track, like the rancor America might experience if they skipped hearings and moved straight to impeachment. We watched this play out as the House Judiciary Committee voted to hold the Attorney General in contempt for failing to comply with a subpoena regarding the Mueller report.
So take heart, friends. Keep up the fight to ensure that Blue Wave continues by supporting organizations like Indivisible, DemCast and Lawyers for Good Government. Trump’s winter of discontent may still yet be coming. The question is, will it be made glorious summer by Queen Nancy of the House?