Our Impeachment Imperative

Article II, section 4 of our U.S. Constitution:The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United states, shall be removed from Office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.

“The Framers wisely intended the phrase ‘or other high crimes and misdemeanors’ to include undermining the Constitution and similar, ‘great offenses against the federal government (like abuse of power) even if they are not necessarily crimes.’”Professors Ronald Rotunda and John Nowak, a 1986 treatise on constitutional law.

“A president should be impeached for conduct that so taints or corrupts the presidency, he or she must be removed to preserve the integrity of American government.”Peter Brandon Bayer, Associate Professor of Law at UNLV.

Until recently, I was unsure about whether or not action by our U.S. House of Representatives to develop articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump was a good idea. With the 2020 presidential race now underway, a lot of people, including me, have been concerned that weekly news stories about the Democrat-controlled House “going after” the sitting Republican president would give President Trump an ongoing campaign issue that could lead to his reelection. 

Certainly it would fire up Trump’s most zealous supporters, although probably not add more people of equal zeal to their numbers. The fact is, Trump’s approval ratings have steadily declined since his inauguration. Do we want to risk doing something that might help him regain public sympathy? 

Also, a drawn out impeachment crisis would no doubt overshadow any other congressional activity, no matter how impressive it might be. As long as impeachment was dominating the news, critically important issues like climate change, the infrastructure and poverty would receive less public attention and discussion. 

Of at least equal concern, impeachment hearings might give Republican candidates in “swing” congressional districts recently won by Democrats a campaign issue to help them win back seats and potentially regain control of the U.S. House next year. Might Lauren Underwood, Cheri Bustos and others be put in danger? 

Some Democratic Party strategists also point to what happened in 1998 following President Bill Clinton’s impeachment by the U.S. House. He was acquitted by the Senate and went on to see his voter approval rating soar to as high as 73%! He left office with a record setting 66% positive rating. — The prospect that an impeachment attack on Trump could lead to a similar result isn’t out of the question, although it does seem unlikely.  

The charges against Clinton stemmed from his lying to federal authorities concerning an extramarital sexual relationship; his lies then obstructing judicial procedures. A lot of the American public, Democrats and Republicans, viewed Clinton’s reckless behavior as irresponsible, stupid, and sleazy. However, grounds for impeachment? Not really. The zeal of his congressional attackers was transparently political (and for more than a few of them wildly hypocritical).  

On the other hand, the case for the impeachment of President Donald Trump feels much more legitimate. In 2016 a foreign government invaded the election process of our United States. This is a fact no longer disputed (except occasionally by President Trump). The investigation that followed this shocking event was long and in depth. Robert Mueller’s 400-page report, though highly redacted, contained enough unredacted information to strongly suggest efforts by President Donald Trump to obstruct this federal investigation did occur.  

Here are ten potential offenses: Trump — asked the FBI Director to shut down the investigation into National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s dealings with Russia; he admitted he fired FBI Director Comey because of the Russia investigation; he ordered White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire Robert Mueller; he attempted to curtail the Special Counsel investigation; he prevented the public disclosure of evidence; he urged Attorney General Sessions to un-recuse from the Russia investigation; he directed White House Counsel Don McGahn to create false documents that covered up the truth from investigators; he tried to discourage Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn from cooperating with the Mueller investigation; he encouraged his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, to lie about Trump Tower Moscow; he tried to get Michael Cohen not to cooperate with the investigation. 

The nearly 600 words you’ve just read pretty much sum up the debate that’s gone on in my head concerning a Trump impeachment. 

So far, House Speaker Pelosi has remained noncommittal toward opening such action. Some believe she’s waiting until the weight of information against Donald Trump is so overwhelming that the majority of the American public and even some congressional Republicans will agree that impeachment must begin.

A few days ago a Fox survey showed that 43% of registered voters now favor the impeachment and removal of Donald Trump, another 7% favor impeachment but not removal. These numbers have steadily been rising over the past year. The percentage of voters who believe the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia has now reached 50%. — I’m sure Speaker Pelosi is aware of these numbers.

James Madison urged that impeachment is appropriate for “loss of capacity, or corruption [that] might be fatal to the republic.” (Does obstructing an investigation into a foreign invasion of our political process qualify?) 

Our 9th District Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky has now publicly stated she supports starting impeachment proceedings against President Donald J. Trump. So has our neighboring Congressman Sean Casten. Others may eventually follow. 

And where have I landed on this? Despite the plausible reasons against it, I’ve concluded impeachment should begin. However, my reasoning isn’t based on political pros and cons. I’ve simply asked myself, “Why even have language in our nation’s constitution if it is going to be completely ignored?” If there ever was an American president who’s actions meet our constitution’s criteria for impeachment, we have one right now. If we let Donald Trump completely get away with “conduct that so taints and corrupts the presidency” what will stop him or some other president from even more pernicious behavior in the future?

Nels Howard, NTD Member Since 1973