It is time for impeachment, not just an inquiry.
Just about every non-Trump supporter will agree that the President has committed impeachable offenses over the course of his very short political career (obstruction of justice, campaign finance fraud, etc). What has been dividing Democrats, at least until recently, has been the role impeachment would play in the 2020 election. Impeachment is, to be clear, a process in the House of Representatives that does not remove the president from office but rather is the first step to conviction, which requires a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate. No president in United States’ history has ever been removed from the office. Many people are against impeachment because it is highly unlikely to remove him from office, but there are three political reasons as to why Democrats should impeach the president: Firstly, Trump is going to claim exoneration if they do nothing. Secondly, the act will force the Senate to take a vote. Third, Senate Republicans up in 2020 do not want to vote on convicting or exonerating the president. And fourth, precedent.
First, by doing nothing, the president can claim “total exoneration.” Many Democrats think that if Democrats impeach the president only for the Senate to prevent a conviction, voters will see impeachment as partisanship gamesmanship. I argue that by doing nothing, the president is able to say that because Democrats are not impeaching him, he obviously did not do anything wrong. If he had committed a high crime or misdemeanor, wouldn’t the nasty Democrats have used their foothold in the House to impeach him? Doing nothing would suggest, in the minds of many voters who do not follow the news as closely as political pundits, that there is no crime here and all the accusations against the president have been a baseless “witch hunt.”
Second, there is nothing Democrats can force the Senate to vote on except for impeachment. House Democrats have been passing bill after bill that would alleviate the stress on middle-class families by improving healthcare and raising the minimum wage, but the Senate Majority Leader has refused to let a single one come up for a vote. Sen. McConnell has absolute power in the Senate over what comes up for a vote, except for impeachment. The constitution mandates, in Article 1, that the Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. By not holding a trial or at least a vote on removal, the majority leader is abdicating his constitutional duties.
Third, since the Senate will be forced to take a vote, Senate Republicans in purple states will have to choose between voting against the president or losing their seats next fall. The starkest examples are Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner and Maine Sen. Susan Collins who are both up for re-election in 2020 in states that President Trump lost to Hillary Clinton in 2016. Trump’s approval rating in Maine is underwater by 13 points and is nearly 20 points underwater in Colorado. In Iowa, where Sen. Joni Ernst is up in 2020, the president is eight points underwater. In North Carolina (Sen. Tom Tillis) and Georgia (which has both its Senate seats up in 2020), the president is only one or two points underwater, but the president won North Carolina by almost four points and Georgia by six. The president has become increasingly unpopular in states that Democrats need to win in order to take back the Senate. This impeachment conviction vote will put Senators in politically uncomfortable positions. Assuming there are not 67 Senators willing to convict the president, it would still be very beneficial for Senate Democrats to concretely tie Senate Republicans in purple states.
Fourth, if Democrats do not vote to impeach the president, it greenlights any future corruption. In late July, Robert Mueller testified to the obstruction and collusion that the president was part of, and House Democrats did nothing. They did not increase their impeachment push or intensify their investigations at all. The president, the day after, called Ukrainian premier Volodymyr Zelensky to demand an investigation into his political opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, or else he was going to continue withholding Congressionally allotted military and financial assistance. Since then, his cabinet has attempted to lock down records and transcript of the call, and obstructed subsequent congressional investigations, as alleged by a whistleblower complaint. By not taking any action against this behavior, we have seen that he just gets more and more aggressive. We’ve seen this before. In 2016, the president solicited assistance from foreign governments, received it, won the election, and then was never punished for it. He is running this same playbook again in front of our very eyes, except now, we have time to stop it.
Democrats need to proceed in a rapid and intense fashion to investigate and impeach the president. House Democrats need to use every instrument in the toolbox, like inherent contempt to fine or even jail uncooperative witnesses. For the past eight months, House Democrats have been playing softball. When Hope Hicks lied to Congress, she got a re-do.When Secretary Ross refused to cooperate with the census investigation, he got a pass. That time is over. Witnesses should be fined $100 a day they do not show up to testify, and if they lie to Congress, they should be jailed. Acting Director of National Intelligence Maguire will testify in front of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on Thursday. If he refuses to turn over the whistleblower complaint or obfuscates, Chairman Adam Schiff should file charges immediately and vote on an article impeachment in regards to obstruction of Congressional investigations the next day.
Our democracy is at risk. It is time for House Leadership to stand up to protect it.
Photo credit Kremlin.ru, Creative Commons