Should Democrats move to impeach Donald Trump? | The Tylt
Should Democrats move to impeach Donald Trump?
Senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has lead the impeachment charge amongst senior Democrats. Warren wrote on Twitter that lawmakers need to move past political concerns and act in the best interest of the nation.
The severity of this misconduct demands that elected officials in both parties set aside political considerations and do their constitutional duty. That means the House should initiate impeachment proceedings against the President of the United States.
Warren went on to say that ignoring Trump's behavior and deigning to impeach would do lasting harm to the office of the president.
At Lawfare Blog, editors Susan Hennessey and Quinta Jurecic agree with Warren's assertions, arguing impeachment is a Constitutional imperative meant to protect the integrity of the office of the president. Additionally, Hennessey and Jurecic point out that Mueller stated in his report he was declining to indict the president due to a memo written by the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) in 2000 which states that the Justice Department should not indict a sitting president. Without the possibility of indicting a president on criminal charges, the only way for a president to be held accountable for potential wrongdoing is through impeachment.
The problem is that impeachment isn’t a purely political matter—though certainly it is political in part. It’s a constitutional expression of the separation of powers, of Congress’s ability to check a chief executive overrunning the bounds of his power. It’s also, under the OLC memo, the only release valve in the constitutional structure for the urgent and mounting pressure of an executive who may have committed serious wrongdoing. To say that the appropriate course is to simply wait for the next presidential election in 18 months, is to offer a judgment that—even in light of his conduct as described by Mueller—Trump is not truly unfit for the office.
...There is a danger to this mode of thinking, which is that Democrats should tolerate the institutional harms that would come from not initiating a serious impeachment inquiry because what really matters is winning the 2020 election. When you convince yourself that the best way to safeguard the republic is for your side to win, it gets tempting to tolerate all kinds of intolerable things.
Many worry impeachment efforts will fall short of the goal of removing Trump from office. Washington Post columnist Karen Tumulty writes in an April 19 piece there is no way for Trump to be convicted by the current Senate. Tumulty believes that a prolonged hearing in Congress ending with non-indictment would weaken Democrats' political standing in the upcoming election.
Even a successful impeachment by the House would come screeching to a halt in the Republican-controlled Senate, where chances of the constitutionally mandated two-thirds vote it would take to convict are virtually zero. The only thing the exercise would accomplish is further inflaming both the president’s political base and the opposition.
What’s more, the process would probably take a year or more, during which the country would become not only more deeply divided, but thoroughly preoccupied, as anyone who was sentient during the 1998-99 impeachment saga of President Bill Clinton will recall.
All of this would take us right into the height of the 2020 presidential campaign season, when voters will be given their opportunity to say directly whether they believe Trump is fit to occupy the Oval Office.
Columnist Charles M. Blow disagrees in a New York Times op-ed. Blow points out the Senate has never voted to convict and remove a president from office. Yet the lack of indictments does not undo the severity of the impeachment hearings themselves.
Impeachment exists separately from removal. Impeachment in the House is akin to an indictment, with the trial, which could convict and remove, taking place in the Senate. The Senate has never once voted to convict.
So, an impeachment vote in the House has, to this point, been the strongest rebuke America is willing to give a president. I can think of no president who has earned this rebuke more than the current one.
Ezra Klein writes for Vox that impeachment would ultimately be an empty show that would hurt Democrats in the upcoming election. Klein believes there is already ample public evidence of Trump's wrongdoings, and as such, public impeachment hearings would be far less about the substance of his actions than they would be about whether to remove him from office.
The public does not lack for opportunities to examine the evidence for and against Trump. Nor do I think hearings of this sort are likely to provide cool clarity as to his crimes and their severity. Impeachment will be a partisan war over the president’s removal, and anyone who thinks otherwise is fooling themselves. The fact-finding potential within the process will be overwhelmed by the question of whether impeachment is merited. As happened to Republicans in 1998, impeachment proceedings will shift the focus from the president’s misdeeds, which are grave, to the question of whether he should be ripped from office.
Absent public support for impeachment, and amid a strong economy, it would give the White House an opportunity to run the playbook Bill Clinton ran so successfully in the 1990s: Here’s Trump, focusing on economic growth, and there are the Democrats, focusing on their doomed vendetta against the president.
Norm Ornstein writes for the Atlantic that impeachment is not Congress' only option when it comes to continuing to investigate the president. Ornstein suggests a coordinated effort between several Congressional committees to expand the investigation and make it more public. Then, at the end of these hearings and investigations, Ornstein suggests lawmakers decide on the question of impeachment. Ornstein argues that with a more measured approach, the public would view impeachment less as vindictive politics than a logical end to a careful investigation.
What we need is for the Judiciary, Intelligence, and Homeland Security Committees to conduct a series of deep dives into the areas of communication and coordination between Trump and his campaign with Russians and their surrogates, such as WikiLeaks; the multiple categories and areas of obstruction of justice that Robert Mueller outlined; the threats to our intelligence operations and our justice system from Trump and his operatives; and the moves by Russia to interfere in and influence our elections used by Trump and unchecked by Republicans. Other committees, such as Ways and Means and Banking, need to be ready to do the same thing as more information emerges from the SDNY and the New York attorney general, among others, about Trump’s financial dealings, including with the Russians, and about Russian money laundering. The witnesses need to include Mueller and Rosenstein, of course, but also the range of figures mentioned in the report, and also a range of experts in areas such as ethics, constitutional violations, intelligence operations, and election administration and security.