Maintaining the Momentum of Impeachment

The Trump administration is infested with corruption and has demonstrated time after time that it’s incapable of governing. The administration is refusing to cooperate in any way with the House’s impeachment inquiry. For the Trump administration, this is business as usual.

The constitution makes it perfectly clear that the legislative branch has the authority and responsibility of holding the executive branch accountable. It’s our duly-elected representatives who are engaged in this important undertaking. Yet Trump doesn’t respect the authority of Congress –a co-equal branch of government– which means he doesn’t respect the constitution he swore to protect and defend. And if Trump doesn’t respect Congress, he doesn’t respect the American people. It’s the people who elected our representatives and therefore their power comes from us. 

Trump has thrown the delicate power balance in the Middle East off its axis by recklessly pulling American armed forces from Syria with no exit or diplomatic planning. This has put the Kurds, one of our strongest allies in combating ISIS and maintaining stability in the Middle East, in imminent danger. The House voted overwhelmingly (354-60) to condemn Trump’s decision. The majority of House Republicans even supported this rare act of condemnation. 

Trump’s capacity for corruption is boundless. In the midst of the Ukraine crisis, Trump was still intent on soliciting foreign powers to interfere in our electoral process by urging China to investigate the Biden family. Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, is currently under investigation by the Department of Justice’s Southern District of New York office. The news broke shortly after two of his Ukrainian associates who helped him with the Ukraine scandal were arrested at the airport with one-way tickets to Germany. They were charged with violating campaign finance laws. Giuliani had lunch with them just hours before their arrest.   

The Ukraine scandal hasn’t seemed to worry Trump enough to take a break from profiting off of the American taxpayer. He uses his power and influence to direct government business to his own properties. He’s been doing this since he was sworn in. During the past year’s G7 summit, Trump went out of his way to promote his Doral resort for the 2020 G7 summit. And, as of yesterday, it was announced Doral would be the location for the 2020 G7 economic summit. 

All of these events have only happened in the past couple of weeks, just as the impeachment inquiry is at a fever pitch. It’s obvious to any rationally-minded individual that this president believes he is above the law. While any other person in his situation would be on their best behavior, he’s becoming more unhinged and reckless by the day. This perpetual state of chaos is not normal and we cannot become desensitized to it. And this is why the impeachment inquiry is more important than ever. 

The process of impeachment must have a mandate by the American people: citizens deeply concerned about the affairs of the office that’s administered with by the consent of the people. Polls in the past few weeks have indicated the majority of Americans support impeachment. However, we cannot rely solely on polls. We need to apply significant pressure to our members of Congress, regardless of their party or position on impeachment. 

Impeachment is only half the battle since it’s effectively non-binding. Trump will need to be convicted by the Republican-controlled Senate, which is led by Mitch McConnell –the most notorious and powerful obstructor of the legislative process in Congress. If there’s not significant pressure coming from a majority of Americans, McConnell will do everything in his power to coerce the impeachment trial in the Senate. As the Majority Leader, McConnell has significant power in whipping Republican votes. However, if public opinion on impeachment and removal continues to gain momentum, they’ll be much more inclined to vote to convict. This will come out of self-preservation for their own political future. It’s unlikely most of these Republican senators will be voting their conscience. They’ll be voting whichever way the political winds are blowing. And it’s the American people who control those winds. 

The American people will need to play their part. We need to focus our attention on contacting our elected officials, imploring them to support impeachment and removal from office. Calls need to be made and letters need to be drafted. We also need to convince our otherwise apathetic friends and family to do the same. 

The opportunity to right the greatest wrong in modern American history is upon us. There’s never been a more important time to engage in civic action. If Trump isn’t impeached and convicted, it could very well be the final shot across the bow for American democracy.

When our constitution was created at the Constitutional Convention, it’s said that a woman approached Benjamin Franklin and asked what kind of government they had created. Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.” 

Let Slip the Dogs of Impeachment

In my last article, I warned that the impeachment clock was running out of time. House Democrats were divided on the issue of impeachment. However, over the past week, the support in the House for impeachment has made a quantum leap.

The news broke late last week that a whistleblower from within the intelligence community filed a formal complaint regarding nefarious behavior on the part of Trump and his minions. That complaint was sent to the inspector general of the intelligence community. The inspector general reviewed the complaint and deemed the whistleblower to be credible and his complaint to be of high national importance. The whistleblower described an “urgent matter” in which he or she disclosed that the Trump administration was soliciting the highest levels of the Ukrainian government, including its president, for damaging information against Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. Trump intended to use this information against Biden, who he views as his greatest threat in the 2020 presidential election. 

Trump and members of his administration withheld aid and military support to Ukraine in exchange for them producing damaging information against Biden and his son. Biden’s son was on the board of a Ukrainian energy company that was being investigated by the Ukrainian government while Biden was vice president. Biden threatened to withhold a billion dollars in U.S. loan guarantees if Ukrainian officials didn’t take action to reduce its rampant corruption. This also included Ukrainian’s top prosecutor who was affiliated with the investigation into the energy company. However, it wasn’t just Biden who was targeting Ukraine’s corruption —it was the position of the entire U.S. government, particularly the State Department. Therefore, Biden’s stance was well within the parameters of U.S. foreign policy. Moreover, as vice president, Biden did not have the authority to unilaterally withhold U.S. loan guarantees.

The whistleblower’s complaint alleges that Trump made a “promise” to the Ukrainian president. This all took place over a phone call in late July 2019. And yet a week before the phone call took place, the Trump administration withheld $400 million in aid to the Ukrainian government. The act of withholding the aid was intended to create leverage over Ukraine, pressuring them to comply. Trump, according to the whistleblower, also asked the Ukrainian president to open an investigation into the origins of the Russia election interference investigation.

Trump conspiring to use the power of his office to damage a political opponent is not merely unethical, it’s illegal. It appears members of Trump’s inner circle understood the gravity of the situation and as a result, sought to cover it up. White House officials reportedly instructed Trump’s lawyers to move all electronic evidence of the exchange(s) to a secure server that’s only used for “especially sensitive” information (e.g. top secret). By having the record of the exchange(s) stored in a server only used for classified information, it would make it much harder to ever see the light of day. 

As per regulation, the inspector general forwarded the whistleblower’s complaint to the Director of National Intelligence, Joseph Maguire. The Director of National Intelligence is an appointed, cabinet-level position. Maguire was attempting to conceal the complaint. He didn’t send it to the congressional intelligence committees, as dictated by regulation, within seven days. The House Intelligence Committee issued a subpoena for the complaint, which was disobeyed by Maguire. He claimed he reviewed the complaint and determined it was not an urgent matter. He also cited the fact that it involved classified material. And, as previously mentioned, it only contained “classified” material because Trump’s lawyer’s attempted to obscure it on the secure server. 

This past Thursday, Maguire finally testified before the House Intelligence Committee. If Trump was hoping for a William Barr or Steve Mnuchin’s performance of cabinet members obstructing a congressional hearing, he misjudged Maguire. During the hearing, Maguire did attempt to dodge questions, but his testimony was nonetheless damning. Trump, earlier in the week, attacked the motives of the whistleblower, calling him or her a “political hack.” Maguire contradicted Trump’s attack by saying he believed the whistleblower was “acting in good faith.” Maguire also said, “I am not familiar with any prior instances where a whistleblower complaint touched on such complicated and sensitive issues, including executive privilege. I believe that this matter is unprecedented.” 

The whistleblower seems to have known there would be an effort to conceal their complaint. They intentionally wrote the complaint so that the first nine pages did not include any classified information, which would make it much easier to release. And on Thursday, in a rare act of unity, both the House and the Senate voted unanimously to have the whistleblower complaint released to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. The unclassified portion of the complaint is available for the public to view for themselves.

As the events of the past week unfolded, Democratic members of the House who were reluctant to initiate impeachment proceedings were joining the rest of the Democrats in the House. The number of House members supporting an impeachment inquiry was growing by the hour. As of this moment, 223 House Democrats, an Independent (Justin Amash), and a single Republican (Mark Amodei) support an impeachment inquiry. 

With the revelations coming from the whistleblower’s complaint, coupled with all the other instances of misconduct by this president, on Tuesday, Nancy Pelosi formally announced the initiation of impeachment proceedings against Trump. Pelosi made her historic statement with a succession of American flags in the background:

“The actions of the Trump presidency have revealed the dishonorable fact of the president’s betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections. Therefore, today, I am announcing the House of Representatives is moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry.” 

While many, including myself, have argued in favor of impeachment well before the whistleblower complaint, the sheer magnitude of the allegations could very well be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back –at least in the House. It’s now up to the House to thoroughly –and without reservation– investigate this president and make an appeal to the public in support of impeachment. 

If the House sees fit to issue Articles of Impeachment, the case will be passed to the Senate for a trial. However, with Mitch McConnell as the Senate Majority Leader, it’s possible he may not even allow a trial to take place or drag it out, betting on a re-election in 2020. He would be violating the constitution, but that’s never stopped him from obstructing the legislative process before. This is why it’s critical the House does an effective and consistent job of unearthing all the bodies Trump has buried under the White House. It’s critical that the momentum of the past week is maintained throughout the proceedings. If the majority of the public supports impeachment, the Republican-controlled Senate will be pressured to act.

Nixon’s impeachment process steadily gained public support. It started out with most Americans being against impeachment, but after they heard the barrage of revelations of Nixon’s wrongdoings and coverups, public support swayed in favor of impeachment. Nixon, however, resigned before he could be convicted by the Senate. 

Trump is not Nixon. If Articles of Impeachment are passed and a trial is held in the Senate, it’s unlikely that Trump will go quietly into the night. Trump is going to do everything he can to hold onto power. It’s not merely a matter of ego –it could potentially be his very freedom that’s at stake. The substance of the whistleblower’s complaint is a clearly-defined act of criminality. Trump has used the power of the presidency for personal gain. There’s a Department of Justice guideline that says a sitting president cannot be charged with a crime, but no such guideline exists for a former president. There’s no telling what an unhinged and amoral individual like Trump will do when he’s truly desperate.

The coming months will be tumultuous but necessary. Trump is the very incarnation of why the founders added the power of impeachment to the constitution. The integrity of our whole system of government is at stake. The presidency has already been tainted with immorality, deceit, and corruption. Yet the House now has the opportunity to show the world that the American republic can survive a rogue and lawless tyrant, “and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the Earth.”

Impeachment is Slipping Away

Trump has been engaged in impeachable offenses since taking office. His presidency has been plagued with corruption, chaos, and negligence. He’s been aided and abetted by those in his own administration, as well as the Republican Party as a whole. 

The Republicans controlled both houses of Congress for the first two years of the Trump presidency. However, after the 2018 midterm elections, the Democrats seized the majority. Nancy Pelosi was once again chosen to be the House Majority Leader. Since taking control of the House, Pelosi has continuously stated that she wanted to wait for solid evidence before bringing an impeachment inquiry to the floor. There’s been more than enough evidence to take action.

The Mueller investigation concluded many months ago. Mueller uncovered ten possible instances of obstruction of justice within the scope of his investigation. At the time, an impeachment inquiry seemed inevitable, but it’s continuously been pushed back. Most of the problems stemmed from the Trump administration being uncooperative with congressional requests and subpoenas. The administration has consistently obstructed Congress’s ability to check and balance the executive branch. As a result, Congress is no longer a co-equal branch of government.

The founders created checks and balances in the constitution to prevent this kind of situation from happening. Unfortunately, with a Republican Party that’s complicit and therefore unwilling to honor their oaths to protect and defend the constitution, the constitutional remedies are restrained. 

If the Democrat-controlled House passed Articles of Impeachment, it’s unlikely the Republican-controlled Senate would vote to convict. In fact, with Mitch McConnell as Majority Leader in the Senate, it’s unlikely an impeachment trial would even take place. McConnell is notorious for obstructing the legislative process in the Senate if it’s not in his own interest. 

Even if the Senate is unlikely to bring an impeachment trial to the floor, the House should still move to pass Articles of Impeachment. The Democrats in the House haven’t been united on this front. Some are eager to move the impeachment process along, while others are reluctant to act. Pelosi has notoriously been ambiguous about her position. Her ambiguity is intentional. While she certainly doesn’t support or condone Trump’s actions, she thinks an impeachment process would be divisive for the public to endure. However, there are times when politicking must be put aside for the greater good and that time is now.

The country has been waking up, every day, to a never-ending national nightmare. Trump has become more emboldened by the lack of any meaningful accountability or consequences. As more information comes out about the administration’s corruption, there’s been more pressure on the House to take action. Just in the past couple of weeks, it’s been reported –again– that Trump is profiting off his position. This is a violation of the emoluments clause in Article I of the constitution, which essentially states a public official cannot profit from their position of power. Trump’s unabashed corruption has forced the hand of the House to at least make it seem like something is being done, which has sent out mixed signals. This past week, the House Judiciary Committee approved definitions for an impeachment inquiry. These definitions are meant to create a set of parameters for an impeachment inquiry. Jerry Nadler, the committee’s chairman, said an impeachment inquiry was underway. However, shortly after making the statement, Pelosi said the committee isn’t engaged in an impeachment inquiry. She’s staying away from the word “impeachment.”

The closer we get to the 2020 presidential election, it becomes less and less likely the House will pass Articles of Impeachment. If the House Democrats continue to be disunited on initiating impeachment proceedings, it will forever be a stain on this House. Trump’s criminality, bigotry, and recklessness have severely damaged the integrity of the presidency. The House’s integrity will be jeopardized by not seizing the moment to counteract his trespasses.

There’s never been a president, or any elected official, who’s been more deserving of impeachment. If the Senate is unwilling to hold a trial, then so be it: let Mitch McConnell and the other Republicans in Congress forever bear weakness and subversion as their legacy. The world and future generations of Americans need to know our elected representatives in the House stood up and took action against the greatest internal threat this country has ever faced. The clock is ticking and it’s just minutes to midnight.