On The Horns Of The Impeachment Dilemma
I’m with Nancy.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has warned her caucus, repeatedly, against rushing to impeach President Donald J. Trump. Even after the release of the Mueller report, with its damning details of Trump’s clear delight with the efforts of Russian rogues to interfere in the 2016 presidential campaign and his obvious attempts to obstruct the investigation into that interference, Pelosi has counseled caution.
She prefers that House Democrats continue their multiple investigations into the president’s perfidy. Although Trump has said, “We’re fighting all the subpoenas” — or because he insists on defying congressional subpoenas — that’s a prudent course. It allows Democrats to control the narrative about a corrupt and autocratic president, a man at war with the U.S. Constitution and its clear separation of powers, through the 2020 presidential election.
The Constitution instructs Congress to impeach a president for “high crimes and misdemeanors,” and Trump’s behavior constitutes crimes both high and low. Not only did he and his campaign aides welcome the assistance of a foreign adversary trying to subvert an election, not only did he attempt to obstruct the investigation into that election, but he also has cozied up to brutal dictators; he has defied his own intelligence chiefs to award top security clearances to family members and others without regard to national security; he has presided over an administration with countless Cabinet officials who have been credibly accused of corruption; and he has turned the presidency into a kleptocracy, in which he and his family members use the office to enrich themselves.
Nor is it true, as some political pundits claim, that impeachment proceedings would pull Democratic presidential and congressional candidates “off-message,” interfering with their attempts to lure voters with universal health care, free college tuition or stricter gun control laws. Those candidates are capable of walking and chewing gum at the same time. Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) might easily say, “Yes, I’m voting to impeach,” while expounding on their policy proposals.
Indeed, Warren may have given the best political reason for impeachment: It would force Republican senators to vote “yea” or “nay,” and most of them would vote against it. “They should have to take that vote and live with it for the rest of their lives,” she said in a recent town-hall forum.
But since most Republicans would likely vote against impeachment, Trump would remain in office. And given their penchant for mimicking Trump, they would continue to lambast Mueller’s investigation as a partisan “witch hunt,” all the while endorsing the portions they find useful, such as Mueller’s finding that Trump did not conspire with Russian agents to interfere in the 2016 election. (He did, however, gladly benefit from their assistance.)
That would leave a nation already brutalized by the Trump presidency further polarized, embittered, raw. Surely a singular responsibility of patriots is to attempt to heal the nation, to restore democratic ideals, to mend the ties that bind. A more cautious approach to impeachment might help.
This nation will live with the bitter divisions that Trump has exacerbated for generations to come. There will be no easy path to civic renewal. Indeed, a sizable minority of conservative voters believe every lie he tells; they are willing to reject the U.S. Constitution itself to support a grifter who endorses their worldview. There is no bringing them back into the fold.
But there are also right-leaning voters who supported Trump in 2016 who have been appalled by his behavior and who are willing to hear further evidence of his misdeeds. They need the weight of hearing after hearing, document after document, misdeed piled upon misdeed to be persuaded of the extensive damage the Trump presidency has wrought. House Democrats should keep after the president with investigation after investigation, subpoena after subpoena.
If Trump continues to obstruct their efforts, impeachment may be the only recourse. But it’s not yet time for that.