–IF THERE WERE SUCH A THING? —
The big question many are asking today is why Republicans – and a fair number of independents – have failed to climb on the impeachment bandwagon despite overwhelming factual evidence of the President’s “arms for investigations” shakedown of Ukraine for his personal political benefit. In my view, the problem is getting Mr. and Mrs. America to understand and grasp, in terms they can personally relate to simply and easily, what impeachment means and how it works.
Impeachment resembles a trial in our criminal justice system. But it is NOT the same.
The procedural similarities are obvious: The House functions as a grand jury, investigating and, ultimately –when and if sufficient grounds are established – “indicting” (impeaching) the official in question (the Vice President and members of the Cabinet can also be impeached by the House of Representatives). From there, the matter goes to “trial” – the U.S. Senate, with all 100 Senators constituting the jury, and a 2/3rds vote (67) required to convict. Upon conviction, an impeached official is removed from office. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court acts as the presiding Juror in the Senate’s deliberations, though it is not clear who prevails in procedural matters??
The standard for impeachment and conviction is defined in Article 2, Section 4 of the Constitution and reads, in its entirety, “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 intentions of the Founding Fathers around impeachment are clear: it was intended primarily to guard against kings or other foreign powers from interfering in U.S. affairs – especially against interference in elections.
In the only two previous cases of impeachment — where there was an indictment by the House followed by acquittal in the Senate – the accusations were well understood. In the case of Andrew Johnson, the crime was simply Johnson’s appointment of a person to a government post ‘solely’ on political grounds —more easily understandable today. In Bill Clinton’s case, the crime was based on improper sexual behavior; also easily understood today.
The current case against Trump is based on a simple scheme to withhold U.S. taxpayer dollars authorized and intended by Congress for Ukraine’s defense in an explicit exchange for Ukraine investigating Trump’s likeliest political opponent in the upcoming 2020 election, Joe Biden.
The Johnson case was simply a political fight carried to extremes. With hindsight it failed correctly.
The Clinton case was improper personal sexual misbehavior by Clinton, which also with hindsight failed correctly.
Trump’s Ukraine transgressions came to light in the midst of a confusing mine field of Trump’s aggressive mistakes domestically and abroad, along with his trampling of democratic norms, Western alliances, and seeming inability to speak truthfully a lot of the times.
In short, today’s impeachment boils down to Trump putting his personal political future before U.S. national security by demanding something of value (investigations) in exchange for an official act (releasing the already appropriated funds). It really is a simple case, if one looks at the facts and evidence and puts aside the obvious partisan differences.
The facts are not in dispute – Trump and his minions (including personal hand puppet Rep. Devin Nunes) have not introduced a single piece of evidence that counter the allegations. Instead, they are trying to hide behind complaints about “process” and ludicrous legal arguments of “absolute immunity” from Congressional oversight to prevent officials at the center of Trump’s scheme from testifying.
So, to better understand this case, IMAGINE the mayor of your town, your boss at work using other peoples’ money to tarnish the reputation of someone competing for his job and at the same time seeking to extend his own contract; or the head of your labor union telling a business she will launch a strike unless the business provides certain perks and a new contract to the union chief; or an unethical relative holding your child’s allowance – paid by you — hostage until that child cleans the relative’s garage!
If you can think of Trump’s behavior in those terms – regardless of all other considerations— it should be obvious that Trump’s scheme is a serious affront to America’s national interests (Ukraine, a U.S. ally is, after all, at war with Russia). More important, it becomes clear that impeachment and conviction are essential to ensure that no future president can place their own interests ahead of their oath of office to put the public interest first.
Mr. and Mrs. America our precious democracy demands nothing less from you and all your neighbors.