Some political pundits, even party insiders, have cautioned Democrats against beginning articles of impeachment when they take control of the House in 2019. Their line of reasoning is that the occupant of the Oval Office should be determined only by election and that a GOP-controlled Senate would never convict Trump anyway. The result of impeachment, they say, could destroy our nation.
Really? What do you think Republicans would do if the roles were reversed? I think you know the answer to that question. They would almost certainly vote for impeachment. Indeed, many called for the impeachment of President Obama simply for saving our economy from a second depression.
And there are even more important questions. What would be the impact of allowing a man guilty of multiple felonies from serving out his term? What precedent would that set? What would prevent a president from committing far more serious crimes in office. Declining to vote for articles of impeachment would say to future candidates that, if you can convince enough Americans to vote for you, you can do whatever you want as president while in office.
Consider the following:
President Richard Nixon resigned under threat of impeachment for making false or misleading statements; for withholding relevant evidence or information; for condoning and counseling witnesses to give false or misleading statements; for interfering with the conduct of investigations by the Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Congressional Committees; for approving the payment of substantial sums of hush money to witnesses; for making false or misleading public statements for the purpose of deceiving the people of the United States; for causing defendants to expect favored treatment and consideration in return for their silence or false testimony.
And President Clinton was impeached for far less. After a 4-year investigation, he was impeached on one count of perjury for lying about a sexual affair and one count of obstruction for attempting to cover up that affair. He was ultimately acquitted by the Senate.
Now, let’s look at what we know about President Trump. With all of the chaos caused by his administration and the violation of norms, it’s easy to lose sight of the crimes he has committed. For example, he has been named as an unindicted co-conspirator for directing and participating in the illegal payment of hush money to two women with whom he had extramarital affairs. That means he has committed two counts of election fraud – both felonies.
During a televised interview, Trump openly admitted to obstruction of justice by saying he had fired FBI director James Comey for refusing to ignore Michael Flynn’s lies about his contacts with Russia – another felony. In a series of tweets, Trump indicated his admiration for Paul Manafort for refusing to cooperate with the Special Counsel’s office. That is witness tampering in plain sight – another felony. And we know that Trump has repeatedly lied to news reporters and the American public about his involvement in the payment of hush money – yet another example of obstruction of justice.
Additionally, we know that Trump has, on multiple occasions, violated the emoluments clause of the Constitution by receiving money from foreign visitors to his Washington DC hotel and receiving foreign investments in his family business. He and many of his appointees have violated the Hatch Act by using public office and public funds to campaign for re-election. And we know that he and many within his campaign violated the Logan Act by negotiating with a foreign government (Russia) which has a dispute with the United States.
Even without knowing what the Special Counsel has found about Trump’s role in the Russian interference in our elections, and without knowing if Trump acted on behalf of Vladimir Putin to relax sanctions against Russia, we already know that Trump has committed multiple high crimes and misdemeanors. Indeed, he has far surpassed the crimes that led to Clinton’s impeachment. And he has even surpassed Nixon’s. In 1974, those crimes were enough to force a president from office. Is the standard so much higher now? And, if so, why?
Whether or not we allow Trump to remain in office is not just about politics. It’s about the law and what we should reasonably expect from a president. Trump took an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. He has clearly violated that oath. And if Democrats fail to vote for articles of impeachment, they will have failed to carry out their duty.