Congress: Would you take a case to trial that you know you could never win? That’s what is on the table with Trump impeachment.
USA TODAY asked a diverse group of contributors to its Opinion section how they would vote on impeaching President Donald Trump. Here are their answers:
An immoral jury: Ellis Cose
Would you take to trial a case you could never win — even if you could prove the suspect was guilty beyond a doubt? That is the dilemma facing the House.
The Republican leadership has already declared that the fix is in. That leaves the House in a position similar to that of prosecutors in the segregated South trying to persuade all-white juries to convict fellow whites of lynching blacks. Inevitably, the murderers were exonerated — even congratulated.
Yet we now see plainly that those juries were immoral, as future generations will decide of our Senate. The House has no option but to bring charges. It is the only body that can. It is not simply seeking the judgment of an ethically compromised Senate but of history, which is to say, of generations to come, who will see through the current political fog to what must be America’s truth: that no president is above the law.
Ellis Cose’s history of the ACLU, “Democracy, If We Can Keep It,” will be published next year. He is a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors.
Continue the kangaroo court: Charlotte Allen
I am generally against impeaching presidents except for very serious charges. I opposed the impeachment of Bill Clinton even though he obviously committed perjury — and was disbarred for it. How can you impeach someone for covering up having fun behind the back of his shrew wife?
As for the impeachment “inquiry,” what a hoot. The charges. What happened to all that “extortion,” “bribery,” “quid pro quo” and even “treason” the Democrats and their pals in the news media couldn’t stop talking about? Instead, we have “abuse of power” — which is a fancy way of saying we can’t prove extortion or bribery. And “obstruction of Congress,” which means that when House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff subpoenaed Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, Trump told him essentially that he’d see him in court on that one. That’s supposed to be a “high crime”?
Then there were the kangaroo-court House proceedings, which first consisted of a “secret” (but amply leaked) House Intelligence hearing in which various functionaries testified, mostly on hearsay, about what they thought about Trump’s phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, a call whose transcript Trump himself had promptly released. And the House Judiciary Committee hearings: three Trump-hating constitutional law professors testifying about how much they hated Trump, plus the coup de foudre of the Judiciary Committee lawyer who stepped down to the witness table to play anti-Trump witness, then vaulted right back up to his station as Judiciary Committee prosecuting lawyer.
But I say, in this instance: Go for it, Dems. Vote impeachment — please. Of course I’d love to see a full Senate trial, with Chief Justice John Roberts dusting off the hilarious gold-striped Gilbert and Sullivan robe that the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist wore during the Clinton trial. But I’d settle for the House “inquiry” just being laughed out of the Senate. I’d love to see the House Democrats from the 31 congressional districts that voted for Trump in 2016 squirm. Please, Dems, impeach!
Charlotte Allen is a writer in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter @MeanCharlotte
Democrats have no agenda: James S. Robbins
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said that impeachment must be “compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan,” but this isn’t any of that. The charges are confusing, overbroad and constitutionally suspect.
The only bipartisanship will come from Democrats in swing districts voting “no” to survive 2020. And the impeachment trial will give the Senate the opportunity to make the process an indictment of this phony scandal.
Impeachment reinforces the view that Democrats have no legislative agenda but are merely, as Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., paraphrased Benjamin Franklin in 1998, using impeachment as “a substitute for assassination.” Back then, Nadler opposed party-line impeachment, which would “produce divisiveness and bitterness” and “call into question the very legitimacy of our political institutions.”
Now, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Nadler should have taken his own advice.
James S. Robbins, a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors and author of “Erasing America: Losing Our Future by Destroying Our Past,” served as a special assistant in the office of the secretary of Defense in the George W. Bush administration. Follow him on Twitter: @James_Robbins
A crime the Founders had in mind: Joyce White Vance
It’s important to be clear on the stakes if the House doesn’t bring articles of impeachment against Trump. Even with acquittal looming in the Senate, the House should approve the articles. Article I, which is labeled “Abuse of Power,” incorporates conduct that include bribery, campaign finance fraud and conspiracy.
As bad as that is, it’s the conduct identified in Article II that is most damaging to the checks and balances the Founding Fathers put in place to prevent an imperial presidency. Trump flatly refused to comply with lawful subpoenas for documents and witnesses that Congress issued. If he is not held accountable for that obstruction, future presidents are free to ignore congressional oversight, no matter the subject.
If a president can ignore Congress when it tries to look into allegations that taxpayer dollars, appropriated to help an ally defend itself, were withheld by a president trying to use them as leverage to cheat in an upcoming election, then Congress is no longer in a position to hold future presidents accountable for even the most corrupt of conduct.
Joyce White Vance is a former U.S. attorney in the Northern District of Alabama and a law professor at the University of Alabama School of Law. Follow her on Twitter: @JoyceWhiteVance
Presidential pattern: Evan McMullin
The president now has a pattern of pursuing illegal foreign backing to help him win elections and then abusing his office to protect himself and his foreign patrons from the consequences. As their abuses and crimes accumulate, both have greater incentive to maintain the status quo by greater means.
Their pattern of behavior is likely to escalate in the months ahead, threatening the security of our 2020 election and our system of self-government. We, the American people, must act through our representatives in Congress to hold the president accountable now through impeaching and removing him from office.
If members of Congress fail to honor their oaths by defending the Constitution, they will invite additional, dangerous abuses of power by the president as well as further foreign hacking and disinformation campaigns for which they, too, will be responsible.
Split decision: Ruben Navarrette
The House Judiciary Committee approved — along strict party lines — two articles of impeachment.
On the first article, which accuses Trump of abusing his power by pressuring Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden — the gaffe machine that Democrats and their media lackeys generously call Trump’s “chief political rival” — the House should vote “no.”
There is “reasonable doubt” as to motive. Maybe Trump just wanted Biden, and his son Hunter, raked over the coals like his family has been. That’s petty. Trump is petty. Still, it’s neither high crime nor misdemeanor.
On the second article, where Trump is accused of obstructing Congress, the House should vote “yes.”
The White House didn’t cooperate with the impeachment proceedings, which it called a “hoax” and a “witch hunt.” Trump must be held accountable for thumbing his nose at the process — and the American people.
The decision ought to be split. Like the country.
Ruben Navarrette Jr., a member of the USA TODAY Board of Contributors, is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group and host of the daily podcast “Navarrette Nation.” Follow him on Twitter: @RubenNavarrette
Not bipartisan enough: Mary Katharine Ham
I have no doubt some support for impeachment is partisan and politically motivated, but some Democrats also feel they have an obligation to impeach. However, if politicians use a tool of such potency against a president, they’re obligated to persuade voters and partisans not convinced before the process to side with them on this high-stakes journey.
Democrats largely failed to do so for the important segment of voters skeptical of impeachment, as reflected in national and swing-state polls. It’s likely the anti-impeachment side of this argument will be the more bipartisan one. Even though many voters agree Trump’s behavior was bad, there are valid reasons those voters remain unconvinced: lack of a criminal act at the center of impeachment; many would like the question hashed out at the ballot box; different priorities (60% say impeachment is more important to media/politicians than it is to them); and fatigue in the wake of years of investigations.
Until those concerns are allayed, I’d be a “no” on impeachment.
Mary Katharine Ham is an author, freelance writer and CNN commentator. Follow her on Twitter: @mkhammer
Disregard for national security: Raul Reyes
The members of the House of Representatives took an oath to defend the Constitution, not to defend the president. There is overwhelming evidence that Trump attempted to pressure Ukraine into interfere in the 2020 election, and that he used the withholding of foreign aid as a threat. Trump has also defied the impeachment process at every turn. So the House must approve the the articles of impeachment for abuse of power and obstruction of congress.
Hispanics have a unique stake in this process. The president has harshly policed our communities, and foreign interference in the 2016 election included efforts to get Latinos to distrust the government. Like other Americans, Latinos now need to see that no one is above the law.
Impeachment is not about politics, policies or partisanship. It is about the behavior of a president who has disregarded national security, dishonored his office and undermined our justice system. The House of Representatives must act, despite the vagaries of public opinion or the calendar. There is no right time for an impeachment — nor is there any wrong time to defend our democracy.
Raul Reyes, an attorney, is a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors. Follow him on Twitter: @RaulAReyes
Inferences aren’t evidence: Jonathan Turley
In the impeachment hearing, I challenged the legal basis for Democratic plans to use bribery, extortion, campaign finance violations and obstruction of justice as impeachment articles. I commend the committee in rejecting those articles. While I stated that the committee could legitimately proceed on abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, I warned that this record is woefully incomplete, and that the committee should take more time to support such claims.
Instead, the committee is proceeding to the Senate with the thinnest record on the narrowest presidential impeachment in history. To fill the obvious gaps, members insist they can rely on “inferences.” This record only holds if you literally resolve every inference against President Trump.
My mother used to sing, “If wishes were kisses, how happy I would be.” The same is true “if inference were evidence.” It is not. This record is incomplete and contains glaring contradictions. House members should vote against this impeachment.
Jonathan Turley, the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University, is a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors. Follow him on Twitter: @JonathanTurley
Impeachment as hissy fit: Glenn Harlan Reynolds
Trump is going to be impeached, and he’s guilty as hell. But what he’s guilty of is simply not being Hillary Clinton. Before Trump was ever sworn in, Democrats were already talking impeachment, and it has been clear all along that the approach was “impeach first, find a crime later.”
In the words of blogger Don Surber, “Impeachment is an elitist wet dream to turn the clock back to 2016.” It’s a long primal scream occasioned by the deplorables daring to elect a president.
In this, it resembles the long primal scream across the Atlantic in response to Brexit. In both cases, the left-leaning professional/managerial class has shown itself entirely unable to accept defeat with good grace, though doing so is essential to a functioning democracy. Shame on them for that, on both sides of the pond.
Glenn Harlan Reynolds, a University of Tennessee law professor and the author of “The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself,” is a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors.
Impeachment will upset the economy, hurt Dems: Brett M. Decker
The House of Representatives should vote down articles of impeachment because members will be punished by voters next year if the proceedings derail a booming economy. As 2019 comes to a close, the stock market continues to set new records, the unemployment rate of 3.5% is at a 50-year low, and job growth is surpassing expectations, with 266,000 new positions created in November.
Unless Democrats throw a wrench in the works, signs indicate that the economic good times will keep rolling in 2020. The White House announced a first-phase trade deal with China on Friday, and Congress is poised to pass United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, the replacement for NAFTA.
Americans almost always reelect sitting presidents during a strong economy. Creating instability by messing with a positive financial situation would hurt Democrats more politically than President Trump.
Brett M. Decker, an assistant professor of business at Defiance College in Ohio and member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors, is a former editor for The Wall Street Journal and co-author of “The Conservative Case for Trump.” Follow him @BrettMDecker
Can’t let president mock the Constitution: Donna Brazile
President Trump needs to be impeached to preserve our republic. It’s that important, and it’s that urgent.
The crimes described in the articles of impeachment — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — strike at the heart of our system of coequal branches of government. For members of Congress to ignore these blatant acts would be as much a violation of their oath to defend the Constitution as President Trump’s actions.
The framers established an exquisite balance among the three branches of government, with each serving as a check on the others’ powers. Ignoring congressional subpoenas, refusing to allow Cabinet members to testify and withholding documents denies Congress its constitutional responsibility for oversight. Even if some members of Congress openly mock these proceedings, it’s vital that those who take their duty seriously act. The balance of power cannot be sacrificed for mere political advantage.
If this impeachment goes to Senate trial, the senators will be the jurors, but history will be the final judge.
Donna Brazile, a Fox News contributor and an at-large automatic delegate to the 2020 Democratic convention, is the former interim chair of the Democratic National Committee and author of “Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns that Put Donald Trump in the White House.” Follow her on Twitter: @donnabrazile.
Principle over politics: Sally Kohn
Like many of our nation’s Founding Fathers, Alexander Hamilton feared the prospect of a selfish, power-abusing president. “When avarice takes the lead in a state, it is commonly the forerunner of its fall,” Hamilton wrote during the Revolutionary War.
In later writings, Hamilton warned expressly about “a man unprincipled in private life desperate in his fortune, bold in his temper” and “despotic in his ordinary demeanor — known to have scoffed in private at the principles of liberty.” And he didn’t see such a leader as a theoretical threat but an eventual reality, the sort of reality the laws of the new nation needed expressly to safeguard against.
Thus impeachment, not as some special extraordinary add-on but an essential tool of a healthy republic, coequal with all other laws and duties, baked into the core of the Constitution in principle and in practice.
Those like myself on the ideological left could readily argue that Trump had already crossed several lines of the sort in Hamilton’s warnings, but there can be no doubt that the president of the United States of America soliciting a foreign government to interfere in our nation’s elections in order to further his own personal, political agenda is unprincipled, desperate and despotic. The politics of impeachment will run their twisted course.
Certainly, there are those with their heads so far up Trump’s MAGA hat that they either refuse to see or cannot see the flagrant immorality, if not illegality, of his actions. Trump may or may not be convicted by the Senate and, if not, may or may not be thrown out by voters. Even so, the whole point of the Constitution and the foundational documents of our nation was to encourage its leaders to put principle over politics. And the principles of our Constitution must endure and, when under attack, be defended.
The articles of impeachment on which the House of Representatives is voting aren’t actually about Trump. They’re about America — the laws and principles on which we were founded and on which our future depends.
Sally Kohn, a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors, is author of “The Opposite Of Hate: A Field Guide To Repairing Our Humanity.” You can find her online at sallykohn.com and on Twitter: @SallyKohn
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