Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Hank Sanders: Sketches #1669 - To impeach or not to impeach

  To impeach or not to impeach? That is the question. Every time we view or read or listen to our televisions, radios, newspapers, internet, and other media, we face the question: Should President Trump be impeached? I have a thought or two to share on the issue of impeachment. To impeach or not to impeach.

  “If a president, vice president, and other civil officers commit treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors, the U.S. Congress has the authority to impeach them.” This authority is provided in Article 2 of the United States Constitution. This provision is 230 years old but has been utilized just three times in history to try to impeach a president.

  Impeachment is a two-step process. The U.S. House of Representatives first adopts Articles of Impeachment by a majority vote. It is similar to a grand jury indictment. It is then sent to the U.S. Senate for a trial with the United State Supreme Court Chief Justice presiding. A two-thirds Senate vote is required to remove the person under impeachment from office. That is currently 67 of 100 Senate votes. None of the three impeachments considered resulted in the removal of a president from office. President Andrew Johnson was impeached by the House of Representatives in 1868. The Senate fell short by one vote of convicting and removing him from office. President Richard Nixon was on the verge of impeachment in 1974. Articles of Impeachment had been drawn up by the House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee. However, President Nixon resigned. President Bill Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives in 1999. The Senate fell way short of conviction and removal from office by a vote of 45 to convict and 55 not to convict. That is 22 votes short.

  Now this country is facing the question of presidential impeachment for the fourth time. And it is not just limited to matters such as Andrew Johnson going against the U.S. Congress’ directive not to fire a certain cabinet secretary. It is not just limited to Bill Clinton lying under oath about a sexual affair. It’s not just about Nixon’s extensive involvement with Watergate, the cover-up, and the surrounding crimes. This situation involving President Trump goes far beyond all three of these put together.

  Special Counsel Robert Mueller investigated whether President Trump and/or The Trump Campaign conspired with the Russian government to unlawfully impact the 2016 presidential election. No previous president has ever faced such an allegation. Mueller also investigated whether President Trump or his representatives obstructed and/or attempted to obstruct the investigation into the Trump Campaign-Russian government conspiracy. To impeach or not to impeach.

  At the conclusion of the investigation, Special Counsel Mueller filed a 408-page report. The report stated that there was extensive interaction between Trump representatives and Russian operatives with 144 verified contacts. He also established that Russian operatives definitely impacted the election, and numerous Russian operatives were indicted. However, he found there was insufficient evidence to establish a conspiracy. He reported the fact that certain records were destroyed, and he was unable to interview certain key witnesses, including the president. He documented extensive evidence of multiple criminal obstructions of justice. However, U.S. Attorney General William Barr really muddied the water about what the report actually included.

  The investigation, however, was very narrow. Mueller did not investigate allegations of campaign violations from payoffs to women to cover up sexual affairs. He did not investigate whether President Trump is benefiting monetarily from foreign countries through his businesses in violation of the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution. He did not investigate allegations of illegal financial transactions or other abuse of office issues. The logical thing would be to investigate all these matters. However, President Trump has blocked and continues to block every subpoena and every request for information. This is in and of itself a potential abuse of power and, therefore, an impeachable offense.

  Congress is caught between a rock and a hard place. Does Congress continue trying to investigate when every avenue of investigation is being blocked by President Trump? Or does Congress go ahead and initiate an impeachment process? There are powerful political implications for either course of action. There are powerful constitutional implications for either course of action. One way, political leaders may win or lose. The other way, the country is sure to lose. To impeach or not to impeach.

  The impeachment process will make it much easier to accomplish a more in-depth investigation. It will be more difficult for President Trump to stop the execution of subpoenas and other requests for relevant information. Some say if Congress opens an impeachment hearing, it will give President Trump more ammunition to attack Democrats. It seems to me that the president attacks Democrats every day anyway. I believe that attacks against Democrats and others will come regardless.

  Some leaders are certain that citizens will react negatively if an impeachment process is initiated. Others are certain that citizens will react well as they receive additional information. We don’t really know how the public will react. I certainly don’t know what will happen. I believe that we know how U.S. Senate Republicans will react. When the issue is so important and so great, we have to decide what is the right thing to do and move decisively. I think the right thing to do is to commence impeachment hearings right now.

EPILOGUE – Some issues have multiple short-term and long-term implications. I believe impeachment is one of these. Impeachment is very complex with knowns and unknowns. However, the stakes are so high that we all must do what we can do. Leadership is critical, so I am sharing my thoughts.

  About the author: Hank Sanders represented District 23 in the Alabama Senate from 1983 to 2018.

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