A dissatisfying impeachment process
There was no drama in a day filled of repetitive speeches leading up to the foreordained impeachment this week of President Donald Trump by the U.S. House of Representatives.
There probably will be more of the same in the Senate, where it’s also foreordained that Trump will be acquitted by the Republican majority.
The lines of debate — if you can call it a debate — are pretty clear, and they have been that way for some time now.
The Democrats claim Trump is a threat to democracy, a person who chums with dictators and undermines his own country’s national security and intelligence experts, who will abuse his office for financial and egotistical gain.
The Republicans counter that it is the Democrats, not Trump, who are the threat as they try to overturn the election of a president they don’t like and are abusing their majority power in an attempt to weaken him and tarnish his legacy.
The truth is somewhere in between. It’s a shame that those who serve in Congress are now so polarized that they either cannot see it, or are unwilling to publicly acknowledge it.
Trump did commit an impeachable offense when he tried to barter with a foreign power a White House meeting and military aid for investigating — or at least pretending to investigate — a political rival. Republican defenders of the president can claim all they want that there was nothing untoward about Trump’s attempted extortion of the president of Ukraine, but anyone who objectively studies what our founders intended when they included the power of impeachment in the Constitution will acknowledge that Trump’s actions fall within the founders’ catch-all of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” That is, he abused the power of his office to try to achieve a personal gain, and then compounded the offense by obstructing Congress’ legitimate interest in investigating that misconduct.
The question, however, that the Democratic majority in the House did not seriously consider was whether this Ukrainian scandal was truly egregious enough to warrant as severe a penalty as impeachment. As unconventional as Trump’s behavior is, has it really risen to the level of a constitutional crisis so as to pre-empt the power of the people to decide next November whether to retain him? Thus, no one will come out of this much of a winner. Trump will be permanently branded with the “I” word, but Democrats have very possibly strengthened his re-election chances in the process. The public’s faith in the fairness, honesty or objectivity of Congress will be further eroded.