Darrell Berkheimer: Will House shirk duty to initiate impeachment?
Impeachment! Should they do it now; or should they wait?
That’s a question being asked now throughout our nation – mostly by Democrats, probably by many Independents, and even by at least a few Republicans.
President Donald J. Trump has taken many actions contrary to the wishes of a majority of Americans – not the least of which are his many lies. Most Americans feel he has not kept his promise to preserve and defend our Constitution, and believe that he constantly puts his own interests above the best interests of our country.
Among the latest concerns are those for our security, listed earlier this week by our nation’s chief intelligence officials, who refuted many statements made by Trump.
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They refuted his claims that ISIS has been defeated, that climate change is only a hoax, that North Korea is denuclearizing, and that Iran is involved in new nuclear weapons development — although Iran is now threatening to do so.
They also warned that Russia and China are planning to interfere in our 2020 elections, and that the two countries appear to be moving closer to cooperating in actions against our American interests.
Trump’s actions — even before these latest reports by the intelligence chiefs — have prompted a strong argument for why the U.S. House of Representatives should initiate the impeachment process. That argument was presented in a long, detailed article by Yoni Appelbaum, senior political editor for The Atlantic magazine.
His article, promoted on the March cover of the magazine, recounts details of each of the previous impeachments involving President Andrew Johnson as well as Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.
Appelbaum indicates that most people confuse the main purpose of impeachment by dwelling on the outcome — whether the president is found guilty or innocent of the charges. Instead, he maintains the impeachment process itself is more important than the outcome.
He argues that the impeachment process provides five major benefits. The first begins immediately after the start of the inquiry – “when the president loses control of the public conversation.” He observed that Johnson, Nixon and Clinton quickly discovered this “much to their chagrin.”
Appelbaum reports the second major benefit occurs as the process “paralyzes a wayward president’s ability to advance the undemocratic elements of his agenda.” He says Trump will be fighting for his political survival, “and that struggle will overwhelm other concerns.”
And perhaps most important of all is the third benefit cited by Appelbaum – the “tool of discovery.”
He notes that U.S. House committees have even more inquiry tools available to them than Special Counsel Robert Mueller III. And he adds that Trump’s opponents “need to put their faith in the process,” which empowers House committees “to consider specific charges, weigh the available evidence, and decide whether to proceed.”
Appelbaum says the fourth benefit occurs simply as a result of Congress hosting that debate, which defuses the potential for political violence.
And even if the Senate fails to convict Trump of any charges, Appelbaum adds that the fifth benefit of impeachment is how it will severely damage his political future.
But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, among others, has stated that impeachment should wait until Special Counsel Mueller completes his investigation.
Appelbaum, however, maintains that “the fight over whether Trump should be removed from office is already raging, and distorting everything it touches” — even prompting some unelected bureaucrats to disregard Trump’s orders and “subvert his agenda.”
“By denying the debate its proper outlet, Congress has succeeded only in intensifying its pressures,” Appelbaum says.
His argument further states:
“Trump’s bipartisan critics are not merely arguing that he has lied or dishonored the presidency. The most serious allegations against him ultimately rest on the charge that he is attacking the bedrock of American democracy. That is the situation impeachment was devised to address.
“Waiting also presents dangers. With every passing day, Trump further undermines our national commitment to America’s ideals,” Appelbaum wrote.
He also says Congress should not be outsourcing its responsibilities to federal prosecutors, because no one can be sure of the final conclusions Mueller will report. In addition, our news media has speculated repeatedly that Trump’s team might be successful in suppressing much of Mueller’s report from public scrutiny.
Appelbaum concludes that the U.S. House, now with a Democratic majority, “can no longer dodge its constitutional duty. It must immediately open a formal impeachment inquiry into President Trump, and bring the debate out of the court of public opinion and into Congress, where it belongs.”
In reading Appelbaum’s treatise, we are reminded that in the Nixon resignation, the impeachment process was initiated and was occurring simultaneously with the investigation by Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox. But it was the impeachment inquiries — not the Cox investigation — that prompted Nixon’s resignation.
It was the House Judiciary’s subpoena of the White House tapes — and the subsequent court ruling that they must be released — that provided the “smoking gun” leading to Nixon’s decision to resign.
From that situation, we learned that it is the impeachment process that can lead to the discovery of many facts that might not ever be revealed by the special counsel’s investigation, particularly to actions considered highly unethical even though they may not be illegal. From Mueller’s probe, we may only learn of those illegal charges on which he chooses to issue indictments, while other charges and issues might not be disclosed.
I think everyone who cares about the direction of our federal government should read Appelbaum’s lengthy article. It is about six times longer than this one, because it provides considerably more in-depth reasoning. Seldom have I read a commentary that was better prepared to make its point.
We now face two more years of a Trump administration, with its corruption, and his naivete, incompetence and narcissism. So a process that will mitigate the dangers his administration poses, and the increasing federal eroding of our national values, is worth more serious action than Pelosi has allowed thus far.
Impeachment appears to be the necessary action.
Darrell Berkheimer, who lives in Grass Valley, is a frequent contributor to The Union. He is the author of six books available through Amazon. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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