This was originally posted on Facebook:
DAMN THE TORPEDOES
The term “constitutional crises” has been on and off in the news for the past two years. While I have seen various definitions of the term, I think the easiest to understand is “the constitution doesn’t tell us what to do.”
In our current situation, the term certainly applies.
We have a president who has committed crimes and an administration that is clearly acting in ways that harm the country. We know that he has committed crimes because the special prosecutor said he has, and hundreds of other prosecutors have said that if he were not the president and protected by a Justice Department opinion memo, he would be indicted.
This is not a matter of politics. This is not a witch hunt on the part of one party. This is a matter of law and we are supposed to be a nation governed by LAW, not the opinions of one party or another. Your opinion doesn’t count. My opinion doesn’t count. Law. NOT. Politics.
The constitutional remedy for these types of actions is clear. Congress has the right to impeach such a president and remove him from office. This president, however, has managed to stymie even the most superficial enquiries into his behavior. He just says no, no to everything.
And the constitution doesn’t have anything to say about a president who holds himself above congress and rejects its actions. They envisioned co-equal branches of government. There is some reason to believe that even if he were impeached in the House and found guilty in the Senate he still would not leave. And the constitution doesn’t have anything to say about that because the framers couldn’t imagine it. That historic document sort of sits there in the rotunda of the National Archives Building in DC and goes WTF?
So, yes, constitutional crises.
Since the almost entire Republican Party has aligned themselves with this president, this turns into a bi-partisan issue – Democrats vs Republicans, left vs right. And THAT makes it a political issue as well as a constitutional one.
The Democrats find themselves in an awkward position. They KNOW that the right thing to do from a constitutional point of view is to impeach the man. But they also know that the chances of finding him guilty with the current senate makeup are very low.
They also feel that (on a purely political level) if they try to impeach and fail, it will embolden the right and Trump might win another term. That, they feel, would be a disaster. It would.
The push toward impeachment gets stronger by the day, however.
Elizabeth Warren has come out with a “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” stance. Warren, a contender for the democratic nomination, is a bright, principled woman. She has the respect of most of her Democratic colleagues in the senate.
Even Nancy Pelosi, who has cautioned against rushing ahead blindly and falling into a republican trap, is beginning to talk about the inevitability of impeachment.
At the heart of the matter lies this question: If we do not at least try to follow the constitutional remedies here because of political concerns, can we still say we are a constitutional republic? Or have we set a precedent for ignoring the clear constitutional mandate of that document for co-equal branches of government and the power of the Congress to have oversight?
That’s actually a very difficult question to answer, but the future of the country may depend on that answer.
Some have pointed out that the majority of Americans really don’t care much about this issue. You may not want to hear this, but at this point, that is irrelevant. We are a republic, not a democracy, and we elected people to make the hard choices for us. If those people decide that it is important and that it is in the best interest of the country, they have a duty to act.
You have the right to have input through those representatives, but the decision is theirs.
It seems to me that there is no alternative here. The House must begin impeachment proceedings. That does NOT mean that they have to send articles of impeachment to the senate for trial.
The authority of the House will be somewhat enhanced in their investigations if those investigations are done under the umbrella of impeachment inquiries. Congress needs to gather all of the information they can gather and try to get at the truth as to what crimes have been committed and what the specifics of those crimes may be. They need to get that information to the public. They shouldn’t be too concerned about the Senate at first.
When the Nixon investigations started, there weren’t enough votes in the Senate to convict either. As more and more information came out, minds changed. When the tapes came out, the votes were there. Nixon resigned rather than be impeached.
Impeachment proceedings will be top news. Information will get to the public.
You can’t expect to change everyone’s mind, certainly not the hard core MAGA types. You can’t expect to change all of the Republican Senators’ minds. You don’t have to. Just enough.
There are three possible outcomes to an impeachment inquiry. The House could decide that there is no basis for moving forward. This is unlikely, given the Mueller report and the constant obstruction which continues to emanate from the White House. The second possibility is that the evidence is clear that crimes have been committed, the public is no longer as apathetic to the idea of impeachment, and the votes have been found in the Senate to move forward. That path is clear. It goes to the Senate for a vote.
The third possibility is more nuanced. In this scenario, the evidence of crimes is clear, but the public mind has NOT been swayed and the votes are NOT there in the senate. In this case the house COULD decide to table the inquiry until after the election in the hopes that Trump will be voted out or that the Senate will flip or both. (You need a 2/3 majority in the Senate to convict.)
The House is not REQUIRED to send the matter to the Senate if they decide that it is not in the best interest of the nation. Normally, they would; but normal left the building two years ago.
There will be political consequences to moving forward. But there will also be advantages. The more Trump impedes the investigation, the more people will become aware of the lengths he will go to circumvent our governmental processes. The more it will become apparent how far he holds himself above the law and the Congress, and for that matter, the constitution itself.
Damn the torpedoes.
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