Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) last weekend became the sole Republican to call for President Donald Trump’s impeachment. While some pundits tried to assert that “the dam is breaking” on impeachment, Rep. Amash was viciously vilified and attacked this past week by fellow Republicans and conservative media who are in thrall to the personality cult of Donald Trump. Amash is the lone GOP member of Congress who takes his oath of office seriously.
This is not your father’s GOP from the Watergate era when numerous Republicans of good conscience supported impeachment, forcing the resignation of Richard Nixon.
Former members of Congress, who do not have to stand for reelection and who do not have a vote, are calling for impeachment of Donald Trump. Former GOP Rep. Tom Coleman from Missouri, wrote this op-ed this week. Trump, Pence are illegitimate. Impeach them:
According to the redacted Mueller report, candidate Donald Trump, along with members of his team, on multiple occasions welcomed Russian interference on his behalf during the 2016 presidential campaign. For example, the report details a meeting between the Trump campaign chairman and a Russian intelligence asset where polling information and campaign strategy were shared.
While Mueller did not find sufficient evidence that Trump or his campaign had violated a criminal statute, the net effect was that the Trump campaign encouraged a foreign adversary to use and misrepresent stolen information on social media platforms to defraud U.S. voters. Because the presidency was won in this way, the president’s election victory brought forth nothing less than an illegitimate presidency.
Note: For the historical explanation of this point, see the op-ed following below.
Mueller presents a strong case that in addition to receiving campaign help from Russian operatives, the president obstructed justice — a crime in itself. Mueller declined to charge the sitting president because of current Department of Justice regulations that prohibit it. That policy is wrong in my opinion, and must be changed in the future when reason and rationality return to our politics.
What should be done now? There are some Democratic members in the House majority who want to put off any discussion of impeachment until after the 2020 election. They believe it will only strengthen the hand of the president, who will claim he is a victim and will respond with his mantra of, “No collusion, no obstruction, case closed.” Other Democratic members of Congress want impeachment proceedings to begin.
The political calculus not to pursue impeachment is understandable. Current polls show a majority of voters do not favor it. But critical times require exceptional leadership. Lawmakers of both parties should not blindly follow the polls but instead follow the evidence and their conscience. Politics should not rule the day. Partisan politics is what got us to this dangerous place — so dangerous, I believe, that the survival of our democracy is at risk.
Contemplate the possible behavioral problems of a Trump untethered from the law and who is frequently untethered from reality. Would we be surprised if he were to repeatedly brandish his get out of jail card while breaking, at will, democratic norms, presidential precedents and criminal statutes? Trump said early in his campaign that he “could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, OK?” Are we now at that point?
Because DOJ regulations put a president above the law while in office, I believe the only viable option available is for the House of Representatives, under Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution, to open its own investigation, hold public hearings and then determine if they should pursue removal of the president through impeachment. There is a trove of evidence in the Mueller report indicating Trump has committed multiple impeachable offenses, including abuse of power and lying to the American public. Both were part of the articles of impeachment brought against President Richard Nixon. This process would allow a full public review of wrongdoing, while providing Americans an opportunity to obtain a better understanding of the consequences to our national security and the lingering threat to our democracy.
If this process leads to impeaching Trump in the House of Representatives and also results in convicting him in the Senate, his illegitimacy would survive through Vice President Mike Pence’s succession to the presidency. Because the misdeeds were conducted to assure the entire Trump-Pence ticket was elected, both former candidates — Pence as well as Trump — have been disgraced and discredited. To hand the presidency to an illegitimate vice president would be to approve and reward the wrongdoing while the lingering stench of corruption would trail any Pence administration, guaranteeing an untenable presidency. If Trump is impeached, then Pence should not be allowed to become president. The vice president should resign or be impeached as well if for no other reason that he has been the chief enabler for this illegitimate president.
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[T]he Presidential Succession Act of 1947 sets the order of officials who are in line to succeed a president, regardless of the reason. The first three officials listed are the vice president, the speaker of the House and the president pro tempore of the Senate. If the vice president were unable to ascend to the presidency for whatever reason — for example resignation or impeachment — then the speaker would become president. Today that individual is Rep. Nancy Pelosi. It is unknown whether she would agree to serve as president or that the majority of the House would want her to do so.
The Constitution does not require the speaker of the House actually to be a member of the House of Representatives. Under these circumstances, with the specter of a national crisis looming over the vacancy of the presidency and vice presidency simultaneously, consideration should be given by House members to draft a nationally-known individual for speaker who would appeal to the vast majority of Americans. That person, after being sworn in as speaker, would ascend to the highest office in the land. Under the provisions of the 25th Amendment, the new president would nominate a vice president, who would take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both chambers of Congress.
What if House Democrats decide not to embark on impeachment? If that were the case, I believe the public would conclude Democrats are no better than the Republicans who have enabled Trump for the past two years, putting party above country. It could hand Trump a second term. Failure to pursue impeachment is to condone wrongdoing. To condone wrongdoing is to encourage more of it. To encourage wrongdoing is to give up on the rule of law and our democracy. To give up on the rule of law and democracy invites autocracy and eventually dictatorship. History has taught us this outcome. In my lifetime, it has occurred in other places including the Soviet Union and Germany, as well as in Russia and Venezuela today.
Earlier this year Michael J. Glennon, a law professor at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, explained why If Trump is impeachable, so is Pence:
Assume, hypothetically, that the upcoming report by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, together with other evidence, were to establish conclusively that candidate Donald Trump engaged in electoral fraud or corruption by unlawfully coordinating his activities with the Russian government. Assume also that Trump derived a decisive electoral benefit from that coordination. And assume that no probative evidence exists that Vice President Pence was aware of the coordination. Trump would be impeachable. But what about Pence, who himself would have committed no impeachable offense?
The question can be argued either way, but the better view is that Pence, too, would be impeachable. The reason is that, had Trump not engaged in electoral fraud and corruption, Pence, like Trump, would not have been elected. That Pence would still be first in the line of succession to replace Trump is the result of an unintended consequence of the 12th Amendment, which was ratified in 1804. The fate of the Republic ought not turn on a constitutional oversight.
Before the 12th amendment’s ratification, the original Constitution permitted removal of a president for electoral fraud. It didn’t matter whether that misconduct occurred before or after a president took office. The framers clearly intended that theft of an election through fraud and corruption constitute an impeachable offense. James Madison was not concerned only about post-election perfidy when he worried, at the Constitutional Convention in 1787, that a president might “betray his trust to foreign powers.” George Mason seemingly spoke for many the same day when he asked, “Shall the man who has practiced corruption and by that means procured his appointment in the first instance, be suffered to escape punishment” by allowing him to stay in office?
Removing a president who had procured office through corruption would not, under the original Constitution, have resulted in a friendly takeover by a vice president of the same political party. When the impeachment clause was written in 1787, political parties did not exist.
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The 12th Amendment was intended to remedy these ills. It did this by requiring electors to cast separate ballots for president and vice president. This enabled candidates for president and vice president to run together on a party ticket without competing with each other. Yet the change had critically important — and unnoticed — implications for impeachment. The election of a two-person ticket, rather than an individual, had the potential effect of permitting a vice president and his political party to benefit from electoral fraud by the presidential candidate so long as the vice president himself avoided committing an impeachable offense. A party’s ill-gotten gains — the presidency and all its appointments and prerogatives — would then remain in its hands even though its leader, the president, had been impeached and removed from office. Electoral corruption would still be rewarded.
That was not the amendment’s intent. Its object was to preclude the possibility of electing a president and vice president from different parties and to lessen the likelihood of an electoral college deadlock. It was not aimed at scaling back the availability of impeachment as a means of redressing electoral fraud. Nothing in the amendment’s ratification history indicates any intent to give a political party a continuing grip on the presidency should a president gain office, and be removed, because of electoral corruption. There is, to the contrary, every reason to believe that after the amendment’s adoption, the Constitution has in this respect continued to mean what it did in 1787: that the presidency ought not be occupied by someone who attains it as the result of a stolen election.
If Trump were impeachable for electoral fraud, therefore, Pence would be impeachable as well.
In a perfect world where the Constitution worked as the Founding Fathers intended, this is what would happen. But the way things are supposed to work has been broken. As Brian Beutler says, THE GUARDRAILS HAVE FAILED (excerpt):
By Thursday night, all the dangerous shortcomings of [Pelosi’s] slow-going approach had reasserted themselves. And they suggest not that the normal oversight process will be sufficient to protect the rule of law, but that the institutional guardrails surrounding the rule of law are faltering all at once, and more aggressively than at any time since Trump won the presidency.
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Impeachment advocates worried all along that the Democrats’ dithering and self-doubt would create a number of perverse consequences: that the public would interpret their irresolution as a sign that Trump’s presidency is not a crisis; that Trump himself would fill the void of inaction with propaganda and defamation and selective prosecution, exacerbating public confusion, when the truth is actually quite simple. These fears are all rapidly materializing, and the fact that the Democratic approach is failing has yet to dawn on anyone who has the power to change course.
Democrats are the only ones who can save our constitutional democracy now. Republicans have completely abdicated their constitutional responsibilities, they are the “barbarians at the gate” who would destroy the great American experiment in democracy. Call them out for what they have become.
The time has come to begin the impeachment process. It’s time to make a stand in defense of the Constitution.