Last night, a friend sent me an article from Esquire magazine for which the headline states that Nancy Pelosi is guilty of dereliction of duty, and makes a case for why Democrats should move for on impeachment. While I do agree with many of the author's sentiments, I don’t even remotely agree with the headline. Whether or not I agree with all her decisions -- and I don't -- I fully understand her strategy and why she's acting as she is. She's not derelict in her duty. Her "duty" has many facets, not just one that is engraved on a bronze placard in black-and-white, and she sees what she believes her duty to be very clearly and how to achieve it. Criticizing her priorities and strategies is another matter, and fair game.
I go back-and-forth about whether or not to impeach Trump. On the one hand, yes, there's a a risk in how the public will react. And if Trump gets impeached, he likely won't get convicted by the Senate, which he could then use to falsely "prove" his innocence and "prove" that it was indeed all a "witch hunt." And if for some miraculous reason he did get convicted, his blindly-loyal acolytes will rip apart a thread of the country. While an election that votes him out is an far-more clear cut ending.
More recently, however, I’ve been falling on the side of -- at the very least -- holding Impeachment Hearings. You don't have to "Call for Impeachment!!" first. First, the House should create a sub-committee (as both the House and Senate did for Watergate) to call witnesses and gather evidence to look into all the issues that not just cover but also transcend the Mueller Report. Not normal Judiciary and Intelligence and Financial Services hearings that look into Trump, but rather actual, literal Impeachment Hearings that quite literally bear that sanction. If that ends up leading to an impeachment vote, yes, that's one outcome. But, importantly it would be an outcome based on months and mounds of evidence presented in public for the country to see.
First, no, right now most of the public isn't for impeachment. But most of the public wasn't for impeaching Richard Nixon when the Impeachment Hearings began. By the end, the majority of the public not only was for impeachment, the case was so clear that Nixon resigned.
Second, when you hold hearings, have witnesses and provide evidence before the public, that’s how you build support for impeachment…assuming the evidence shows that. After all, when a jury is sworn in before a trial, they all state they have an open mind. There's no "support for a guilty verdict" before a trial begins. Prosecutors don't decide not to bring a case to court because most of the jurors are ready to convict. The jury hears the evidence, and if there's enough to convict, they then vote to do so.
Third, if you don't impeach Trump he's still going to slam Democrats for them talking about impeachment anyway, and slam them for it all being a witch hunt, and falsely insist he's been exonerated and claim he's innocent so running away from it doesn’t gain you much of anything.
Fourth, after all the evidence for conviction has been laid out before the public, if Trump is impeached but not convicted in the Senate, then for all we know it's very possible that Senate Republicans (and indeed House Republicans, too) may well have far more to lose trying to defend their votes to a disbelieving public than Democrats have to lose in impeaching someone the public sees as guilty as sin.
Fifth, we have no evidence that merely holding Impeachment Hearings will turn voters away from Democrats. For all we know, it will gain "It's about time!!" support. Especially as the hearing go on and gather steam and evidence.
Six, if one is worried that even if Trump is impeached he won't get convicted by the Senate and can then falsely use that as "proof" that he's innocent, the reality is that there probably isn't enough time at this point to hold a Senate trial before the party conventions next summer, and it's hard to envision the Senate (especially one lead by Mitch McConnell) holding an impeachment trail during the election season. That means that a House Impeachment Hearing would actually serve as a de facto "impeachment trial," with all the evidence laid out before the public.
Seventh, if one would rather see Trump lose in a general election than be impeached, there's no guarantee that Trump will lose. I think he will. I think it won't even be terribly close. But that's just a personal guess, not anything close to a real world certainty.
Eighth, while there is a concern among some Democrats that an impeachment of Trump would turn the public against them, just like the public turned against Republicans for impeaching Bill Clinton, comparing a Trump impeachment to the Bill Clinton impeachment is apples and oranges. Clinton was impeached over what at heart was a personal, private matter of sexual infidelity. People were pissed off at Republicans for that. Trump is being investigated for colluding with the Russians and obstruction of justice blocking an investigation of himself. (I just finished reading the Mueller Report. If the public SAW at an Impeachment Hearing what was in the Report, I think they’d start to understand and be aghast.)
But mainly – if you don’t have Impeachment Hearing for Donald Trump…why even have impeachment in the Constitution????
I still see both sides of the question, whether or not to be impeached. But I think at this point, I think Impeachment Hearings are critical.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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