Some time ago, this writer opposed the impeachment of President Trump. He thought that while the House could easily impeach him, the Senate would probably not remove him and even if it did, we would get Pence as president. He might be worse and would be likely to “pull a Ford” and pardon Trump of any crimes he might have committed. This writer thought impeachment might be a waste of time and resources.
He has changed his mind and is now in favor of impeachment. While Congress has a lot to deal with, impeachment is not really a waste of time. It is our Constitution in action. The Impeachment clause is a legal and non-violent way to say that we, the American people, will no longer tolerate a criminal administration. Unlike Nixon, Trump is too egotistical to resign and so must go through the impeachment process.
It is not we Trump resisters who are violent. We seek to hold Mr. Trump accountable in a legal and constitutional manner. The violent threats are not coming from Trump’s opponents, but instead Trump’s supporters, including extremist members of the clergy and even elected officials who are promising a “civil war” or to “hunt down Democrats” if Trump is impeached or does not get reelected. That is the sort of bullying one expects from fascists and their supporters. If any acts of violence can be traced back to these inciters, they should be held criminally and civilly liable.
At the 1787 Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia, a number of founders did not want an impeachment clause in the new U.S. Constitution. Probably, since the Presidency was viewed by the Founders as the “monarchial” element in the new republic’s constitution, they wanted the President to be immune from removal until he had finished his term.
Benjamin Franklin, the older “grand old man” of the Convention who often suggested compromises to the delegates, is rumored to have remarked, with his typical humor, that if a republic did not have a way to remove a criminal President, the nation was left with only one alternative: assassination. So, the Founders added an impeachment clause. The President is responsible for his actions when he commits crimes and the Founders provided a peaceful and lawful way to remove him from office if he does.
The impeachment hearings we are having for Mr. Trump are not a “witch hunt” comparable to Salem or the McCarthy hearings. It is not a hysterical hunt when “something evil this way comes!” Those of us who support impeachment are trying to defend the Constitution from an administration which seeks to destroy it.
A Presidential impeachment is rare. There have only been two in our nation’s history and, in both cases, the presidents kept their jobs. A president cannot be impeached just for political reasons. There must be probable cause that the President has broken the law. The House does not have to have “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” to impeach. Nor does it have to approve an impeachment investigation, although Speaker Pelosi did call for a House vote on the investigation just to shut the Trump supporters up!
As another writer pointed out, “impeachment” is not the removal of the President. It simply means that the House issues Articles of Impeachment which the entire House would have to vote on and certainly has the votes to do so. A good analogy is indictment by a grand jury. An indictment only requires that there be enough evidence that the case should go to trial. It is not a conviction.
In the event the House passes Articles of Impeachment, the trial itself would take place in the Senate. The Senate can remove Trump, but it cannot send him to jail.
Although the Senate may not remove Trump from office, it is important that the House passes Articles of Impeachment and that the case goes to trial in the Senate, ideally with a special prosecutor not tied to the Trump administration. It is important because it will send a message that the President is not above the law. This is not a witch hunt, but defending the Constitution.
There should be no problem with the House finding probable cause of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” He has openly violated the law. The Russia and Ukraine probes are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
Nor, has he any respect for the law or the Constitution. In fact, his refusal to allow members of his administration to testify before Congress is an impeachable offense itself. When you refuse to answer a Congressional subpoena or refuse to answer questions, it is the same as refusing a court subpoena. If you testify and lie, it is the same as lying in court. Those who refuse to comply should be held in contempt and jailed and fined daily until they do comply.
Even though Trump may not be removed from office, an impeachment trial may bring out evidence that can be used later in criminal prosecution. We need to elect a President in 2020 who will not pardon Trump but instead will make him face the regular judicial process. While Trump contends that a sitting president cannot be indicted for crimes, once he leaves office, he can be prosecuted for criminal wrongdoing, the same as any other American citizen.
E. Scott Cracraft is a citizen, taxpayer, and veteran. He resides in Gilford.