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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 9/25/19

Pelosi Announces an Impeachment Inquiry. Now Congress Has to Get It Right

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From The Nation

Five things to keep in mind, now that Speaker Pelosi says that "the president must be held accountable."

Nancy Pelosi Launches Impeachment Inquiry of President Trump
Nancy Pelosi Launches Impeachment Inquiry of President Trump
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Impeachment is not hard.

The only thing that complicates the process is the penchant of politicians -- some well-intended but cautious, some cynical and scheming -- to weigh things down with too many strategies, dodges, delays, and compromises.

Let's keep this in mind, now that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democratic Caucus leaders have announced a formal impeachment inquiry intoallegations that President Donald Trump pressured the leader of Ukraine to investigate former vice president Joe Biden's family. Pelosi said, "The actions taken to date by the president have seriously violated the Constitution." She also says that "the president must be held accountable. No one is above the law."

Presuming Pelosi is correct, and presuming that she allows the House Judiciary Committee to do its job in the days and weeks to come, let's review the steps that are required to get impeachment right.

BE FOCUSED.

Identify clear abuses of power that can be broadly understood as affronts to the president's oath of office, which requires him to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." If the president used his office to get a foreign government to investigate a political rival, with an eye toward undermining that rival, that's a clear abuse of power that assaults the basic premises of American democracy. As Ron Fein, the legal director of the constitutional law group Free Speech for People, says, "Trump's Ukraine scandal is an impeachable offense," explaining that the House inquiry must examine the extent to which the president has been "improperly directing or endeavoring to direct a foreign power to investigate his own political adversaries."

Similarly, if the president used his position to enrich himself or his family, that is an equally clear abuse of power that violates the Constitution's emoluments clauses. Historic impeachment inquiries have been most effective when they have avoided examining laundry lists of impeachable offenses and paid attention to the most serious and provable complaints. Former House Judiciary Committee chair Peter Rodino and the team that went after President Richard Nixon in 1974 had many options; they settled on three and wrote articles of impeachment that were summed up in roughly three pages.

BE FAST.

Set a timetable, and follow it. Dragging the House inquiry out for months is neither wise nor necessary. A number of public interest groups that have been advocating for impeachment, including Democracy for America, CREDO Action, Free Speech for People, By the People, and the Courage Campaign recently proposed the following time frame: "1. The House Judiciary Committee votes on articles of impeachment against President Trump by November 1, 2019; 2. The full US House of Representatives votes on articles of impeachment against President Trump by November 15, 2019." That's reasonable. It also guards against the mistake of letting the process get bogged down or delayed by complex legal strategies or fights over information that the White House refuses to release.

Go to court where necessary, but make sure that it is necessary. And make sure that any request is framed in clear and immediate terms. At every step, maintain the sense of urgency that was expressed by Representative John Lewis when he said on Tuesday, "We cannot delay. We must not wait. Now is the time to act. I have been patient while we tried every other path and used every other tool. We will never find the truth unless we use the power given to the House of Representatives and the House alone to begin an official investigation as dictated by the Constitution. The future of our democracy is at stake."

DO NOT BE DISTRACTED BY TRUMP.

Even as Pelosi was preparing to make her announcement, the president was trying to game the process by proposing to release the unredacted transcript of his July conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. That was a obvious attempt to make Pelosi blink. She didn't blink this time. But there will be more attempts. And there will be over-the-top demands to investigate Biden. So be it. The job of Congress is to check and balance wrongdoing by the president, not do his political bidding. The president will employ every trick to protect himself. Respond to his political gamesmanship as does constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe when he says, "Trump's ever-shifting story is a study in slow-mo self-immolation. Sad to watch. Although I must admit a tiny bit of, well, good old schadenfreude."

EDUCATE, EDUCATE, EDUCATE.

There is immense confusion regarding impeachment. Too many Americans think of it as a legal process, rather than a political process. Too many Americans confuse the vote of the House to approve articles of impeachment with the vote of the Senate on whether to remove the target of those articles from office. Trump and his supporters will seek to exploit this confusion. The best way to counter them is by using hearings and debates, media appearances, and public events to explain the process at every step along the way and to put charges against Trump in context.

Speak of a sense of duty and responsibility, as did Michigan Representative Elissa Slotkin, a former intelligence officer and Defense Department official who last year won a historically Republican seat for the Democrats; she said on Monday, "I swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution. If true, these new allegations against the President are a threat to our national security, and constitute an impeachable offense."

Don't worry about polls at the start of the process. Worry about providing the information that is necessary so that, when formal articles of impeachment are written, those who are polled will fully understand why the president needs to be held to account -- and why it is appropriate for the House to act.

DON'T FRET ABOUT THE SENATE.

It's the job of the House to forward articles of impeachment to the Senate. It's the job of the Senate to determine whether the president is held to account. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republican Caucus may reject accountability. Then it is on them. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez got it precisely right when she explained earlier this month:

"We have to do our job. Once the House impeaches, the House has impeached the president and then that hearing goes to the Senate. If they want to fail it then I want to see every Republican go on the record and knowingly vote against impeachment of this president -- knowing his corruption, having it on the record so that they can have that stain on their careers for the rest of their lives because this is outrageous to protect the amount of lawlessness and corruption coming out of this presidency."

It's time.

 

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John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, has written the Online Beat since 1999. His posts have been circulated internationally, quoted in numerous books and mentioned in debates on the floor of Congress.

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5 people are discussing this page, with 7 comments


Meryl Ann Butler

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Excellent explanation, thank you!

Submitted on Thursday, Sep 26, 2019 at 1:41:38 AM

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Jim Arnold

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I've heard the Pelosi, in all her timidity, wants to restrict the impeachment inquiry to the Ukraine incident. There doesn't need to be a "laundry list" of charges, but the violations of the emoluments clause have to be part of the impeachment if the defense of the President isn't reduced to an absurd question of interpretation of intent, as they would clearly like to have it.

There need not be any legal strategies involving the courts. The courts have no jurisdiction over subpoenas in an impeachment.

Once the impeachment process has begun, either The House of Representatives has the power of impeachment or it does not. And if the House doesn't have exclusive prerogatives for discovery then the House does not have he power of impeachment.

Submitted on Thursday, Sep 26, 2019 at 12:50:30 PM

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Aleksandar Sarovic

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How about to be smart? Trump can easily say he requested the investigation against Biden in the interest of justice and this is undeniable. There is not enough material for impeachment so that Trump will win again and his presidential rate will grow. Finally, Trump serves the interest of the rich perfectly and they will protect him. You know, those people have power in the US. The best Democrats can do is to forget about the impeachment and to find and support a candidate who might win Trump.

Submitted on Thursday, Sep 26, 2019 at 4:26:46 PM

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Susan Lee Schwartz

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I can grasp what you believe, but sir, it is your opinion that The best Democrats can do is to forget about the impeachment and to find and support a candidate who might win Trump."

No, that is the worst that can be done!

Read the truth in my response below.. which is about what the LAW --the Constitution declares is RIGHT, and the founding fathers thought was Best.

'Controversy' is 'their' game-- 'they' want to cause confusion as to what needs to be done and is playing into the hands of the very power-elite that you describe.

Submitted on Thursday, Sep 26, 2019 at 8:25:17 PM

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Aleksandar Sarovic

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Trump can easily say he requested the investigation against Biden in the interest of justice and this cannot be denied. That means Democrats have nothing to support the impeachment. It will finish the same as the Robert Muller investigation. I firmly believe it was a conspiracy of the rich, which helped Trump and damaged Democrats. This impeachment will most likely bring the same result.

Submitted on Thursday, Sep 26, 2019 at 9:37:52 PM

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Susan Lee Schwartz

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you got that right John.

The political arguments 'out there' are geared to stir up controversy, even whenFACTS are in evidence -- a common behavior these days -- a 'pattern' in the divisive universe of POLITICS!

This is about the future of what is permitted in the Executive Office of the United States, and it rests with following the CONSTITUTION--especially now, when an incompetent, impulsive corrupt politician gains the office and uses it to enrich himself or farther his political ambition to become the US Dictator in Chief,

Ms.Peloisi may wish to play 'politics' and even write, new rules for a sitting president--- but the old ones, embedded in the CONSTITUTION, are crystal clear!

"Simply put, the framers viewed the president as a fiduciary , the government of the United States as a sacred trust and the people of the United States as the beneficiaries of that trust. Through the Constitution, the framers imposed upon the president the duty and obligation to "take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed" and made him swear an oath that he would fulfill that duty of faithful execution."

"They believed that a president would break his oath if he engaged in self-dealing if he used his powers to put his own interests above the nation's. That would be the paradigmatic case for impeachment.That's exactly what appears to be at issue today.'

Uphold the law, sir, as you swore to do, or get out! We do not need to wait for the election as long as you are Commander and Chief of our Military... OY! Talk about scary, John!!

Submitted on Thursday, Sep 26, 2019 at 8:16:38 PM

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Lance Ciepiela

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Pelosi's 'Impeachment Inquiry' is not an 'Impeachment Hearing' with a specific Article of Impeachment under consideration and no specific Trump Article of Impeachment has been introduced and voted on in Pelosi's House Judiciary Committee or on Pelosi's House Floor calling for a vote by the Full House. Practically, Pelosi's 'Impeachment Inquiry' translates to 'Oversight Hearings' in all of Pelosi's 'Six Committees' and are not 'Impeachment Hearings' as her primary strategy had/has always been, for W Bush (#VERDICT "they acted with deceit and with falsehood"), and for Trump, to 'run out the clock' to the next election. Obviously, Pelosi prefers "investigating" rather than "impeaching" Trump - for W Bush, however, she did not even bother to "investigate" him. For Pelosi, it seems to be all about the "political capital and favor" of the president. #TooTimid 'to impeach'. 'Tweet' to the @DNC - Rep Al Green (D-TX) for Speaker of the House to introduce and support Articles of Impeachment for Trump and to uphold and restore "the rule of law" for the American people and the United States to include a President @theDemocrats @SpeakerPelosi.

Submitted on Thursday, Sep 26, 2019 at 11:01:15 PM

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