When Donald Trump glibly announced in mid-December that he would shut down the federal government in order to promote his border-wall fantasy, Rashida Tlaib responded appropriately. As a lawyer with a firm grasp of the Constitution, she asked: "Can we please start the impeachment process now?"
Less than a month later, as a new member of the House of Representatives, Tlaib is presenting the answer to her rhetorical question. In a carefully considered brief written for her hometown newspaper and published on the day that the nation's first Palestinian-American congresswoman prepared to swear her oath to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic" -- on the 1734 English translation of the Koran that belonged to Thomas Jefferson -- Tlaib argues that now is the time for the House to begin the necessary work of checking and balancing the president.
"We must rise to defend our Constitution, to defend our democracy, and to defend that bedrock principle that no one is above the law, not even the President of the United States," explains the Michigan Democrat. "Each passing day brings more pain for the people most directly hurt by this president, and these are days we simply cannot get back. The time for impeachment proceedings is now."
Tlaib composed her piece with fellow lawyer John Bonifaz, the co-founder and president of the advocacy group Free Speech For People (FSFP). Bonifaz is the co-author, with FSFP Board Chair Ben Clements and FSFP Legal Director Ron Fein, of The Constitution Demands It: The Case for the Impeachment of Donald Trump. (Full disclosure: I wrote the historical forward for the book, which was published last year by Melville House.)
After her election in November, Tlaib distributed copies of The Constitution Demands It to new members of the House with a quote from Ella Wheeler Wilcox's poem "Protest" that reads: "To sin by silence, when we should protest, makes cowards out of men." She explained, "I am making sure we know our power in Congress to hold corrupt elected officials accountable."