An un-American impeachment

Armstrong Williams | 10/31/2019, 12:39 p.m.
We are now headlong into the throes of the Constitutionally directed authority of the U.S. House of Representatives—the people’s chamber—to ...
Armstrong Williams

We are now headlong into the throes of the Constitutionally directed authority of the U.S. House of Representatives—the people’s chamber—to call into question the behavior of a sitting public official. In the history of our great Republic, the House has completely executed this power and impeached an officeholder in just 19 instances—17 of the federal judiciary, and two sitting U.S. presidents. Two more presidents have faced impeachment inquiries—Nixon and now President Trump.

It’s important to recall this history lesson because the framers intended for the removal of a sitting federal official of high office to be particularly difficult. Excruciatingly difficult. The founders were well aware of bitter partisanship even in 18th century America, and so they wanted to insulate as best they could the office holders from the flimsy political whims of the people’s house in Congress.

I disagree with the president and his supporters when they call the current proceedings unconstitutional or suggest Democrats have no authority to act. This process is one of the most powerful instruments an institution of government can wield—a necessary check to ensure the proper balance between all branches of our great democracy. And that instrument deserves to be hallowed through all time if we are to guarantee that no one person sets themselves above the law.

Yet the actions of House Democrats led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff are running counter to the spirit and even the letter of the authority they swore to uphold. As a result, they are making this current impeachment process decidedly un-American.

Let’s begin with the process itself. Something is wrong when a chamber cannot inaugurate these proceedings as the House has done so many times before—with a full vote of the body. Why not vote to officially begin the inquiry? It may seem petty or inconsequential to the average observer. But the act of formally tallying the voice of every sitting member of that body should be heard and recorded for all Americans to see. After all, the framers wanted to make it difficult for a sitting president to be removed, to “undo” an election of the people. If that’s the case, shouldn’t 435 individuals stand up and be counted on for such a critical question of whether those same 435 should un-ring the bell that called for Trump to hold office in the first place?

Which brings us to the only logical conclusion on why Pelosi, Hoyer and Schiff do not want a vote—protecting those rank-and-file members in vulnerable Trump districts. Yes, the House Democratic Caucus is divided on this question of removing a sitting president, even one as controversial as Trump. The Speaker knows that. Yet the most liberal in her party have pushed and pushed for this, giving the Speaker of the House no choice but to acquiesce.

Still, Pelosi must protect those 30-40 Democrats. And that means not only no formal vote launching the inquiry, but also a series of closed-door interviews of the president’s very accusers. Is that American? What happened to the writ of habeas corpus—the right to face one’s accuser? This “protection at all costs” of her party vulnerable is costing the speaker and Democrats. It unnecessarily leaves those Obama-Trump swing voters doubting any sincerity of Democrats to find high crimes and misdemeanors this president may have committed, and gives Romney-Clinton voters a reason to return to the Republican fold.