I am one of those Americans who has not read the Mueller Report. I am instead, one of those Americans who has watched extensive coverage by legal minds who have read the report; those minds including former prosecutors, former FBI leaders, former CIA leaders, and countless career journalists who cover American politics. I felt like I had a good handle on what the report contained, but as soon as I heard that the man himself was going to speak, I tuned in.
Despite speaking in sometimes frustratingly legalese syntax, Mr. Mueller was remarkably clear in summarizing 22 months of work into an 8 minute speech. Russian operatives, some military, some civilian with ties to the Kremlin, hacked into computer systems of Democratic Presidential Candidate Clinton, stole information, and then disseminated that information through fraudulent social media personas, and by coordinating with Wikileaks. Their interference in the American political process goes to the heart of our democratic system, and should be a concern to all Americans. The special counsel’s investigation was in no way a “witch hunt,” “attempted take down,” “coup” or other label given to it by the President of the United States.
Part II of their investigation focused on one individual: Donald Trump, and whether or not he attempted to obstruct justice by interfering with the special counsel’s team and their investigation of the aforementioned Russian election hack. Powerfully, he said that if he and his team could have confidently stated that the President committed no criminal obstruction, they would have said so. They couldn’t make that statement, and they also couldn’t pursue criminal charges against the President due to Department of Justice policy, which lays out specifically that a sitting President cannot be indicted while in office.
Mueller goes on to state that because of that policy, it would be unfair to accuse the man of crimes because those accusations could not be tried in the American legal system, so the accusations would remain in place without a chance to hear evidence before a jury and have an innocent or guilty verdict concluded. In our system of justice, where one is presumed to be innocent until proven to be guilty, it would be wrong to make those accusations. But again, Mueller could not clearly say the President was innocent, or he would have said so. Instead, he made clear that other means exist to get to the bottom of whether a sitting President was guilty of wrongdoing, and that the American criminal system was not the appropriate place to do it.
In other words, it’s up to Congress, specifically the House of Representatives, to conduct an impeachment inquiry and proceeding, to determine if the President committed high crimes and misdemeanors and should be impeached by the House, and tried by the Senate for potential removal from office.
This lays bare everything the average American who is plugged into our political process and the activities of our elected leaders in DC, already had a pretty good understanding of. The Russians hacked us, fed us disinformation to weaken Clinton so she’d be a weaker President if elected, the Trump campaign happily took information that the Russians obtained through illegal means, and spread that information far and wide. Mueller’s team couldn’t find enough evidence to accuse the Trump campaign of conspiring with the Russian hackers, but the report is filled with evidence of cooperation with, and exploitation of the information the Trump campaign received. Numerous members of the Trump campaign, when investigated as to their level of involvement with Russian operatives, admitted to their brazen attempts to cover up and lie about their contacts. The report includes over 140 contacts between members of the Trump campaign and Russian operatives.
Laid bare is also that President Trump made numerous attempts to stop the special counsel’s investigation. Part II of the report has over 10 instances of documented obstruction efforts by the President which led Mueller to his conclusion: he could not clear the President of the crime of obstruction of justice. He also couldn’t charge him, so he did neither. It’s now up to someone else to finish the job, and that someone else is the House of Representatives.
I understand the political ramifications of an impeachment inquiry. It will be grand theater and would likely pump up the Trump supporters, and an impeachment vote in the House would likely be a party line vote, with perhaps Rep Amash the lone GOP member to vote Aye, making it feel like a strictly political result vs. a legally founded one. The likelihood of a guilty verdict in the Senate is as close to 0% as possible, so the President would remain in office until the next election decides his political fate. Those who recall the impeachment of President Bill Clinton will remember that it went exactly like that, and the GOP paid at the polls in the next midterm election as the American public was decidedly not in favor of impeaching President Clinton. So that’s the con argument for impeachment.
However, there is a pro argument as well. The impeachment inquiry and proceedings would indeed be grand theater, and while Trump diehards will be pumped to support their man, I am confident no new Trump supporters will emerge from hearings outlining just how egregious his conduct was. The anti-Trump Americans would likely also be pumped up by the President finally being held to account for his actions. While acquittal by the Senate is likely, the facts will now be clearly articulated for all to absorb and will almost certainly impact the next election. Rather than focusing on the political price the GOP paid at the midterms after Clinton’s impeachment and acquittal, focus instead on the GOP’s ultimate victory after the impeachment: The election of George W. Bush over Al Gore. Vice President Gore could not shake the stink of the Clinton impeachment scandal as the American people just wanted to wash that stink out of our system. Even with that, it was a remarkably close election, with the Florida nightmare and resultant Supreme Court resolution still leaving the ultimate election results disputed to this day. It is quite possible, perhaps even likely, that the Democratic nominee in 2020 would benefit from the anti-Trump sentiment, and let’s face it, Trump’s disapproval has always been higher than his approval. That ratio will certainly get worse for him from an impeachment, even is he’s not convicted in the Senate.
Finally, because I believe in the Constitution and in our system of government as a pretty damn good ongoing experiment in self-governing, impeachment of this President is a requirement. It is the sworn duty of every member of the House to uphold and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. There is sufficient evidence before the nation that the President has engaged in conduct that violates and betrays the public trust, and that’s all there has to be for an impeachable high crime or misdemeanor.
Taken from Politifact’s piece on impeachment:
- Jeffrey A. Engel, director of the Southern Methodist University Center for Presidential History and a contributor to the 2018 book Impeachment: An American History:
“A high crime is an affront to the state, to the people, the body politic,” Engel said. “A president, or any leader really, need not break any statute in order to break the public’s trust. They [the framers of the Constitution] recognized that just being a lousy president was no reason to subvert or preempt the standard electoral process. A president that is an active danger, however — one who can no longer be trusted to use his or her best judgement and abilities for the sake of the people — that is one to be feared, and thus impeached.”
- “America’s founders established impeachment not as a catastrophic contingency, but as a legal and peaceful means for removing a rogue leader without resort to revolution or assassination,” said Allan J. Lichtman, an American University political scientist and author of The Case for Impeachment.
- Philip C. Bobbitt, a University of Texas law professor and editor of Impeachment: A Handbook, New Edition pointed to Federalist Paper 65, written by Alexander Hamilton, which refers to impeachment as stemming from “offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust.” This passage, Bobbitt said, clarifies that the framers were contemplating political crimes, and not ordinary ones.
Therefore, in the case of Mueller v. Trump, I find the evidence compelling that the President of the United States has betrayed the public trust, cannot be trusted to use his office for the sake of the people (and truly never has), behaves and acts very much like a rogue leader, e.g. in siding with Putin over US intelligence agencies, siding with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un over US national security advisers and our allies in the area, and committing offenses of misconduct so severe as to require removal from the office of President.
Unfortunately, I’m not a member of the House of Representatives. But I know who is, and I will be reaching out to him shortly to express my concern with his current stance on impeachment, and urge him to rise to his Constitutional duty, even though he is a freshman Congressman from a historically Republican district. He really has no other choice.