Thursday, December 12, 2019

Getting to yes on impeachment -- Dec. 12, 2019 column


Last June, I wrote that impeaching President Donald Trump was a bad idea for Democrats because most people opposed it.

I also thought House Democrats would not go for impeachment unless and until public sentiment changed.

I was wrong on both counts.

As the House moves toward a vote on impeachment next week, most people still oppose it. I no longer think it’s a bad idea for Democrats, though it is politically risky.

Not impeaching Trump would be smart, practical politics, but allowing his corruption to go unchecked would harm our democracy. Sometimes you have to take a stand.

The testimony of courageous former federal officials before the House Intelligence Committee persuaded me Democrats are right to hold the president accountable for his conduct regarding Ukraine.

The House will vote on two articles of impeachment -- abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

“They said these two things – they’re not even a crime!” Trump shouted Tuesday at a rally in Pennsylvania, apparently disappointed Democrats didn’t hit him with more. He sees impeachment as a political plus.

The constitutional standard for impeachment includes “high crimes and misdemeanors,” which Congress, not criminal statutes, defines.

Democrats charge he abused the power of his office when he tried to force a foreign government to help him gain personal advantage over a political opponent, and he obstructed Congress in its investigations.

Trump has continually flouted norms of personal behavior with impunity. Now, House Democrats are saying we have a president, not a king, and no one is above the law.

Reflecting our hyper-polarized country, almost all House Democrats will vote for impeachment while House Republicans en masse likely will vote no.

The Republican-controlled Senate will hold a trial after the first of the year. Whether it will be the longer show trial Trump wants or a shorter one favored by some senators isn’t clear.

Under the Constitution, removing the president from office requires a vote of two-thirds of the Senate. The Senate will vote to acquit Trump, keeping him in office.

He then will declare vindication and play the victim to rally voters next November.

Public opinion hasn’t changed much over the last six months. Last June, 54% opposed Trump’s impeachment and removal from office while 41% favored it, CNN reported.

That was after Robert Mueller’s report investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election was released. Mueller’s report did not exonerate Trump, as he and his allies repeatedly claim. Nor did it move public opinion.

Since then, news broke of a whistleblower’s complaint about Trump’s July 25 phone call to Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, and the House Intelligence Committee held hearings that laid out the case against Trump.

Trump asked Zelensky for “a favor”: investigate leading Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who had served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.

Trump also held up hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine, releasing the funds only after he learned of the whistleblower’s complaint.

Support for impeachment has inched up.  For example, 45% of voters believe Trump should be impeached and removed from office, but 50% say he should not, the latest Monmouth University Poll reported Wednesday.

Trump remains defiant, insisting he has done nothing wrong, stonewalling congressional investigations of his actions. That suits his coalition just fine.

Evangelicals like his Supreme Court and other judicial appointments. The rich like his tax cut and their healthy stock portfolios. Gun makers and enthusiasts like his stand against gun control. Business likes his rollback of environmental laws and other regulations.

Even vapers like Trump because he walked away from his promise to ban some flavored e-cigarette products.

In the past, Republicans would have been uncomfortable with the president’s coziness with Russia – especially as it interferes in another election. But Trump’s “America first” policies make it OK to be isolationist and anti-immigrant.

So, yes, Trump will survive impeachment. Ultimately, history will judge whether  Democratic or Republican lawmakers did the right thing.  

But will voters reward him with a second term? That depends on the Democrats’ choice as their presidential nominee and how well the candidate withstands the vile campaign of innuendo, misrepresentations and outright lies Trump will wage to ruin his opponent.

Sad to say, we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

©2019 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.

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