Impeachment is U.S. pro-democracy movement
Let’s all say the word “impeachment” now like we mean it. We’re having a historic battle in Congress over the future of our democracy. And if you think this is about Democrats versus Republicans, think again.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was pretty frank. In a lunchtime session in Washington, DC, she said the president brought on impeachment by his own actions. She said standing up to the president was a patriotic stand to protect and preserve the Constitution, now and for the future.
“And if we allow one president, any president no matter who she or he may be, to go down this path (unchecked) we are saying good bye to a Republic and hello to a President King.”
That’s the solemn gravity of the moment. So, why aren’t we out in the streets like they were in Hong Kong?
In Hong Kong, an estimated million people yearning for democracy marched on Sunday to mark six months of protests. And it’s not just students. There were families in the streets. Parents brought their young kids.
They all held cell phones like torches for democratic freedoms. That’s what a historic pro-democracy rally looks like in China. Hong Kongers want the real thing.
Frankly, here in the U.S., the paragon of modern democracy, we could use a shot of what they’re having. They don’t have democracy and are ready to put it all on the line.
We have it all and seem pretty casual about letting it all erode.
For only the fourth time in 243 years of our country’s existence articles of impeachment are being drawn against a president.
A president is being called out for being above the law, for abusing his power as if he can get away with anything, specifically leveraging aid Congress earmarked for Ukraine in exchange for political information that benefits him and him alone.
Given that, impeachment should be all we’re talking about, trying to understand what’s going on. It’s not something we should be trying to avoid.
But apathy is built in to our system. When little more than a third of the people vote, should we expect more participation?
When people go out of their way to avoid jury duty, should we be surprised when most won’t bother to sit through and hear what the Democrats or the Republicans are selling at this week’s all-important Judiciary Committee hearing?
Articles of impeachment
It’s a blunt nine-page document, a resolution calling for “Impeaching Donald John Trump, President of the United States, for high crimes and misdemeanors.”
The two articles of impeachment unveiled Tuesday zero in on Trump’s abuse of presidential power in how he handled the Ukraine matter, putting personal political interests over national interests. A second charge is for obstructing Congress by failing to comply with subpoena and document requests and thus blocking any Congressional oversight.
The timeline is likely to include debate within the committee by the end of the week, with articles of impeachment sent to the House to be debated, and finalized by the weekend before Christmas.
The House will impeach Trump, and then the trial will move on to the Senate in January, were Democrats likely will not have the votes to remove the president.
But the impeachment will be a permanent blemish. It’s not like bankrupting a casino that people forget about. There’s no positive way to color this. It sticks on your resume.
And let’s be clear. It wasn’t an office burglary. It wasn’t sex with an intern. It was using $391 million in Congressionally approved aid to Ukraine as a lever to get dirt on political rival Joe Biden.
Watching all the hearings, I’ve been stunned how little the GOP is doing to protect the president. It seems that blind loyalty, or just saying whatever the president says is good enough. It’s “truth,” but only in the same way that Sunny Delight is orange juice. Still, these aren’t fact optional hearings. But instead of a real clash on facts, Republicans have offered up red herrings, conspiracy theories, and tantrums.
For Asian American watchers, Rep. Ted Lieu (CA-D) stood up for us.
“Let’s just cut through all the Republican arguments, and make things very simple,” Lieu said. “No one else in America could do what Donald Trump did and get away with it. No American elected official could call up a foreign official and ask for an investigation of a political opponent. No one sitting on this judiciary committee could call up a foreign government official and ask for help in a re-election campaign. If we did that and got caught, we would likely be indicted.”
Lieu, a former Air Force colonel and a former prosecutor, made the case that the $391 million Congress approved for Ukraine was U.S. taxpayer funds. And to use that to seek assistance for his reelection was illegal. Furthermore, to withhold the money without telling Congress was a violation of the Impoundment Control Act of 1974.
Withholding the money also harmed U.S. National Security interests since Ukraine, an ally, was desperately in need of the money to ward off our common enemy, Russia. Lieu said harming Ukraine harms us, and as Professor Pamela Karlan said last week, harming our national security is an impeachable offense.
He closed by mentioning a Navy commander who was convicted of putting himself above country.
“We should not hold the commander-in-chief to a lower standard, or any elected official,” Lieu said. “No one is above the law.”
The FBI Report
The hearings weren’t the only development on Monday worth noting. The Justice Department’s inspector general report said while mistakes were made in the FBI’s handling of the Russia probe, there was no political bias. It debunked Trump’s claims that the probe was a witch hunt.
It didn’t take long for Attorney General Bill Barr to blast the report and defend his president.
But Sen. Mazie Hirono (Hi-D) said it was a dangerous thing to see Barr acting as the president’s personal attorney. It was another dangerous divergence from democracy as we’ve long understood it.
“We expect the attorney general to uphold the laws of our country and the Constitution,” Hirono said on CNN. “Instead, we have an attorney general whose first instinct is to protect the president. And that should concern all of us…It’s so scary.”
Hirono noted the president also responded to the report by misrepresenting it and deflecting any possible criticism of himself.
“What the president hopes is that by continuing to lie to the American people as he’s done since day one of his presidency, that the American public will be fooled,” said Hirono.
This is why there’s an urgency to remove now. Go slow? Why? There’s so much that demands accountability. The articles of impeachment are ultra-focused on Ukraine. But every day there’s something new that says something’s embarrassingly wrong. Last week was NATO, food stamps or deregulating the EPA because people are flushing too much. There’s separated kids dying at border facilities. Health care. Education. DACA.
You don’t impeach over the small policy stuff.
But you do impeach over the big things like withholding $391 million in aid until Ukraine provides Biden dirt. And national security. And the continuing actions of a president to involve foreign governments to cheat in our elections.
Trump is accused of all that.
Makes it simple. It should make you all want to run out in the streets.
Impeachment? We’re in it now. Consider it America’s Pro-Democracy movement.
Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. He writes a column for the Inquirer.net’s North American Bureau. Twitter @emilamok Find him on Apple Podcasts.