Opinion | Muftic: Crisis in American democracy. Time for impeachment?
We are now at a crisis time in American democracy with a president who believes he is above the law. A Justice Department rule forbids indicting a sitting President. That same President Donald Trump and his lawyers contend he and members of his administration can ignore the House and Senate subpoenas and are thus can deny the legislative branch its Constitutionally granted powers of oversight.
The principles involved and the exposure Congressional hearings will provide of the Mueller findings are moving me to support opening an impeachment inquiry.
How long that inquiry lasts can be managed. Whether that leads to a House vote to impeach may or may not happen. That the GOP-dominated Senate would remove the President mostly like will not happen, but for the sake of democracy, it is worth starting it.
Democracy dies in this electronic era when TV cameras are turned off because that is how voters learn who is telling the truth and get a sense of the seriousness of the issues.
The strongest argument for impeaching the president is protecting the future of our American democracy that depends on adherence to the rule of law, not pledges of allegiance to the rule of a person. Congress needs to begin impeachment proceedings in order to live up to their obligations to protect us from the rule of a wannabe king, autocrat, or dictator, who determines for himself what the law means to which he is bound.
Like it or not, politically expedient or not, Donald Trump is pushing and shoving a reluctant House of Representatives to begin the first step in the impeachment process, an impeachment inquiry. It is the most effective way to speed up and get favorable court judgments against the administration’s stonewalling methods. If the courts rule against the Trump administration, and the Trump administration refuses to abide by the decision, then we have a full-blown Constitutional crisis that only an impeachment process or the next election can resolve.
Here is what is going on: The White House is trying to stop present and past members of the administration to show up to testify at televised Congressional hearings. They are making a case evoking executive privilege to stop White House and Department of Justice past and present personnel to explain in greater detail verbally to the public what is already a matter of public record the Mueller Report and why and how they reached their conclusions. They are also refusing to provide the unredacted version and underlying evidence to the House, even if the House provides necessary secrecy protections required by law. Their strategy is to hope this all lands in court in order to drag out the power struggle until after the 2020 elections.
There is another way to speed up and obtain court judgments. It is to begin an impeachment inquiry.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, cooling talk of impeachment, has been making the argument that Donald Trump wants the House to begin impeachment so he can paint himself as a victim of his opposing political party that is engineering a “coup” to oust him from power. He is already asserting that argument, anyway, but beginning impeachment would only dramatize that ploy that appeals to his base who seem to believe and support everything the great leader says. However, their argument also appeals to those moderates and swing voters of the electorate who are not so much Trump hero worshippers, but who are sick and tired of the Washington games and would rather hear about health care, the economy, and immigration.
Yes, launching the first step in impeachment, a formal inquiry, is risky business. The risks threaten both Democrats and Republicans. In fact, polls show impeachment approval splits along party lines. Even in the midst of impeachment rumblings, Bill Clinton’s approval rating soared and Nixon was elected to a second term. There is a political risk involved, indeed.
On the other hand, not to act risks setting precedents for the future that could destroy our democracy as we have known it and taken it for granted. The risk Trump takes is that more public exposure could also lead to greater approval by voters for impeachment.
In the past, courts have shied away from being involved in power struggles between the executive branch and Congress, and they might do so in this current conflict if they are to rule on current subpoenas. If the House now dominated by Democrats, begin an impeachment inquiry, the courts may then take the administration’s refusal to adhere to subpoenas much more seriously as a Constitutional issue, an attack on a Constitutionally permitted process.
What the Supreme Court will do is a question, as well, since Trump has added two loyalists to the bench and considers it “his” court. By stonewalling subpoenas as they are now to drag out the court decision process past 2020 elections, the White House may force Congress to launch the impeachment process just to get the testimony they need to do their job of oversight so voters will have a clearer picture of Trump than they have now.
These are inside the ballgame kinds of concerns, boring civics, and history lessons of why America came into being long forgotten since middle school and high school. Falling on deaf ears of most Americans is the constant beat of Democrats and a few independents that the president is not above the law or that balance of powers between the three branches of government is essential to protect us from rule by a person instead rule by the laws.
Those who want to give all power to the President hope you, the voters, do not care or do not get it or owe it all to partisan politicians squabbling over power and control. Trump’s gamble is that if he loses the subpoena issue and administration witnesses are forced to repeat what they told Mueller before TV cameras, the public may “get the picture” and public opinion may become much more supportive of impeachment or will at least deny him his second term.
The principles involved and the exposure Congressional hearings will provide of the Mueller findings are moving me to support opening an impeachment inquiry. Whether that leads to a vote to impeach may or may not happen, but for the sake of democracy, it is worth it.
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