Jason Nichols: Congress should pursue impeachment, but not just to harass President Trump

The House of Representatives should indeed begin impeachment proceedings against President Trump, but it should do so for the right reasons.

I will admit that before Special Counsel Robert Mueller released his redacted report, I was on record staunchly opposing impeachment. Many spoke of beginning impeachment proceedings very prematurely. It should not be based upon the crassness of the president or even his policies, no matter how destructive and grotesque. The president can only be impeached for "high crimes and misdemeanors." Our country's electoral system also works, and by putting forward a candidate with a positive vision, we can win the 2020 election and begin the healing process.

Unfortunately, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other establishment Democrats are hesitant to pursue impeachment because of politics rather than the rule of law. They fear political repercussions, which should not be a factor in impeachment.

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Though there is not enough evidence to conclude Trump’s campaign conspired with Russia to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, Trump’s desire to obstruct justice was detailed in the Mueller report. Were it not for smart decisions by scrappy Trump adviser Corey Lewandowski and former White House counsel Don McGahn to ignore Trump's demands, Trump would have a problem.

Now that the special counsel's investigation has ended, the White House has hinted that it may invoke executive privilege to keep McGahn from testifying before the House Judiciary Committee. The president has turned on McGahn in a move that many argue is tantamount to intimidation (another impeachable offense). In addition, he’s been accused of financial crimes by his former attorney, Michael Cohen.

Despite my dislike for the president, I believe he should have a right to due process and to clear his name in a forum other than Twitter.

It must be understood that impeachment is not an outcome, but a process of further inquiry and discovery. It is nearly impossible that the Senate will choose to remove the president. Even Senate Republicans who question the president’s integrity and fitness to lead fear the wrath of their pro-Trump constituents.

Despite my dislike for the president, I believe he should have a right to due process and to clear his name in a forum other than Twitter.

Impeachment is based on presidential high crimes and misdemeanors, but not necessarily on activity that would constitute a crime for the average civilian. For example, habitual drunkenness is not a crime, but it is an impeachable offense. So are amorphous charges such as "unbecoming conduct." Unbecoming conduct is also a military crime subject to court-martial, but it is not a civilian crime.

The strongest argument against impeachment comes from Mueller’s language in the report, which experts believe leaves the door open for criminal prosecution after Trump leaves office. Working within a five-year statute of limitations for obstruction, anti-Trump Democrats could get their moment to see Trump led out in cuffs provided he loses in 2020.

For anti-Trump Democrats, that raises the stakes for the next presidential election. However, we should not be anti-Trump Democrats. That is, in part, the reason we lost in 2016. Instead, we should be pro-presidential norms, anti-obstruction, anti-intimidation, and in favor of due process.

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Politicians on both sides of the aisle should figure out how to take the best course of action for the country. That includes re-establishing presidential norms, weeding out public witness intimidation, and inquiring further into the behavior of our leaders where there are legitimate concerns of criminal activity.

I have asked myself several times whether I would support the process of impeachment if this were a Democratic president. After reading through the Mueller report, the answer is a resounding "yes."

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