When President Bill Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives on Dec. 19, 1998 – almost exactly 21 years ago – I was 14 and paying more attention to playing basketball, boys and homework. I knew the impeachment was taking place, but didn’t follow every development.
Things are very different today. I can’t seem to stop paying attention and am oftentimes overwhelmed by the gravity of what we’re witnessing.
Though it’s my job to pay attention, the dynamics of this story – from the president’s abuse of power, to the geopolitics, to the personal stories of those who have testified – would draw anyone in.
Our reality TV president is now the subject of a reality TV impeachment filled with dramatic twists and turns – and the show isn’t over yet.
The evidence in favor of impeachment seems overwhelming to me. And President Trump’s misconduct seems a lot more serious than President Clinton’s.
Clinton lied about sex – but his conduct didn’t endanger our national security or threaten the system of government established in our Constitution.
I agree with Democrats seeking Trump’s impeachment for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
In my mind, it’s obvious that Trump threatened the president of Ukraine to demand a political favor and improperly held back $391 million in desperately needed military aid approved by Congress to help Ukraine defend itself against Russian aggression. Trump eventually gave Ukraine the money – but only after a whistleblower exposed the president’s improper conduct.
It’s even more obvious – and indisputable – that Trump has refused to allow members of his administration to testify before Congress or provide subpoenaed documents for the House impeachment inquiry. Those brave and patriotic officials who testified did so in defiance of Trump’s obstruction.
How can anyone argue with a straight face that Trump didn’t obstruct Congress to block it from carrying out its constitutional oversight responsibility?
The framers of the Constitution created impeachment so that the president of the United States could be held accountable for misconduct. Sure, Trump doesn’t like it. But he doesn’t have the power to ignore the Constitution and follow only the parts of it that he likes.
The action by the House Judiciary Committee Friday adopting the two articles of impeachment against Trump was historic. I find it disappointing that not a single Republican joined Democrats in voting to impeach. It seems they will stick with him no more what, putting party loyalty over patriotism.
When he was running for president Trump said: "The polls, they say I have the most loyal people. Did you ever see that? Where I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose any voters, OK? It's like incredible."
When it comes to holding onto Republican support in the House and Senate, I think Trump’s statement is actually true. As he said before, “It’s like incredible.”
The Judiciary Committee vote Friday along party lines to impeach Trump wrapped up a contentious two days of debate that foreshadows continued partisan bickering that will carry over to the Senate in an impeachment trial for the president.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has made it clear will do Trump’s bidding. It seems that no matter what Trump asks McConnell to do, McConnell will reply: “Yes, sir!”
McConnell admitted as much to Sean Hannity of Fox News, telling Hannity “there will be no difference between the president’s position and our position in how to handle this … there’s no chance the president will be removed from office.”
Too bad McConnell sees himself as Trump’s personal servant rather than the public servant he was elected to be.
I never thought there was a chance Trump would be removed from office by the Senate. But now that McConnell has made it perfectly clear, we can stop fantasizing about Republicans finding some moral courage. Their actions are profiles in cowardice.
In the week ahead the spotlight shifts to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and the full House, when Democrats are expected to impeach Trump by approving the articles of impeachment adopted by the Judiciary Committee.
One of Pelosi’s great strengths has been her willingness to give members free rein to be themselves, vote their conscience and campaign for their districts. This approach was surely critical to Democratic victories in 2018, when Democrats won over 35 seats in purple or red districts to regain majority control of the House.
Pelosi gave Democratic candidates license to do what’s right for their constituents, even if it meant bashing her and committing to not voting for her to regain the gavel if Democrats were in the majority again.
And it worked. Just like it will work again with the impending House vote next week.
There have been a lot of rumblings that Pelosi could lose Democratic votes on impeachment.
Two House members voted against opening the impeachment inquiry – with Pelosi’s blessing – and the conventional wisdom is that there could be more for next week’s vote.
As the Washington Post reported, there are several moderate Democrats who wanted other options, like a censure vote. They could also do what many Democrats did for Clinton’s impeachment and only vote for one article of impeachment to show some degree of independence.
Rep. Elissa Slotkin, one of the freshman Democrats who hails from a vulnerable Trump-supporting district in Michigan, appeared on “America’s Newsroom” on Fox News Channel to discuss the challenges facing Democrats. Her struggle is one that over 30 of her colleagues are grappling with.
That said, Pelosi’s approach to managing her caucus when it comes to the impeachment vote is already paying off. On Thursday and Friday three vulnerable Democrats declared their intention to vote to impeach President Trump.
Rep. Colin Allred, D-Texas, said: “It is clear the president engaged in an abuse of his authority, putting himself above the law, and his personal interests above the nation’s. These uncontroverted facts are an unacceptable violation of his oath of office and constitute an impeachable abuse of power. This is a somber moment for our nation, and I have not reached this decision lightly.”
Over in Pennsylvania, Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb told a local radio station: “The evidence is strong, and it warrants impeachment. The facts show the president abused his office and compromised our national security. I can't think of anything more serious than that.”
And Rep. Max Rose, D-N.Y., also said he will vote to impeach Trump. “Party and politics will never come before the country I bled to protect – and would unquestionably do so again,” Rose said in a statement. The Army combat veteran who served in Afghanistan and currently serves in the National Guard added: “A President coercing a foreign government into targeting American citizens is not just another example of scorched earth politics, it serves as an invitation to the enemies of the United States to come after any citizen, so long as they disagree with the President.”
These Democratic House members are well aware of the potential ramifications to their reelection and, at the same time, the importance of making their decision known as a signal to other vulnerable Democrats that this is the right path.
I’m sure we’ll see more of this in the coming days. And Pelosi should stay the course. It won Democrats control of the House in 2018 and will hopefully get a vote to impeach Trump next week.