When Should Impeachment Begin?

Impeachment news headline

I’ve written about the process of impeachment, but today I want to talk a bit about my evolving stance on the timing of an impeachment process.

When the Democrats won the House, I knew that we’d finally have a check on the President, especially as the Republicans have refused to serve in that capacity. I then quickly grew to appreciate the other reason why having the House would be so important — hearings.

We know that any legislation we pass in the House has little to no chance to pass the Senate while Mitch McConnell leads the Senate and Trump is President. But, and this is big, with the Democrats leading the House, they can hold hearings on all kinds of things.

Beyond blockbuster hearings like Michael Cohen testifying, committee hearings can investigate problems or scandals in the federal agencies (anyone else want Sect. Nielsen to testify about the children being separated at the border?), and solicit expert opinion and information about legislation they’re considering.

Back to impeachment. Today, I read The Atlantic’s important piece, Impeach Donald Trump. You should take the time to read it. Trust me.

They make the argument that we should start the process of impeachment now. I’ve seen lots of pushback on this idea which takes the form of reminding everyone that when the Republicans started the impeachment process for Bill Clinton, not only did they not get a conviction, but his popularity soared afterwards.

I couldn’t tell you what would be the ultimate outcome if we impeached Trump. I haven’t a clue, but I’ve also been very concerned that history would repeat itself, and the Senate wouldn’t vote to convict him, and then not only would Trump still be in office but he’d be more popular.

But–and this is the angle I was missing that The Atlantic story provided–the impeachment process is valuable, right now, because of the hearings.

Impeachment is a process, not an outcome, a rule-bound procedure for investigating a president, considering evidence, formulating charges, and deciding whether to continue on to trial.

The debate about whether or not Trump is fit to continue serving as the President cannot happen in the newsroom, or in newspapers, or on social media, or in casual conversations precisely because none of those platforms can do anything once coming to a conclusion. But Congress can.

People on both sides of the aisle think Trump is harming our democracy. Impeachment hearings will allow the American people to all hear the same charges and the evidence to support them. We may not all come to the same conclusion, but at least we would all be dealing with the same set of facts and information.

Just as I was coming to this conclusion, the news hit that Donald Trump directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about the Moscow Tower project. That sealed the deal for me. Let’s do this.

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8 replies

  1. I would want to see Mueller’s Report first because I think Pence May be tainted as well. I don’t think we would be any better off with Pence. But I do agree, lots of evidence that impeachment investigations and proceedings could proceed.

    • I was very much in the camp of “let’s wait for the Mueller report.” But, 1) we don’t know when or if or how much we’ll see of Mueller’s report, and 2) we really need Congress to act like the check on the Executive that they are. The Republicans erred in using impeachment to punish Clinton for behavior they didn’t like. But in Trump’s case, he is harming the very fabric of our democracy and those charges need to be aired, evidence introduced, and argued in front of the entire American citizenry.

  2. Impeachment isn’t enough, it can only be a start. He has committed too many crimes to walk away.

  3. They can begin any time as far as I’m concerned.

  4. I see your points but I still think we need to wait until Mueller’s report comes out. Especially now that at least some of Buzzfeed’s article has been denied by Mueller’s office. When or if impeachment proceedings begin, Democrats have to have as strong a case as they can, because otherwise it will definitely rip apart this country.

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