Political Washington is on fire with “impeachment,” but few have taken stock of what the rules are and how they are being tossed to the wind in the rush to judgment.
Impeachment is a Constitutional process, with directives to the US Congress in Article 1 and the President in Article 2. While it is not about making laws and thus technically not legislative, rules govern the process. If the established rules are not followed, the process itself becomes illegitimate.
To cover the basics, Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution directs: “The House of Representatives … shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.” Article 1, Section 3 states, “The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments…” Article 2, Section 4 pegs impeachment to “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
Against this backdrop, the US House has rules intended to ensure impeachment is not pursued for political reasons and that it does not become a capricious, venal, or personal act of vengeance, one-upmanship, or a “backdoor” for unseating an elected president.
Just as ordered liberty requires average citizens to abide by the law and scrupulously follow the rules governing the laws, ordered liberty requires members of the US House to follow rules and not twist Constitutional terms into pretzels for partisan advantage.
The established procedures in the US House aim to prevent the miscarriage of justice. If terms are twisted and rules are thrown to the wind, then we have no rules, no rule of law, and no impartial administration of justice. Yet, that appears to be where we are headed.
First, terms in the Constitution are being twisted out of shape. The Democratic redefinitions of “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors” bear no resemblance to our Founders’ intent.
Specifically, when false allegations of “Russian collusion” were debunked by a special counsel, the inquiry should have ended. Instead, a partisan House Judiciary Committee chairman charged the president – who withheld nothing – of “obstructing” that unjust inquiry. Following this twisted logic, impeachment for “obstruction of justice” is owing.
In the meantime, a House Intelligence Committee chairman – who conspired with an administration staffer to craft a hearsay complaint – is intent on claiming that a presidential call was public corruption.
Both claims are baseless. The first creates a claim of obstruction using a non-crime, implying that a president who released every requested document somehow foiled the special counsel by objecting to the baseless political charges.
The second is even worse. A transcript of the call was publicly released, and the content contradicted the complaint. Moreover, a key witness deposed by the House Democrats proved clearly that nothing was withheld or offered by the President for cooperation in their attempt to uncover potential criminality.
The House Democrats, however, have done more than twist terms, create crimes where none exist, and help others do the same. By attempting to unseat a president, the House Democrats have thrown the rulebook, due process, and the Constitution out the window. They now preside over a show trial.
Specifically, the standard for presidential impeachment investigations involves the submission of a resolution followed by a House vote – only no resolution was ever submitted or voted on. This not only disenfranchised the minority but also allowed the Democrats to evade responsibility. The House Democrats avoided the responsibility for opening an investigation while still allowing the debacle to proceed.
Next, the House Democrats avoided referral by the full House to the Judiciary Committee, where an agreed-upon impeachment investigation normally faces open hearings, not half measures, private machinations, and a blizzard of subpoenas and insinuations.
Next, based on a change in rules imposed by the Democrats, the minority has no right to shape any articles of impeachment. If trust does not matter, the change does not matter; if bipartisanship and due process are irrelevant, the change is inconsequential. If such things do matter, it is devastating.
Likewise, hearings involving administration witnesses such as the State Department official, who testified “no quid pro quo” to President Trump’s dialogue with Ukraine’s leader, are expected to be open, not closed.
Nonetheless, what did the Democrats just do? They closed the hearing, examined the witness for nine hours, and did not let the public see that the State Department witness vindicated the President rather than justify the impeachment. Furthermore, they did not allow the public to hear the briefing from the State’s IG, which did the same. They bent the rules for partisan advantage.
The picture is beginning to grow clearer. The American people are collateral damage in a quest for total power in unseating the president that America elected and assuming the yoke of power for themselves.
With no valid basis for impeachment, no regard for clandestinely crafting a false complaint, no resolution authorizing an impeachment investigation, no minority participation, no public access to open hearings, selective releases, and a disregard for constitutional definitions, the House Democrats will have their way.
Our Founders expected more of those elected to the House. While the US Senate is in the trial phase and could dismiss the complaint, the House is determined to impeach. That is not what the Founders envisioned with Article 1, Section 2. They expected that responsible, serious-minded, America-loving members would treat impeachment as serious, not a game.
This is where we are. The train is picking up speed, the brakes are coming off, the rules are being tossed, and the House Democrats are convincing themselves that Americans do not care that they are twisting the Constitution. The train threatens to run away – unless Americans make it clear they do not want to take this path.
What does this all mean? Unless the House Democrats realize this is a fool’s errand, we are in for a rough ride. America will be subject to a ridiculous show trial, during which national security, economic stability, and legislative regularity will be put at risk – for no reason.
All future presidents – when facing a House controlled by the opposition – may face impeachment, as the longstanding terms, standards, and rules will be out. An opposition House and Senate would – on new terms – be able to unseat an opposing president on flimsy pretenses.
That turn would be ominous. It would effectively rewrite our Constitution, change the balance of power between branches, remove the expectation of equitable checks and balances, reduce government stability, and cheapen impeachment.
In sum, what is happening at this moment in Washington is unhealthy for democracy, is inconsistent with American history, contradicts our Constitution’s meaning and founding, and amounts to reckless disregard for historic principles and rules, all in the naked pursuit of power. Objectively, it is hard to imagine a more sobering turn of events. Let us hope for leveler heads.
Photo of Nancy Pelosi 113347729 © Paula Maxheim – Dreamstime.com