A progressive argument against impeachment | Opinion

A locally written column about politics.

By Roger Ledbetter

Special to the Record

Some progressives cry loudly for impeachment, but others say “wait a minute.” Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has spoken against impeachment saying it is divisive, and the time to impeach is when Republicans request it.

Our Constitution is vague about impeachment. What constitutes “…high crimes, and misdemeanors” is not clear. Is a felony campaign finance payment from the Oval Office to an adult film star a high crime? Is lying to the American people 9,451 times, as of March 31, (as tallied by the Washington Post) a high crime or a misdemeanor?

Opinions about impeachment vary from time to time. Take Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham: In 1998, President Bill Clinton denied having an inappropriate — although legal — sexual encounter. Graham said, “You don’t even have to be convicted of a crime to lose your job (as president) in this constitutional republic, if this body determines your conduct as a public official is clearly out of bounds in your role, because impeachment is not about punishment. Impeachment is about cleansing the office. Impeachment is about restoring honor and integrity to the office.” But in August 2018, when President Donald Trump’s campaign chairman Paul Manafort was convicted, and Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen pled guilty to interfering with the election, Graham seemed to have a different idea, and pointed out there had been no criminal charges against Trump or other campaign personnel over alleged collusion with Russia. Gone is his concern for honor, integrity, and cleansing the office. How the times change.

By Graham’s 1998 position, clearly there are grounds for impeachment, such as oval office payments to adult film stars, perpetual lying, policies of kidnapping children at the border, declaring a national emergency to usurp Congress’s power of the purse, trusting Russian President Vladimir Putin more than our intelligence professionals, praising neo-Nazis, giving security clearances to unqualified cronies, and overlooking Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s assassination, to name a few things outside the role of the President.

Progressives have listed many reasons that justify impeaching Trump. The common ones are taking payments from foreign governments, obstruction of justice, abusing power by demanding his critics be investigated, abuse of the pardon power, undermining freedom of the press, and cruelly imprisoning children. To this list, many add treason. John Brennan, retired CIA director, said Trump committed treason in plain sight, in Helsinki, when he believed Putin over all our intelligence agencies, denying Russia’s attack on our democracy. Helping Russia get away with attacking the U.S. is “…adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort” as the Constitution defines treason. Siding with Russia, Trump comforted and aided Putin while failing to protect us from future attacks.

Robert Reich, Clinton’s secretary of labor, writes, “The question is no longer whether there are grounds to impeach Trump. The practical question is whether there’s the political will.”

The argument against impeachment isn’t because of lack of good cause. It’s because some progressives think impeachment is not good for the country.

There are four progressive reasons for not impeaching Trump:

Divisiveness — Right-wing violence is increasing. Shaun Hannity and Rush Limbaugh declared we are in a civil war, and Trump warns of blood in the streets. Do we need more right-wing violence?

Impractical — Trump Republicans control the Senate. Will Trump loyalists vote for impeachment?

Counterproductive — Vice President Mike Pence, Trump enabler extraordinaire, would become president. Would Pence be better for democracy?

Injustice — A President Pence might rationalize pardoning Trump to “heal the country,” like President Gerald Ford did with President Richard Nixon after his resignation. How does failing to hold a criminal accountable heal anything?

Using deterrents to protect the community is part of justice. Pardoning Nixon revealed presidents can get away with crime. Pardoning presidents who are criminals fails to deter the next charismatic con-artist dreaming of power. It fails to protect democracy. America needs to send a message to would be dictators.

Some progressives argue: Let Trump run in 2020, and when he loses, prosecute him for his adult film star campaign finance crimes, and for any other of the criminal investigations of him, which seem indictable. Let him face justice, equally and fairly, as any American would.

When pledging allegiance to the flag, progressives take the words “…and justice for all” seriously. And “all” means the president is not above the Law.

Roger Ledbetter is a politically-active resident of the Valley. He and his family have lived in Snoqualmie since 1979. Contact Roger Ledbetter through the editor by email: editor@valleyrecord.com.