The mid-term elections gave Democrats their hard fought for control of Congress. Now that they have won control of Congress the question is what will their control of Congress mean for the American people. Will Democrats act like Republicans and use their control of Congress to go down dead-end rabbit holes of investigations seeking political revenge, or will they rise to the occasion and pass meaningful legislation to benefit the American people.
One party rule is officially over in America, Democrats have won 227 seats of the 435 giving them a firm grip on control of Congress. Their newly won control of Congress should mean Democrats will provide patriotic leadership and not just political leadership. Democrats have to show courage and resist the 71% of self-identified Democrats who said in a CNN mid-term election exit poll that President Trump should be impeached, and also liberal billionaire Tom Steyer’s Need to Impeach campaign which collected over 5 million signatures in support of impeachment of President Trump.
In May of last year, Democrat Congressman Al Green of Texas went to the House floor and called for the impeachment of President Trump, making him the first Democrat to do so. But what Congressman Green is calling for is exactly the dead-end rabbit hole investigation Democrats in control of Congress need to avoid.
Any immediate impeachment proceedings would be redundant since Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, appointed Robert S. Mueller III a former F.B.I. director, as special counsel to oversee an investigation into ties between President Trump’s campaign and Russian officials. Mueller’s record as the second longest serving FBI Director and his just the facts mam reputation should assure everyone of a non-political investigation. Any legitimate impeachment hearings or investigation by Democrats in control of Congress would require them to review the same facts at the same time as the Mueller investigation, thereby creating political interference into his non-political investigation.
If and when the Mueller investigation finds proof of Trump/Russia collusion, Democrats would be free to and should proceed with impeachment hearings based on Mueller’s non-bias and non-political investigation. Attempts to impeach President Trump for anything other than clear proof of collusion with Russia to interfere with the 2016 election, would be motivated by Democrat’s partisan political revenge and accomplish nothing of substance for the American people.
Article 2 section 4 of the American Constitution states: The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors. The definition of treason and bribery is clear, the definition of other high crimes and misdemeanors is not.
Our founding fathers purposely left the definition of “high crimes and misdemeanors” vague and subject to Congresses interpretation. This was done to provide a mechanism to remove a President thought to be doing immediate harm to the Constitution, the American government, or American society without waiting for the next election.
But our founding fathers never intended impeachment to be a citizen or voter recall of the President. It is also clear that the founding fathers did not agree with former President Gerald Ford’s definition of impeachment. In 1970 then-Congressman Gerald Ford said during debate about the possible impeachment of Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, “An impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history” As Georgia State University Professor of Law Neil J. Kinkopf points out: If the Constitution means to allow impeachment on any ground whatsoever, then why would the Constitution bother to set forth that impeachment and removal may be based only on conduct that rises to the level of “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors”?
The founding fathers were determined to limit the grounds on which any officer could be impeached in order to safeguard another constitutional principle, the Separation of Powers. They recognized the legal principle that the power to remove is the power to control. If the political party in control of Congress can impeach and remove the President or Supreme Court Justices for any reason at all, then these officers serve at the will of the political party in control of Congress and are subject to its control. For instance, an early draft of the Constitution gave Congress the power to impeach and remove officers for “maladministration.” Founding father James Madison objected to this because the term was so vague that it would allow impeachment for any reason at all. As he put it, “so vague a term will be equivalent to a tenure during the pleasure of the Senate.”
Now that Democrats have won control of Congress, they must remember that the founding fathers and the Constitution set a HIGH bar for removal of a President from office. To overturn a democratically elected President is, in essence, defying the will of the American people, a will that was expressed by the American people through their votes. Elections do have consequences, consequences that must be honored no matter how politically unpopular they are unless they do harm to American democracy through the subversion of American law.
A President saying things that offend us, even racist things doesn’t meet that high bar. A President enacting legal but immoral immigration policies doesn’t meet that high bar. A President tweeting insane, untruthful, and hurtful things don’t meet that high bar. A President starting a trade war with American allies doesn’t meet that high bar. A President who fires an FBI Director who heads up an investigation into possible illegal activity on the part of that same President, but the investigation of that same President continues does not meet that high bar.
A President who colludes with a foreign government to influence an American election does meet that high bar, a President who uses his office to enrich himself or his family does meet that high bar, but both these legitimate high crimes and misdemeanors must be proven through a political trail held in the U.S. Senate, the place Democrats did not win control of.
The fact that Republicans not only control the Senate but increased their hold on power by picking up additional Senate seats, is the main reason why Democrats in control of Congress should not waste time on impeachment. Both House and Senate Republicans have shown more loyalty to President Trump than to the U.S. Constitution. So the possibility that a Republican-controlled Senate would ever vote to remove President Trump even for legitimate constitutional reasons is non-existent.
It’s understandably painful for Democrats to see President Trump roll back policies that they fought hard to create, it’s hard for Democrats to see the embarrassment that President Trump displays on the world stage, and the fear Democrats have about the way President Trump is leading the country is sincere.
But considering that Obamacare is on its deathbed clinging to dear life, considering that Consumer Finance Protection laws that protect American citizens from fraud and abuse have been rolled back by Republicans, and considering the Department of Justice has reversed itself and now supports any state that decides to arbitrarily purge citizens from its voter rolls, means Democrats must use their control of Congress to address these and other life-changing issues. They can’t waste Democratic control of Congress going down dead-end rabbit holes pursuing an impeachment that a Republican-controlled Senate will never vote to support, or revenge investigations that will do nothing to improve the living standard of everyday Americans, now is the time for Democrats to step up with solutions and not partisan politics!
Isaac Newton Farris Jr. is the nephew of Martin Luther King, Jr. and serves as Senior Fellow at the King Center. Growing up in one of the most socially and politically active families has given him a unique perspective on current events. Drop by his website for straight talk free of one-sided political spin.
Originally published at isaacnewtonfarris.com on November 11, 2018.