Where Did Impeaching Trump Leave the Country?

Where Did Impeaching Trump Leave the Country?

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

Now that President Trump has been inscribed in the future history books as only the third President to be impeached by the House of Representatives, he awaits the unlikely verdict from the Senate that he will be the first President to be convicted and removed from office for committing impeachable offenses. For President Trump, however, as has been observed in numerous places, his place in history—like that of Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson—has been permanently tarnished. Anyone who assumes that this fact does not totally destroy President Trump’s ego is absolutely mistaken.

Curiously, long after President Trump is gone from the scene, Freedom of Information requests and public documents, which he has so far prevented from obtaining public scrutiny, will reveal what a venal and unlawful leader he was. Historians and scholars of future generations will disclose precisely the depth of President Trump’s abuse and disregard of the Constitution and the laws of the land.

Trump is unlikely to be around to face the music, but his family–which he cherishes dearly—will bear the brunt of his ignominious record. While Trump may mostly be concerned about himself and today, it is clear that no one should believe that he does not want to a President revered by Americans in the same breath as Washington and Lincoln.

More immediately relevant, however, is the fact that this entire three-year experience with President Trump has brought he country to a place it has never been. America today is a more polarized and more extreme society than ever in history. Reports were that Thanksgiving tables were replete with tense moments and at worse major family eruptions over the current political situation. Christmas gatherings will no doubt be as bad if not worse.

The future of the Republican Party is being challenged almost as much as is the British Labour Party after its defeat last week in Britain. There is no longer room for different opinions within the GOP—at least not in public. Almost without exception, no one reaches out for political compromise or is willing to engage in traditional legislating. While they did pass the North America Free Trade Agreement (the new NAFTA) avoided a government shutdown, bi-partisan legislating is virtually non-existent.

When it came to impeachment no one recalled the respectful cordiality with which the Ervin Committee conducted its investigation and how Peter Rodino masterfully conducted the Nixon impeachment debate. While the Clinton impeachment did show a rougher, ugly side of Capitol Hill, in both the case of Nixon and Clinton, legislators on both sides addressed the issues. This has been totally absent in the Trump impeachment where all the Republicans addressed was the process.

The President’s very idea that elections not impeachment was the only way to remove a President was only an example of the President’s ignorance of the very words pertinent to impeachment in the Constitution state that a President “may be removed”.  The fact that Republican Senators and Congress Members know well the fallacy of this argument and acquiesced is appalling. There are even Members who voted not to impeach President Trump on this argument, who had been prepared to impeach and convict President Nixon. They, like the President, were now arguing for a totally absurd interpretation which is a repudiation of the intention of the Founding Fathers; and these Members know it.

While there are certainly differing voices in the Democratic Party as well, American politics has never governed effectively when extremes sought to rule. American parties historically have clung to the political middle. This is precisely what Speaker Nancy Pelosi sought to do for months as the Democratic more progressive wing sought to push her to begin impeachment.

Never in modern times has American politics reached the gutter level to which President Trump has brought it. The House conducted its investigation with whatever witnesses and material that they were able to obtain. Their inability to question some key figures and obtain some information is not because of lack of trying. For Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to block, so far, the production of witnesses and information in the Senate trial, while having participated in these very acts during the Clinton trial, is a sham.

If Speaker Pelosi decides to hold back sending the House report to the Senate, it may be in part because she believes that some of the Senators may receive a different message when they return home for the Christmas recess.  Some constituents might convince Republican Senators that the Senate trial must proceed with all possible evidence being made available to the Senators.

The Trump years indeed have been ugly and challenging for the Republic. Everything that came before the impeachment trial was a repudiation of America law, separation of powers, and the Constitution. What the impeachment investigation has demonstrated was that the concerns that have been raised were well founded. Whether and if the Nation will survive a failure to impeach or a defeat of Trump next November is a very scary prospect.




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