Let me start by saying that I am a late and reluctant joiner of the impeachment bandwagon. Unlike some of my fellow progressives, for a long time, I thought a discussion about impeachment was premature. And honestly, for months I didn't pay much attention to the Mueller investigation. I wasn't entirely optimistic that whatever Mueller would find would be damning for Trump. It seemed to me that the progressives would have better spent their time and energy focused on other matters, like the many important policy issues facing our country today. And when I got the CNN alert on my phone that paraphrased Attorney General Barr's summary of the Mueller report, it appeared that I had been right not to place all my hopes on the Russia investigation. According to Barr, Mueller hadn't found collusion or obstruction of justice. Trump appeared to have emerged relatively unscathed from the long ordeal of the Russia investigation which had haunted his presidency.
At first, it seemed like the case was closed. But then the Justice Department, under heavy pressure, published a redacted version of the report. And suddenly it became very apparent to most intelligible observers that Barr had mischaracterized Mueller's findings and misled the American people. Instead of acting as the top law enforcement officer of the country, the Attorney General had acted like Trump's personal lawyer and spun the report to create a false narrative that benefitted Trump and confused the American public.
Trump's tweet that the Mueller report showed "No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION" has been shown to be untrue. In remarks delivered the day I am writing this, Mueller said that he did not bring charges because of a policy that the sitting president cannot be indicted. He said, "If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so." Mueller further remarked that "the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing." This constitutional process is impeachment.
Though Mueller did not formally accuse Trump of criminal activity, his report describes 10 potential instances obstruction of justice. Rep. Justin Amash, a Tea Party Republican, outlined these instances on Twitter. Among other things, Trump tried to get his White House Counsel to remove Mueller and used his pardon power to influence Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort to not comply with the investigation. Though Trump's efforts were ultimately unsuccessful in derailing the course of the investigation, in large part because his subordinates refused to listen to him, this is a disturbing pattern of obstruction.
Even accepting the premise that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, there need not be a crime for the President to commit an impeachable offense. The obstruction itself is the issue. By attempting to obstruct Mueller's investigation, Trump violated the public trust and committed "high crimes and misdemeanors." More than 400 former federal prosecutors signed a letter saying that if Trump wasn't the President, he could have faced multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice. Therefore, there are grounds for impeachment. And since a sitting President cannot be punished for his crimes through the normal criminal justice system, impeachment is the only proper course of action.
To be clear, I don't support impeachment because I think it will remove Trump from office. On the contrary, I'm highly skeptical that if a trial is held in the Senate the Republican majority will vote to convict Trump. But kicking Trump out of the Oval Office isn't really the point of starting impeachment proceedings; that's the point of the 2020 election. The real purpose, the real motivation behind the clamor for impeachment, is for Congress to fulfill its constitutional duty and hold the executive branch accountable for wrongdoing.
I understand the political concerns over impeachment. The arguments that this could hurt the Democratic majority in the House, distract from addressing the myriad of policy problems facing our country, and further divide our polarized populace. There are all legitimate concerns and there are powerful arguments against impeachment. I too am worried about the political divisions tearing this country apart. However, I believe that failing to begin impeachment proceedings would be a grave abdication of Congress's duty to put a check on executive power. Moreover, as Elizabeth Warren has pointed out, ignoring Trump's obstruction "would inflict great and lasting damage on this country, and it would suggest that both the current and future Presidents would be free to abuse their power in similar ways." For the sake of our highest ideals, we must risk political blowback. And Warren says it best when she says, "There is no political inconvenience exception to the United States Constitution." Sometimes we must follow a course of action that may not be politically expedient, but we must do it because conscience tells us it is the right thing to do.
From my perspective, this isn't about partisan politics. And despite the provocative headline of this article, this isn't even about personal animosity (though admittedly I do think Donald Trump is a terrible human being). This is about principles. One of the fundamental principles of liberal democracy is the rule of law- the idea that no man is above the law, even if he is the most powerful man on Earth. This is the foundation of liberty. The Founding Fathers were wise enough to enshrine this idea in our Constitution. 200 years later, we have a duty as Americans to protect and uphold this idea.
This is not a monarchy.
The president is not a king.
This is a democracy.
And when the President commits a crime, he needs to be held accountable. That's why the Founders designed our system of constitutional government with checks and balances. We must ensure that the foundations of our constitutional republic endure even in these turbulent times. The future is hard to predict. The stakes are high and the water's rough. But I believe that if we are brave enough to take a stand for the values of this country, if we have the courage to stand up for the integrity of the highest office in our land, then impeachment is the right path and history will vindicate us.