Nearly a month after Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced an official impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, the House of Representatives voted Thursday to endorse a resolution outlining the parameters for the impeachment process. In light of these disturbing allegations, The Michigan Daily Editorial Board commends Speaker Pelosi and the Democratic leadership for moving forward with an impeachment inquiry. While it is unclear how the impeachment proceedings will unfold, and how an impeachment might affect the outcome of the 2020 election, it is vitally important that Congress continues to hold President Trump accountable for his actions — especially those which endanger national security and violate his oath of office.
For many, Pelosi’s Sept. 24 announcement of an official impeachment inquiry seemed long overdue. During his tenure, Trump has committed several acts that may qualify as impeachable offenses. In his March report, Special Counsel Robert Mueller identified several instances of obstruction of justice during the burgeoning investigation into his ties to Russian foreign interference.
The news that Trump pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Former Vice President Joe Biden and his son represents the latest in a series of offenses that have endangered national security. For many who were unconvinced by the results of Mueller’s investigation, Trump’s badgering of a foreign leader to investigate a domestic political opponent is a more convincing argument for impeachment, especially when there seems to have been an implied quid pro quo for Ukraine to receive Congressionally-appropriated aid.
In early September, a whistleblower echoed these allegations in a complaint which Michael Atkinson, the Intelligence Community Inspector General, claimed includes “serious or flagrant problem, abuse or violation of the law.” In a Sept. 17 letter, Atkinson expressed frustration that the Justice Department and the Director of National Intelligence withheld the complaint from Congress. The declassified complaint was made public on Sept. 26. Since then, six other officials have testified that a trade-off existed between Zelensky and Trump.
Since its release, few Republicans have commented on the whistleblower complaint. Even with claims that 30 Republican senators would be willing to impeach Trump in a “secret vote,” Republicans who openly speak out against Trump face severe political repercussions. With 23 Republican senators up for reelection in 2020, few have openly entertained the idea of impeachment, though cracks are starting to show in Senate Republican support for the president.
With the 2020 election on the horizon, it would be a mistake to treat this impeachment inquiry as an issue central to the election cycle. While the effects of the impeachment process will certainly have far-reaching ramifications, members of Congress and the public should remember that the impeachment process is a constitutional obligation, not a ploy to leverage political power.
Elected representatives are bound by their oaths of office to protect and defend the Constitution. The 232 members of Congress who voted in favor of the House Democrats’ resolution demonstrated a strong commitment to upholding both the law and democratic principles, though that commitment does not exist on both sides of the aisle. Following the House’s vote on Thursday, it is more important than ever that the Democratic leadership moves forward dutifully and strategically in laying out the case for impeachment.
The quality of messaging is crucial as the House aims to sway public opinion. Democrats ought to make clear that this impeachment process is not about revenge for the 2016 election, nor is it a behind-closed-doors violation of due process against an unpopular president. Instead, they need to emphasize Trump’s actions demonstrably violated his oath of office and endangered national security. This impeachment process is not politicking-as-usual, but a necessary defense of the Constitution and our republic.
While the process may hinder some sitting senators’ campaign schedules, the responsibility of our elected officials to uphold justice should take precedence despite the impeachment inquiry occurring in tandem with the 2020 election. While trust in the government varies between parties, this public faith is currently at a historic low. Democrats have the opportunity to help restore public faith in government officials.
The House’s vote to move forward with impeachment proceedings began a new chapter in the Trump presidency. As more and more public officials — such as the Republican governor of Vermont — begin to openly favor moving forward with the impeachment process, it becomes increasingly apparent that this administration’s days may be numbered.
The political consequences are surely uncertain. A mishandled impeachment battle could set Democrats up for trouble in the coming election year. However, the potential political turmoil should not distract Democrats and the rest of Congress from fulfilling their constitutional duty to protect national security. They need to follow Pelosi’s lead — she set a precedent on Sept. 24 of valuing her own obligation to the Constitution over political infighting and outside conflict. As the House moves forward with the impeachment process in a more robust and public manner, The Michigan Daily Editorial Board encourages members of Congress, public officials and the American public to follow suit.