Sunday Political Brunch - June 4, 2017: Is Impeachment Really an Option?
Sunday, June 04, 2017
Mark Curtis, GoLocalPDX Contributor
“To Impeach; or Not To Impeach?” – When this started brewing a few weeks ago, with little-known Members of Congress calling for impeachment and obscure city councils passing resolutions, I thought the talk was crazy. Today, I will give it the evaluation of "possible, but not probable." I’m not sure that any single action by the President would warrant impeachment, but some in Congress might rather evaluate the collective body of his actions since he has been in office.
“Would a Republican Congress Turn? – The biggest argument I hear against impeachment is whether a Republican Congress would impeach a President of its own party? At first blush, I said "No"; but, upon further review, I would give it a "Maybe," and here’s why. House Republicans won control of that chamber on their own seven years ago. They don’t owe any allegiance to Trump, nor are they in his debt. Party loyalty is no guarantee. Besides, if Republicans moved to get rid of Trump, you wind up with former Representative Mike Pence (R-IN) in the White House. He spent 12 years in the House and is still highly regarded there.
“Past History as an Indicator” – Republican President Richard Nixon was heading toward impeachment by a Democrat-controlled Congress. Democrat President Bill Clinton was being impeached by a Republican-led Congress. (Nixon and Clinton met in a rare photo op, above). But there were significant differences in both cases. Nixon finally resigned because of pressure from within his own party. Senators Barry Goldwater (R-AZ) and Hugh Scott (R-IA) were among those who went to the White House and told Nixon he was done. On the other hand, only five House Democrats bolted on Clinton, and no Senate Democrats supported his ouster (plus, a few Republicans were opposed, too). In effect, you need support in both parties to boot a President.
“The Real Issue Here” – I get it; a lot of people don’t like President Trump because he “tweets” too much, and makes blunt comments that offend a lot of people. Sorry, but those are not grounds for impeachment. But, if he truly pressured then-FBI Director James Comey to drop an investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s business dealings with Russia, then we have a whole different kettle of fish. The concern is whether such a request constitutes obstruction of justice. We’ll know more when Comey testifies before Congress June 8th.
“Does This Sound Familiar?” – To be clear, President Nixon was never impeached; but the House Judiciary Committee did approve articles of impeachment, including the charge of obstruction of justice. Nixon was not being charged with the Watergate burglary, but rather for the cover-up that ensued. Fast forward to 1998, when the House did impeach President Clinton for obstruction of justice – not for having an affair with Monica Lewinsky, but rather for interfering in the subsequent investigation, including a charge of perjury for lying under oath to a federal judge. Here we are again, the third President in forty-three years who could face an obstruction charge.
“The Numbers are Against It” – Per the U.S. Constitution, you need two-thirds of the U.S. Senate to vote "yes" to expel a President. Let’s assume for a moment this is just a partisan fight. With 52 Republicans and 48 Democrats (including two independents) in the current Senate, you would need 19 Republicans to bolt their party. That’s a tough call. Remember: Unlike the House, where the Republicans won on their own, Republican control of the Senate is very much because of Trump’s coattails. Had he not carried U.S. Senators back into office with his upset wins in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and North Carolina, control of the Senate would have fallen to Democrats. Paybacks are huge chits with which to cash in.
“Why All This Matters?”—In previous columns, I have talked about major investigations in Washington, D.C., and how they can bring governing to a grinding halt. Can you name a major accomplishment of President Nixon once Watergate was in full swing? Can you name a major initiative by President Clinton once the whole Lewinsky scandal erupted? I can’t either. The only other Commander in Chief we had under the impeachment microscope was President Andrew Johnson in 1868. He survived removal from office by one vote. From what I’ve read, his administration was paralyzed and under siege and got little done in the turmoil. While he survived impeachment, Johnson was not nominated for a second term, but later won a seat in the U.S. Senate.
Given what you know today, should President Trump be impeached, or not? Please tell us why by clicking the comment button at http://www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.