Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible obstruction of justice by the Trump administration was released in redacted form on April 18. The report concluded that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute anyone involved with the campaign on federal conspiracy or campaign finance violation charges. On obstruction of justice, the report laid out a spectacular account of the attempts by President Trump to end the investigation. Mueller was unable to reach a conclusion to indict the president because, under Justice Department guidelines, a sitting president cannot be indicted.
The report did state, however, “If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment.” Now, Democrats are arguing over whether or not to impeach the president. Though it is a difficult and likely losing battle, Democrats may as well try.
Most Democrats understand it is highly unlikely that a supermajority of the Senate would vote to remove the president since it would require support from at least 20 Republicans, but that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be impeachment proceedings. As the party that decries the undermining of institutional norms and disregard for the rule of law, the Democrats would be remiss to pass on impeaching the president. If the Democrats insist on waiting for the American people to decide Trump’s fate in the 2020 election, as House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-M.D., suggested, they will have abdicated their duty as much as Mitch McConnell abdicated the “advice and consent” duties of the Senate on Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.
Some Democrats are providing valid arguments for impeachment. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-C.A., is arguing that any impeachment must be bipartisan. Like-minded Democrats seem to be afraid of electoral fallout in the 2020 election, and history might support their argument. After all, the GOP lost seats in the 1998 midterms after impeaching Bill Clinton in a very partisan vote. But the impeachment of Clinton was drastically different than the situation we currently find ourselves in.
While Clinton faced impeachment for obstruction of justice in trying to conceal an extramarital affair, Trump has covered up inappropriate contacts with Russians, felony campaign finance violations and potential crimes surrounding his foundation, his inauguration and his businesses. These two circumstances are clearly not the same and should not be treated that way. I would not be very quick to draw comparisons between the relatively well-liked, moderate politician Bill Clinton and the widely disliked, offensive and extremist ideologue President Trump.
Democratic politicians may be hesitant to begin impeachment proceedings, but they certainly aren’t defending the president. Rather, the discussion is about the political consequences of impeachment — but those are unpredictable. An impeachment investigation would plaster Trump’s misdeeds across the media 24/7 while 2020 Democrats are traveling the country talking about healthcare and the economy. We have seen that the drops in Trump’s approval ratings align with blockbuster news coverage of his corruption and inhumane policies.
If coverage of the president is only focused on his impeachment, while the Democrats continue to talk about healthcare and economic inequality, it would make for a good split screen. “Trump impeachment proceeding while 2020 Dems vow to expand healthcare” seems like a good headline to me.
Most importantly, though, is that impeaching the president is the morally and ethically right thing to do. The integrity of the office of the presidency and the power balance between the branches of government depend on Congress being brave enough to remove a President who doesn’t preserve, protect and defend the Constitution. The future of our country’s institutions is in the hands of Congress at this moment. If it refuses to act, young people will be left to deal with corrupt institutions and evil policies long after the current Congress is over. Though they may be unsuccessful, Democrats can signal to the history books and future generations that this type of leadership is not acceptable.
If raw politics are placed above the ethical duty to safeguard our institutions from the corruption of a lawless leader, then Democrats stoop down to the level of the GOP and will no longer have a moral high ground to advocate for critical policy. The outcome of the impeachment trial is not more important than showing the country, the history books and the world that even in a tough position, the Democratic Party was able to do what was best for democracy, putting country above party and enforcing the rule of law.
In “Pundit in Training,” Nathan takes a look at the fact that while young people are most likely going to constitute the largest voting block in the United States, we seem to lack a proper grasp of their perspectives and opinions. With this column, Nathan aims to wield his many opinions to try and understand the world of American politics through a student lens.
Nathan Maue is a senior in CAS majoring in Computer Science.
Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, April 29, 2019, print edition. Email Nathan Maue at [email protected]