One of the undeniable virtues of the representative democratic form of government here in the United States is its enumerated and implied structural impediments to consolidation of power. The basic tenets of our federalist structure embody both separation of powers and checks and balances. Congress is charged with oversight responsibility of the executive administration of laws it passes, while the Judiciary is charged with validating the legality and constitutionality of legislative actions. This tripartite construction is intended to keep all governmental parties honest and true to will of the people.
The basic formulation of representative democracy is meant to both delineate powers and ensure that overreach or misrepresentation of it is kept in check. Hence, while certainly not perfect, the founding fathers strove to outline a government that would both protect the citizens and enforce the rule of law. Winston Churchill was fond of saying that “democracy was the worst form of government, except for all the others.” Today, western democracies are facing critical pressures.
Currently our nation is embroiled in a fractured divisiveness that has placed some of our most cherished foundational precepts in peril. Faith and confidence in both leadership and governmental institutions is steadily eroding as we are facing intractable existential threats affecting the nation and the world.
As we prepare for the 2020 national presidential election, an election that in all likelihood will reveal the deep divisions affecting the electorate, the issue of impeachment is currently prominent. Paramount to the discussion of whether or not to pursue a congressional inquiry to determine if articles of impeachment are warranted is the extent to which one believes that no man or woman is above the law.
It is important to note that an investigation or inquiry does not automatically mean impeachment is imminent or warranted. It is simply a process to determine if there is enough evidence to have a trial as to whether or not the president has committed “high crimes and misdemeanors,” a serious charge and one that 45 years ago precipitated Richard Nixon’s resignation.
Congress is charged with conducting an investigation into such charges, which in this instance include documentation of obstruction of justice, refusal to honor subpoenas for documents and testimony, collusion in foreign interference in domestic elections, violation of constitutional emoluments provisions, and financial conflicts of interest, just to cite a few. In the case of obstruction of justice, the Mueller Report identified at least 10 instances in which President Donald Trump is culpable, were it not for existing Department of Justice regulations that a sitting president cannot be indicted. Any one of these actions alone would dramatically alter trust, faith and confidence in leadership and governmental institutions; when taken together they raise serious troubling questions.
Do we not owe it to the American people to carry out the responsibility to, at the very least, investigate whether or not there is sufficient evidence to conduct an exhaustive examination of these charges? I would answer yes. We place a tremendous and solemn responsibility upon our elected officials and the institutions that represent our government to carry out the search for truth and justice that is the underpinning of a nation devoted to liberty and freedom. Quite simply, we have an obligation to the people to put this matter to the test of scrutiny.
I am well aware of the cautions raised by the Speaker of the House and others who question whether it is politically advisable to pursue an impeachment inquiry in light of the probable reality that a Republican-controlled Senate will never convict. But the issue here is far greater and more treacherous than political calculations, which were also predicted early on in the Watergate hearings. Eventually, Republican leaders back then, led by the relentless prosecution by folks like Tennessee Senator Howard Baker and Connecticut Senator Lowell Weicker, stood up and placed country ahead of party. I believe the same could and should happen again, and even if the cynical realism of the moment prevails, hold your hats, it is the correct thing to do! Without a thorough examination of this issue, divisions will grow deeper.
We must stand up and defend our commitment to the truth, regardless of where it leads us. Otherwise, our children and others who cherish the values that this nation represents, who risk life and limb trying to come here, will see us as hypocritical and similarly lose trust in a nation that is only as great as its people and the people and institutions that represent them.
An exhaustive investigation, while potentially painful, is required in order to restore trust in public service and public servants. We have tackled difficulties before and it only makes us stronger. This is the greatest inheritance we can leave our children and it will stand the test of time.