On What We Say By Not Impeaching This President

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As the United States of America, we find ourselves at yet another fork in the road, one which will determine if we are a nation devoted to the rule of law and to our Constitution… or something else. The tines of the fork point one way to impeachment and, in the opposite direction, to executive power. As the players take to their sides and leave us, the citizens of this American experiment, somewhere off to the side, I thought to take stock of where my representatives in Washington D.C. stand on the matters presently underfoot.

I live in Tennessee. All 3 of the people representing me in Congress, and 9 of the 11 people representing my whole state, purport to be conservative. What that word means to them anymore, I am not sure, but it seemed important to state in the beginning — as I went in search of just what it is they are trying to conserve as we all navigate, and seek to move on from, this moment.

One of my Tennessee Senators, Lamar Alexander, whose website claims that he should work “in a way that earns the public’s trust,” has called the President’s actions involving foreign governments “inappropriate” but declared that impeachment “would be a mistake.” After judging it so, and after more of the President’s actions were revealed, he said he had “nothing more to say” because he views himself “as a potential juror.” I have not seen his explanation for why that did not stop him from labeling possible impeachment a mistake at the first go-around. Having done so, though, he now claims to have nothing to say “until all the evidence is presented and all the arguments are made.”

In January of 1999, during the Senate impeachment trial of Bill Clinton, Chief Justice William Rehnquist ruled, “The Senate is not simply a jury, it is a court in this case. Therefore counsel should refrain from referring to senators as jurors.” This was to say that the Senate, in the case of impeachment, are not only triers of fact but are, in fact, triers of fact and law. Which I imagine must be difficult for Republican leaders to reconcile with as they have argued against the impeachment inquiry, and in defense of the President’s actions, using neither fact nor law, but have tried to make their case by alleging process fouls and parroting hyperbolic or disdainful slogans passed down from the mouth (or Twitter account) of the very President whose actions have been called into question. Nowhere have they cited the Constitution, except to mis-cite it by saying there are stipulations to impeachment not being followed by the other side — stipulations which go strangely missing from the text when one goes looking for them.

Tennessee’s other prospective trier of fact and law, Marsha Blackburn, cares not for the wait, or weight, of evidence. She has already described the impeachment inquiry as a “political circus,” “charade[],” “farce,” and — of course — “witch hunt.” And, yet, somewhere in the midst of all that, she found the time to remind us from the Senate floor that “We are a nation built on the rule of law, and adherence to that law.” Reports are fuzzy on whether or not Senator Blackburn was listening when Senator Blackburn spoke those words.

My representative in the House, David Kustoff, has described the impeachment proceedings as “unfair and illegitimate,” sentiments likely shared by those representing the rest of Tennessee as well — save for those living in the 5th or 9th districts. One presumes Rep. Kustoff and his colleagues think the proceedings unfair because only 47 of their Republican peers have been allowed to attend and ask questions during the closed-door fact-finding depositions. Had only 45 of them been permitted, who knows what injurious and supposititious adjectives Rep. Kustoff might have conjured up?

In decrying the impeachment inquiry as a waste of time and resources, Rep. Kustoff has also said that we, Tennesseans from Reelfoot Lake to a tiny Eiffel Tower to the suburbs of Memphis, elected him to Congress “to legislate.” The vow he took upon arriving there, however, says nothing of that. That vow, which all 11 of our share of Congress have taken, and which Sen. Alexander has deemed “appropriate” (and, indeed, “the only appropriate pledge for United States senators”), says that Rep. Kustoff and his colleagues “will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic” and that they will “bear true faith and allegiance” to the Constitution — and not to… something else.

In a recent Washington Post article, anonymous Republicans in the Senate — because 2019’s courage has anonymity as a prerequisite — are said to be “dreading having to weigh their conscience against their political calculations.”

And, well, yes. That is a choice.

Rep. Kustoff has said, “I stand with President Trump and will continue to fight for what is right for the American people.” But what Rep. Kustoff and eight of the 10 other members of Congress representing Tennessee have failed to realize is that they are using the wrong conjunction. Because regardless of all that they have said before, on their websites or on stages or on the floor of Congress… and regardless of all we, the United States of America, have said before, to ourselves and to rest of the world, if this President of ours is not impeached, we are now saying…

  • It is okay for the President of the United States of America to defend foreign adversaries who interfere in American elections.
  • It is okay for the President of the United States of America to encourage, and entice, foreign countries to interfere in American elections.
  • It is okay for the President of the United States of America to preempt the foreign policy interests of the United States of America with calls for foreign countries to serve his personal desires and sought-after “deliverable[s].”
  • It is okay for the President of the United States of America to beseech foreign countries to investigate American citizens, even — or, perhaps, especially — when said American citizens are perceived political rivals, or family members of perceived political rivals, of the President.
  • It is okay for the President of the United States of America to condition holding meetings with foreign leaders on whether or not those foreign leaders announce investigations helpful to the reelection campaign, and sense of self, of the President.
  • It is okay for the President of the United States of America to withhold from foreign countries aid appropriated by Congress until those foreign countries do “a favor” for the President, e.g., investigations helpful to the reelection campaign, and sense of self, of the President.
  • It is okay for the President of the United States of America to use personal contacts and attorneys to drive official foreign policy to achieve outcomes beneficial to the President personally — with no transparency as to how those individuals are being paid for their work or by whom.
  • It is okay for the President of the United States of America to enlist private citizens to serve as interlocutors and mediators with foreign countries, separate from the public transparency & accountability of the State Department or Senate-confirmed Ambassadors.
  • It is okay for the President of the United States of America to support authoritarian regimes in suppressing their citizenry from exercising rights once identified as American ideals in exchange for continued talks.
  • It is okay for the President of the United States of America to continually accept the word of authoritarian leaders over the consensus analysis of the American Intelligence Community — be it on interference in American elections, a country’s pursuit of nuclear capability, the assassination of journalists, the dire repercussions of abandoning our fighting partners, or whatever else the President might not want to hear.
  • It is okay for the President of the United States of America to treat the Unites States Armed Forces as a mercenary and pirate force and to, without Congressional authorization, deploy them to foreign countries in exchange for those foreign countries “pay[ing] us” or to get “the oil.”
  • It is okay for the President of the United States of America to seize and/or hide records of Presidential communications with foreign countries that may be personally or politically embarrassing, controversial, or potentially illegal.
  • It is okay for the President of the United States of America to maintain and be enriched by businesses visited and paid by special interest groups, political parties, and active government employees from both state and federal levels.
  • It is okay for the President of the United States of America to maintain and be enriched by businesses visited and paid by members and bodies of the Armed Forces of the United States of America.
  • It is okay for the President of the United States of America to maintain and be enriched by businesses visited and paid by foreign nationals and official government entities of foreign countries.
  • It is okay for the President of the United States of America to maintain and be enriched by businesses which the President continues to promote and visit while in Office — offering a chance at access to the President to anyone who happens to be enriching the President’s businesses when the President decides to enrich himself by visiting said business with government entourage in tow.
  • It is okay for the President of the United States of America to grant oversight and decision-making powers for government agencies to paying members of the President’s private clubs.
  • It is okay for the President of the United States of America, in a stretch for “more flexibility,” to mine ways to sidestep the Senate’s “advice and consent” role while naming “acting” individuals to Executive Branch vacancies.
  • It is okay for the President of the United States of America to have lied to the American public about business ventures involving foreign adversaries throughout the election cycle and, then, to continue lying about said business ventures involving foreign adversaries while in Office.
  • It is okay for the President of the United States of America to reimburse, while President, individuals who committed campaign-finance violations on the President’s behalf by paying off individuals with whom the President had engaged in extramarital affairs in order to keep them quiet thru the election cycle.
  • It is okay for the President of the United States of America to have kept debts owed — e.g., money owed to an individual who, on the President’s behalf, paid off individuals with whom the President had engaged in extramarital affairs in order to keep them quiet thru the election cycle — off of official financial disclosure forms.
  • It is okay for the President of the United States of America to fail to protect — and to, indeed, endanger — government whistleblowers.
  • It is okay for the President of the United States of America to ignore, and/or outright dismiss, lawful subpoenas issued by Congress in their role of oversight of the Executive Branch.
  • It is okay for the President of the United States of America to, when Congress has not deemed it necessary to grant money to a project personally significant to the President, declare a National Emergency so to siphon funds from the United States’ Armed Forces for said personally significant project.
  • It is okay for the President of the United States of America to promise to pardon government officials who must break the law in order to pursue and implement the President’s policy agenda.
  • It is okay for the President of the United States of America to fire members of the Executive branch in charge of investigations concerning the President.
  • It is okay for the President of the United States of America to pressure the Attorney General to take charge of investigations concerning the President from which the Attorney General, under advice of Department ethics officials, has recused.
  • It is okay for the President of the United States of America to enlist private citizens to pressure Senate-confirmed Cabinet officials to protect the President from investigations concerning the President in ways the President sees fit, including by pressuring the Attorney General to take charge of investigations from which the Attorney General, under advice of Department ethics officials, has recused.
  • It is okay for the President of the United States of America to direct officials in the Executive Branch to create false records in order to bolster the President’s lies.
  • It is okay for the President of the United States of America to send messages, both in public and thru private intermediaries, to intimidate witnesses cooperating in investigations concerning the President — and, alternately, to signal potential rewards that may come of not cooperating in investigations concerning the President.
  • It is okay for the President of the United States of America to accuse members of Congress of “Fraud & Treason” against the United States of America, subject to the arrest and penalty thereof, because of a speech they gave in Congress.
  • It is okay for the President of the United States of America to label attempts to investigate the President’s actions as a “COUP.”
  • It is okay for the President of the United States of America to intimate to the American people that any citizen who does not fall in line with the President’s way of thinking is “human scum” and that efforts at holding the President accountable will result in violence and, even, “civil war.”

Yet, clearly, after all that and so much yet unknown, my Tennessee delegation still support the President — Rep. Kustoff has said so outright — and since I know the state in which I live, I assume many Tennesseans who might read this do as well. In that, I assume, also, that they are okay with some of the statements written above. I will leave that to them, or to you, to reckon with, but I will conclude this by, again, pointing out the flaw in such a reckoning:

You do not get to choose which of those statements you are okay with and which you are not. The President has made it so that we forbid it all — or we concede it all.

So, unless you agreed with every one of those statements, this President must be impeached.

Or no President can ever be impeached.

Because the United States of America will no longer have a Constitution that means anything.

We will simply have Presidents who can do anything.

And there is nothing at all conservative about that.

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