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April 3, 2020

1/22/2020 5:15:00 PM
Their impeachment and our Constitution
Editorial -

The drama playing out in the other Washington – the third impeachment trial in our nation’s history, though the second in 20 years – is being done for us, by our elected representatives. When the House of Representatives impeached President Trump in December, one person in our congressional district, U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, voted. Larsen determined the president was not fit to hold office. Larsen judged that Trump’s disdain for the concept of citizenship through his trash talking against four women congressional representatives was a high crime against the Constitution.
Now it is the turn of U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray. They have the obligation to sit as impartial jurors, hearing the two charges of impeachment brought by the House. They will vote to convict or acquit based on the evidence they hear.
We have, besides high drama, a civics lesson. Our officials elected to federal office have responsibilities. We, the people, as citizens, also have responsibilities. We are obligated to pay attention, not only to our federal representatives, including President Trump, but also to the process.
This is a time of crisis. Now, as in every crisis, we have to each decide what it means to be a nation. Is the Constitution a game, with the rules twisted to the goal of winning? If we are patriots and decide the House process was a sham while defending a president who has not followed the rules, what does that mean for the Constitution and all of us who follow the rules?
If we are patriots and do not adhere to the Constitution, what are we patriotic about? What foundation do we protect as patriots if we are standing on a shredded document? What is our future if we have stomped on our founders’ words?
The Declaration of Independence’s first paragraph ends with “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.” “They” are the Founding Fathers and they are telling the world that they are compelled to make their case before all “the powers of the Earth.” In today’s vernacular, they were putting their cards on the table.
Much more than impeachment, the current moment is a test of our Constitution and therefore our country. Decry the Democrats as partisan and rushed, but they have crossed their “t-s” and dotted their “i-s.” You might not like the Democrats’ intent, but they are playing by the Constitution’s rules.
Bluster, bullying and stonewalling are poker game tactics. Our Founding Fathers did not create our collective future around a poker table.
Calling the process a sham is not a good response. Not submitting documents or witnesses dishonors the process. Worse, that response creates an article of impeachment, for obstruction of Congress. That strategy earned Richard Nixon the same impeachment charge.
The president and his allies do not help their cause, not in this present moment, not in history and not for any attempt to build a bridge toward being together as a common culture and toward we, the people.
I am not from Missouri, but show me. If the process is a sham, respond to the articles of impeachment. Lay out in detail the ways President Trump did not abuse power. Make the case that he did not obstruct Congress.
The president and his allies call the impeachment process rigged. Now the Senate trial smells in its own right. This is no high road, but a short cut avoiding the issue. Yes, President Trump is innocent until proven guilty, but he has to address the charge that he abused power and explain why his denying documents and witnesses is not obstruction of Congress. Claiming the evidence is partisan is not a defense of the actions showing abuse of power.
All sides must meet on the field of the Constitution.
This is not about the Democratic versus the Republican Parties. It is not about the President versus the House. The President, the House and the Senate must advance and defend their positions based on the Constitution. If the President has not abused the powers of his office, he has to make his case. Calling the case weak does not address the evidence.
Until mid-July 1974, three weeks before his resignation, barely a majority of the American public were on the side of Nixon’s removal from office. Hard evidence brought his presidency to an end.
Conversely, if President Trump is innocent, bring forth the hard evidence that will pave his way to reelection.
If the Republican majority in the Senate rushes to judgement, they will forever taint the Trump presidency. They will not have acquitted him fairly. A rushed trial smells of a rump trial. It will not make re-election easier but will weigh the president and his candidacy down as people wonder if the only thing the president succeeded at was stacking the deck, bullying Republican senators. No, if senators protect the president, it leaves us citizens to wonder about his honor and the senators’ honor as well.
Equally, in 2020 or 20 years from now with perfect hindsight our children and history will wonder where our sacred honor lies.
– ken stern







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