As the seven impeachment managers named by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi solemnly walked across the Capitol to deliver the articles of impeachment against President Trump last week, it might have been more appropriate had it been articles of impeachment against the Constitution.
Be it resolved that the United States Constitution should be impeached for the subjective nature in which it is embraced.
The impeachment of the Constitution is not based on a particular outcome, but rather a process. It is not necessary that there be a blatant violation of Constitution in order to devalue its meaning and purpose. What’s at stake is the nation’s public morality; the values rooted in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Can our opinions be so right that we can justify going outside the country’s democratic norms to achieve them?
If new witnesses are not allowed during the Senate trial, it would say loud and clear that the portions of the Constitution that refer to impeachment are irrelevant. Any president going forward would practically possess a Teflon coating against impeachment proceedings regardless of the infraction.
If the House of Representatives did not call certain witnesses, why should the Senate call them? This is the question raised by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in lockstep with the president’s legal brain trust. But it was the president, citing an amorphous use of the term “executive privilege” that prohibited key witnesses from testifying during the House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry in a timely manner.
What would prohibit any future president from using a similar understanding of “executive privilege” to sit on any relevant information that could be detrimental to his or her cause? Would it not embolden the executive branch with the responsibility to voir dire witnesses about any impeachment inquiry from the comforts and conveniences of the Oval Office?
As long as a president has a loyal majority in one branch of Congress, one can simply put forth the argument that there is not enough evidence because the executive branch is systematically obstructing the process, rendering the impeachment clause in the Constitution henceforth moot.
This, however, assumes senators would listen to the evidence presented as partisans, rather than duly elected centurions of our democratic guardrails. But the partisan train, carrying both parties, left the station decades ago. Increased partisanship runs on a parallel track with cynicism, which makes one more reliant on their opinions in lieu of facts.
The Senate trial, in my view, must address three fundamental questions:
Did President Trump pressure a foreign government to target an American citizen for personal political gain?
Did the White House at the behest of the president withhold nearly $400 million in military aid from Ukraine without cause that has subsequently been determined unlawful by the Government Accountability Office, a nonpartisan agency that reports to Congress?
Did Trump, acting in his role as president, place his personal political interest above the national interest?
Does the impeachment format presented by McConnell allow for answers to the afore-mentioned questions to be reached judiciously? Moreover, McConnell bears no constitutional burden to call witnesses not heard during House inquiry.
Does it matter that a recent CNN poll finds that 69% support new witnesses being allowed to testify? That number includes 86% of self-identified Democrats, 69% of political independents and 48% of Republicans.
Hackneyed talking points that cannot withstand the slightest hint of nuance have no place in the current public discourse. Should we the people be held hostage to circular debates the lead to the dead end of obfuscation?
The Senate has two options: pursue the immediacy of political outcomes versus the long-term constitutional implications. In this scenario the choices cannot be commingled.
For as much as Trump’s impeachment Trump has dominated the public discourse, it is really the Constitution that’s on trial. It is an oversimplification to suggest the Constitution’s travails are based solely on the present moment. But impeachment is nevertheless the culmination of a malignant growth that has gone unattended for several decades.
In the words of former Rep. Barbara Jordan, “What the people want is very simple — they want an America as good as its promise.”
What exactly is that promise? Is it to reach an outcome on the impeachment of the president consistent with the spirit of our democratic norms or is it merely fast-tracking a show trial?
That fate of the Constitution does not rest on the outcome of the impeachment trial, but rather the path pursued.
Will it be the rule of law, enshrined in the Constitution, or excessive partisanship that dictates the way forward? Whichever we choose, there will be no mulligans granted.