A look at what impeachment really means and why Black people need to care
The office of the President isn't the only thing at stake.
The Speaker of the House and the Chairmen of both the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees announced on Monday that they would be filing two Articles of Impeachment against President Donald Trump. They also announced that a vote would happen later this week to send the matter formally over to the Senate for a trial that will be overseen by Chief Justice John Roberts.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has determined that the full Senate will take up the trial in January 2020 when Congress returns from the holiday recess. The resolution, which outlines the charges against the President opens with these words:
“President Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice, and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.”
You can basically think of these two “articles” as formal indictments. The accusations are based upon the idea that the President abused the power of his office and participated in obstruction of Congress To understand the charges and why the Democrats chose to focus on these two articles, one has to understand the charges themselves and what’s at stake.
Abuse of Power: That the President of the United States of America used his office in an illegal, unethical or otherwise inappropriate way to his own personal gain. That he overstepped the powers vested in him by Article II of the US Constitution as the head of the executive branch of government.
Obstruction of Congress: That the President of the United States of America has willfully and wantonly denied the U.S. Congress, a co-equal branch of Government, their right to conduct oversight of the Executive branch with subpoena power, witness testimony and the like to investigate as it deems appropriate and necessary.
I know some of you are probably thinking, so what does all of this really mean? What will happen if the President is impeached and why should Black people care?
First, we have to care because we are citizens of this great Republic. Secondly, the removal of this President from office means the installment of his Vice President, Mike Pence, which could have far-ranging consequences for Black and brown people, women and other historically disenfranchised voters.
Pence, who hails from Indiana, is an extremely conservative, evangelical Christian who has not had a great track record with Black voters during his term as Governor of Indiana. Pence was accused of voter suppression after a state police raid took place on a registration program aimed at signing up Black voters.
“Zero evidence that any law was broken. They’re not even alleging that a law was broken. This is an abuse of the Constitution. It is using Impeachment as a campaign tool.” @SenTedCruz
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 11, 2019
At this point, all of this is merely speculation. The chances of President Trump being removed by the Senate for his alleged “high crimes and misdemeanors” are very slim. In order to remove him, the Senate would need 67 votes or ⅔ of a majority and the Republicans would need to give the Democratic minority in the Senate 20+ votes.
At best, no more than seven Republicans might vote to impeach Trump on the Obstruction of Congress Article, which is currently being led by Utah Senator Mitt Romney. He’s the only Republican senator to publicly state that he does not believe Ukraine meddled in our 2016 presidential election and that it was indeed the Russians the whole time.
Unlike many of his colleagues who have already gone on the record to say that they have no intention of voting to remove Trump, Romney has been clear to say he will keep an “open mind” when the trial begins.
As a constitutional scholar and an attorney admitted to practice before the BAR of the United States Supreme Court, I can tell you that our very democracy is at stake here/ President Trump must be held accountable for his clear abuses of office and obstruction of Congress. In fact, in my opinion, Democrats should have added an additional article of impeachment: Obstruction of Justice.
There were 10 documented instances of obstruction by President Trump in the Mueller Report. The House ultimately decided not to move forward with that article after vigorous debate and discussion. I’ve been a moderate Republican all my life. I was mentored by the late Jack Kemp, New Jersey’s first female Gov. Christie Todd Whitman, former California U.S. Senator Pete Wilson and interned under President George H. W. Bush at the RNC. I am appalled and offended at what I have watched Republicans in the House say and do during this tenuous impeachment inquiry.
I was also the House Government Reform and Oversight Republican Committee counsel during the Clinton impeachment hearings in the late 1990s. I’ve seen how this can unfold. I am particularly concerned about how elected GOP officials have attacked and smeared loyal public servants, and high ranking State Department diplomats like Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and decorated Iraq war veteran Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman. These individuals have shirked their duties and oath to the Constitution and instead protected and defended this President. It’s a sad spectacle for democracy, and for the future of this great nation.
Donald Trump has sullied his office. Senators like Graham have attacked and demeaned the FBI, calling them “scum” and worse. All of this is only feeding the “gas-lighting” that Republicans pundits routinely engage in on national TV and that includes Attorney General William Barr. It’s dangerous because it’s confusing to the public. It makes us think that what we are witnessing, is not in fact what we are witnessing. It’s like a bad George Orwell novel.
Trump has turned America into a sad reality television show. He has turned statesmanship and decorum into a relic of the past. He is vile. His tweets are repugnant. And his persona gruff, mean, petty and vindictive. If he is allowed to continue in office, and worse, win a second term as President, I believe that by 2024, we’ll no longer see all the freedoms and democracy that has allowed us to call this place America.
Sophia A. Nelson, Esquire is the author of “E Pluribus One: Reclaiming Our Founders Vision for a United America.” (Center Street 2017)