Schooling America on Impeachment

Impeach 45, Donald Trump, protest
A supporter of Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) wears an “Impeach 45” t-shirt at the candidate’s rally to announce her 2020 presidential bid in Minneapolis, MN, on February 10, 2019. Photo credit: Lorie Shaull / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
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While people from across the political spectrum have called for the impeachment of President Donald Trump on various grounds, the American public at large hasn’t warmed to the idea. Polls on the issue are all over the place but generally show that US voters are against it. A group of activists believes that one of the reasons for this is that Americans don’t understand the impeachment process.

That is why they launched “Impeachment University,” a series of weekly webinars with the purpose of educating the public on the constitutional process for removing a president from office who is guilty of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

“[Impeachment] is a crucial aspect of the American Constitution, because it means no one is immune to being held to account for transgressions, not even the President,” the group, which is the brainchild of a coalition of activists that includes Ron Fein, legal director for Free Speech For People, and David Sievers, campaign director at MoveOn, states.

“Citizens have a role to play in educating one another and their Representatives and Senators about the process of impeachment,” the group argues. “Impeachment is a rarely used instrument — and when it is wielded, it is important that we understand how it is best conducted.”

In the House of Representatives, where impeachment would begin, Democrats remain divided on the issue, with many moderates opposing the idea. They argue that impeachment would badly divide the nation, and that whatever the House does would be futile because the Republican-controlled Senate will likely vote to acquit.

But Elizabeth Holtzman, author of The Case for Impeaching Trump, countered these arguments at the inaugural “Impeachment University” online town hall event on August 5.

“It doesn’t have to divide the nation,” Holtzman said. “I was on the Judiciary Committee when we voted to impeach Richard Nixon, and that didn’t divide the nation. It united the country on a basic shared value, on the rule of law. If we as Americans can’t come together as a country, what does that say about the rule of law?”

Holtzman also dismissed the notion that once a solid case is laid out against Trump, a majority of Americans will rally behind the president.

“What is the case for impeachment? It is more than Mueller,” she said. “True, we didn’t have Fox News [during the Nixon impeachment], but today most people know what Donald Trump is all about. They’ve got his number.”

Holtzman also noted that, in 1973, Republicans initially opposed the Watergate hearings, but came around when it was clear that Nixon had violated the law.

“Why not go forward if there’s a legitimate case?” she asked. “Let’s make the best constitutional case we can make for Donald Trump’s impeachment.”

The Impeachment, 1786, Edmumd Burke, Wa Hastings, Charles James Fox

Political cartoon by James Gillray titled “The Political Banditti assailing the Saviour of India” published in 1786. This cartoon comments on the impeachment trial of Warren Hastings, Governor-General of Bengal, in the Parliament of Great Britain. Hastings is depicted as a “saviour of India” under attack by “banditti” that look like Edmund Burke and Charles James Fox, his prosecutors in the trial. Photo credit: James Gillray / Wikimedia

Holtzman said the biggest difference between the Nixon hearings and today is that, back then, the chairman of the committee — New Jersey Democrat Peter Rodino — never bothered taking matters to the courts and felt the courts had no jurisdiction over the authority of Congress.

Rather than turn to the courts, Holtzman said, the House Judiciary Committee should impose its own fines and penalties on anyone who refuses to testify or participate in the impeachment hearings.

The Case for Impeachment at 100 Days

Impeachment: Careful What You Wish For

Supporters of impeachment have long insisted that Trump can be impeached by Congress for numerous reasons, including obstruction of justice and other offenses. Speakers at the first webinar suggested that racism should be added to Trump’s offenses.

Fein, who is the author of the book The Constitution Demands It, said he believes the House of Representatives could definitely impeach the president for multiple instances of racism and bigotry.

“We’re paying him as president, and we’re not paying him to go on racist rants,” he said, adding that the framers of the Constitution may not have meant for racism to be among the offenses that could lead to impeachment, but that there is no reason Congress can’t make that case in 2019. And he’s been working with Rep. Al Green (D-TX) to that end.

A key to moving forward, Fein noted, would be to educate the public on the impeachment process. Organized by moderator Justin Hendrix with the support of Sievers, the “university” is essentially a web-based town hall that people can register to view, with a discussion focused entirely on impeachment proceedings.

“The idea for Impeachment University is to take you through what’s going to be a month-long process on how our Constitution works,” Hendrix said during the town hall. “The whole idea here was to create a forum for individuals to learn more about what we can do as citizens.

Impeachment Has Already Started

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, (D-WA), a member of the House Judiciary Committee who participated in the webinar, told the audience that House Democrats are beyond an inquiry stage, and are now actually building a case for impeachment.

Pramila Jayapal

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA). Photo credit: MPAC National / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

“This is essentially an impeachment investigation because there is substantial evidence that Donald Trump committed a crime,” she said.

In fact, Jayapal called the committee’s upcoming hearings a “critical moment,” which is why the public should get involved. By arming Americans with education about impeachment, Jayapal argued, they can then put additional pressure on Congress to act in the nation’s best interests.

“The Mueller hearing almost two weeks ago marked a real inflection point,” she said of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony before her committee. “Mueller testified that the Russian government attacked our country in 2016 to help Donald Trump win the presidency.”

And beyond the issue of collusion, she said, it was clear the president had attempted several times to block the investigation.

“There was in fact strong evidence that Trump did try to obstruct this,” she said. “We’re not confining ourselves to just the four corners of the Mueller report, but to other areas we have jurisdiction over on the Judiciary Committee,” including high crimes and misdemeanors.

“We are officially in the impeachment process,” she said. “We are now in the process of court filings … which will likely take two months.”

She expects that to lead to full impeachment hearings later this year.

“I think there’s more than enough evidence to support the impeachment of Donald Trump,” Jayapal said. “But we have to lay out the case to the rest of the House and we have to lay out the case to the rest of America. We do have to make sure we have an airtight case.”

And that’s why events like the Impeachment University are crucial for keeping the public informed — and inspiring them to get involved, she added.

“This kind of education is really important,” the lawmaker said. “We are going to try to give you as much information as we can so you can share it, and it is the American people who are demanding that we move forward.”

Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Cullen College / Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0).

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4 responses to “Schooling America on Impeachment”

  1. Perpetual war is destroying America, one war and one death at a time and creating an atmosphere of hatred for things we don’t understand based solely on fake news and propaganda. Illegal wars create terrorists, one death at a time and it is high time Americans stand up against the TPTB and elect a woman like Tulsi Gabbard. She is what is needed to make America great again.

  2. Vegas Vic says:

    I hear where you’re coming from, and I get the concern that many people would have about an emboldened-by-reelection Great Cheeto, but I don’t know that handing the reins over to Bernie, Biden, Warren or any of the other 80-some odd D candidates is the answer (well, I’d be in favor of giving Tulsi a shot…but it’s obvious that TPTB have decided that she is unacceptable to achieving their agenda of eternal war in as many places as possible, so that ain’t gonna happen).

    Personally, I believe our only hope is to have an uprising of other political parties. Make it so that coalitions have to be formed…fracture the duopoly and force legislators to put addressing the real issues that face America and its people ahead of party. However, Ross Perot showed both the D’s and R’s that allowing someone from ‘the outside’ can have disasterous results, so they won’t make that mistake again.

    Since the duopoly isn’t going anywhere…yeah, we’re hosed.

  3. Vegas Vic says:

    I think y’all need to be careful what you wish for. As someone who aligns neither with the Red Gang nor the Blue Gang, I would suggest that you need to set aside your hatred of The Great Cheeto and think of the ramifications of impeachment.
    1) TGC has a devout core of supporters who think he is the second coming. Did you catch the statement from Mrs. Adelson, who thinks a Book of Trump should be written into the bible? Yeah, maybe that was a little tongue-in-cheek, but the sentiment, the base adulation, is implied in the statement. If the Blue Gang actually were able to impeach, these people would see it as an undermining of our (make-believe) democracy.
    2) IF TGC is thrown out, VP Pence assumes the crown. A former Senator…meaning he still has plenty of allies in the Senate. Also, the never-Trump Republicans would be moot. There’s no discernable “never-Pence” faction. Do you think the Democratic House will be able move forward on their agenda? Probably not. If you think things are dysfunctional now, go ahead and set that into motion.
    3) We’re on the verge of the 2020 campaign season. An impeachment of TGC would rally not just the vociferous Republican base, but the Republican-leaning as well…not in support of TGC, but in defiance of the Blue Gang. In the Senate, all 22 R seats will likely stay so, and two or three (NM, AL and MN) of the 12 D seats could easily flip, strengthening R control. All 435 House seats are up for election, potentially putting the House in R control, as 43 R seats flipped D in 2018, and could easily flip back. Also, it would be a rally point behind Pence, who is slightly more tolerable to many Republican-leaning folks than Trump is/was, or boost another R candidate into the limelight.

    In one misplaced action, impeachment of TGC could very well put control of the House, Senate and Presidency in Republican hands. Or…leave him in office. Let his incessant, idiotic yammering about the first thing that pops into his head be his undoing. Frustrate him at every turn in the House, but take high road. Let him be sitting in the Oval Office when the economy crashes worse than 07/08. Put that on his lap…he’s so proud of how ‘great’ things are, let him own how bad it will be. Let him have the fallout from the ever-spreading trade wars. He will take himself out of office, just allow him to do so…

    • Bob Schumacher says:

      Lots of good points there and you could be right about letting him talk his way out of office. I don’t think that the R has a candidate that could win in 2020, that was the reasoning behind marrying Don the Con in the first place. That’s the reason why they let “Make America Hate Again” happen. We are in trouble. We have already come to a time where the rule of law is no more. Our only hope is for the D to come up with reasonable policies(not free healthcare for non-citizens) and win by a strong margin. We need to take the courts out of the inevitable election challenge if Don the Con loses.