Swanson: House Democrats Have One Shot at Impeachment. It’s Time They Committed.


Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (Courtesy Flickr)

By Gavin Swanson, Opinion Writer

This impeachment inquiry should’ve been launched on July 24.

That is when special counsel Robert Mueller testified before the House of Representatives’ Intelligence and Judiciary committees regarding his report into Russian interference of the 2016 election and the president’s efforts to obstruct the investigation. A question-and-answer between Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler and the special counsel signaled to the House that further investigation was required. “Under Department of Justice policy, the president could be prosecuted for obstruction of justice crimes after he leaves office — is this correct?” Nadler asked. Mueller answered, “True.”


The Straw That Broke the Camel’s Back

Throughout the Trump presidency, Pelosi and House leadership have publicly stated they would hold the president to account. Still, none of the troubling and potentially illegal conduct that was reported in the Mueller probe — or the executive’s clear flagrant disregard for Congress’ constitutional rights to oversight  — was enough to incite an investigation into the White House.

The whistle-blower complaint was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The complaint described a July 25 phone call between President Trump and the recently-inaugurated president of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky. In the call, Trump asked President Zelensky to coordinate with his own personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and Attorney General Bill Barr to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden. Trump was referring to a debunked conspiracy theory, perpetuated by right-wing news outlets, that Vice President Joe Biden withheld aid to the Ukraine until they fired a federal prosecutor who was investigating his son, Hunter Biden, and  Burisma, the gas company he worked under.


Send the Entire Laundry List

The whistle-blower complaint is certainly worth investigating. There has been suspicion, however, that the inquiry will only be focused on the whistle blower complaint and Ukraine. I cannot imagine a more catastrophic political blunder.

In this impeachment inquiry, House Democrats must make the case to the American people that Trump sitting in the Oval Office is dangerous to the fabric of American democracy and institutions. The Ukraine situation may adequately demonstrate this, but the House has only one shot to make its case before the 2020 election. Why wouldn’t you want to send the entire laundry list to the Senate?

There’s the 10 instances of possible obstruction of justice outlined in the Mueller report. There are hush money payments paid to Stormy Daniels from Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen, which could have broken campaign finance laws. What about Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya in Trump Tower during the campaign? Or the fact that Trump profits off his position as president when officials and dignitaries stay at his properties? Recently, an IRS whistle-blower claimed Trump may have interfered with an audit into his finances.

That’s just the political stuff. The House could also argue humans rights case against Trump for incarcerating children in cages at the border and stalling billions in natural disaster funding for Puerto Rico.

During the Obama administration, the Republican congress held ten hearings on the Benghazi attacks. If Congress was allowed to waste two years and millions of dollars only to turn up an email server and zero indictments, then the House can justify combing through every immoral and potentially illegal action that this administration has committed. Now that the House is fully committed to investigating the Trump administration, who knows what could turn up? Hell, if the inquiry started when it should have, maybe the public would have learned about the Ukraine phone call sooner than we actually did. It did happen only a day after Mueller’s testimony after all.

When those articles are sent to the Senate and they fail to carry out the impeachment, every one of those Republican senators that reviewed the evidence, heard the case, and still chose party over the constitution and the integrity of the U.S. federal government should have to face the scrutiny that they’ll receive from their constituents and political challengers. If Democrats are serious about wanting to take the Senate back in 2020, then push the Republicans to the limit.


Moving Forward

I’m not sure what the strategy is now. They seem to only be focused on Ukraine, and there is an attitude of wanting a speedy impeachment in Washington. It appears as if they’re not taking this opportunity seriously, as if it’s something that just needs to be done and over with. What work does the House have that is more pressing than this? Passing legislation that won’t make it further than Mitch McConnell’s desk? Is the concern that the impeachment will take up too much of the 2020 election? It doesn’t have to! None of the three front-runners are a part of the House, and won’t be involved until the articles are handed over to the Senate for trial, where Senator Sanders and Warren work. While the House investigates and finds more and more about the inner workings of the Trump White House for the American public to see, they can focus on their own discussion with the American people.

The American people deserve to know the extent of the lawlessness of this president, and the Senate should have to answer for being complicit in it when the decision to impeach comes. This course that the ship has currently set sail on will only lead to the Senate voting down the House’s resolution before the end of the year, and a whole 2020 campaign trail where Donald Trump can tout that he defeated “the crazy Dems” and their witch hunt. When historians look back at this period and try to pinpoint where exactly the system failed to remedy this fiasco, it won’t be with the executive branch. The blame will fall upon Nancy Pelosi and her House leadership, failing to fully utilize the tool our founders gave them to operate on this malignancy.


[email protected]