How many House Democrats do you think are presently concerned with upholding the integrity of the United States Constitution which they’ve sworn under oath to support? Ask any of them and they’ll assuredly inform you of their responsibility to do so by holding accountable a president who is not above the law. As Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) declared, “Donald Trump is a dangerous and dishonorable man. He has no respect for our democracy, our Constitution, or the rule of law. It is past time that Congress fulfills its Constitutional duty to impeach him.”
There are many problems with this statement aside from the fact that it was uttered by one of the more corrupt representatives in modern congressional history. “Dangerous” and “dishonorable” are subjective characterizations which reveal to any reasonable person the contempt which Rep. Waters, and many Democrats, have for the president. It is a personal disdain which clearly belies their position as neutral arbiters of law and order, merely seeking to defend the integrity of the Constitution.
Further, it is quite arguable by this standard that Democrats calling for the abolition of the Electoral College have no respect for our democratic process – that those supporting the ban of semi-automatic rifles have no respect for the Constitution and that those proposing the decriminalization of illegal immigration have no respect for the rule of law. But these are political grievances, not impeachable offenses.
If Democrats were truly interested in defending the republic, then they would have acted when Hillary Clinton solicited opposition research from the Ukrainian government during the 2016 election; or during the lead up to the 2012 election when President Obama promised “more flexibility” to the Russian government if it would give him “space” until he could win another term.
This is a matter of constitutional integrity. Are we going to interpret the Constitution as it was written or are we content to read into it the meaning we wish to derive in order to fit the current political circumstance? Or will we simply ignore the document entirely when it does not conveniently suit our needs?
The criteria for impeachment are clearly specified in Article II, Section 4: “Treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” While President Trump’s phone call with the president of Ukraine was deeply immoral and highly unethical, that’s an issue for the voters to rectify, not the Congress. As only the most principled of Trump critics will admit, there is no evidence of high crimes which would be impeachable by the criteria set about in the Constitution. Alan Dershowitz, no supporter of Trump’s, wrote last week, “There is nothing in the call that even approaches the constitutional criteria for impeachment and removal of a president…Democrats are seeking to weaponize the Constitution for partisan purposes.” (https://thehill.com/opinion/judiciary/463395-framers-rejected-democrats-criteria-for-impeachment-for-good-reason)
The Constitution is both the framework for our republic and the mechanism by which to enforce the sustenance of liberty and good governance. The Framers explicitly set out the means by which to rid ourselves of corruption. Abusing this process for political gain is a surefire way to wreck the integrity of the republic. While congressional Democrats maintain their hankering for impeachment is more a necessity than a craving, the truth remains that their impeachment or removal of the president from office in the absence of high crimes would be a legitimate threat to the democratic process and a blatant abuse of the constitutional provision for impeachment proceedings.
If we’re going to ignore the criteria specified within Article II and impeach on the basis of contempt, this lays the groundwork for Republicans to do the same next time a Democratic leader ruffles feathers or behaves unethically, yet non-criminally, as Barack Obama did in 2012. This dramatic shift to partisanship would destabilize our politics, creating a similar uncertainty like that endemic to the British parliament in which a vote of no confidence can remove a prime minister. But, impeachment is not a vote of no confidence and the process was not intended to be utilized as such.
While Democrats trumpet their duty to protect the democratic process, an impeachment of Trump would be a grotesque perversion of constitutional adjudication and a slap in the face to the Americans who duly elected him. Clearly, the integrity of our leaders has been lost. But if the Constitution is to be weaponized and abused for political gain, then its integrity too will be compromised. And little could be worse for the republic than that.
Kevin Catapano is a weekly columnist for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.