This guest post was submitted by Fargo-based attorney Mark Western
Impeachment is a big deal this week. Even though the result of Wednesday’s vote in the United States House of Representatives has not yet happened, the results of it are being reported as a foregone conclusion. The President of the United States will be impeached. Of particular interest is the amount of partisanship that is associated with the Trump impeachment process; one house member, Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-N.J.) is opposed to impeachment and consequently, he has lost the support of the Democratic Party in his home district. So much so that the talk is that he will change parties from Democrat to Republican this week.
Some opinion-makers consider impeachment views and party affiliation to be redundant. Said Amber Phillips of the Washington Post: “If you want to be a Republican, you need to support Trump unequivocally or close to it.”
I realize Ms. Phillips does not speak on behalf of the Republican Party, but I do feel the chill in the air. I also am old enough to remember Kent Conrad and Joe Lieberman’s conduct during the Lewinsky scandal of the Clinton era- they were both strident Democrats who were disgusted by the President’s behavior. And neither were afraid to speak their mind, regardless of their political affiliation.
Where has that gone?
I have been a Republican my entire political life. As a child of the 80’s, I watched Reagan on TV and thought he was kind of like a grandfather for the country. Growing up, I cut my political teeth watching the Republican revolution of 1994 and have fond memories of participating in campaigns from the local level all the way to President.
If I were a member of the House of Representatives, I agree with Rep. Armstrong that the Democratic Party has wielded the gavel very arrogantly and has neutered minority participation in the impeachment process. I do think that the process has been moved on too quickly and the Congress is without sufficient information to make a reasoned decision. But that is only process.
I do not think that the July 25, 2019 call from the President of the United States to the President of Ukraine was “perfect.” I have a very difficult time believing that the President was concerned about “corruption” when he made the call. Whether or not the so-called “whistleblower” head the call first hand doesn’t make a hill of beans of difference to me. I do not know whether it amounts to “bribery”, “extortion” or something else, but I understand why members of the other party consider to be impeachable and I am not about to question their patriotism or call them treasonous.
I am incredibly disturbed by the President unilaterally deciding not to produce any documents and to order all members of the White House staff and executive branch employees subject to subpoena to ignore the subpoenas. That is not justified or legally tenable. If the shoe were on the other foot and a Democratic president refused to provide witnesses or documents, a Republican Congress would rightly, in my view, vote to impeach the President for trying to game the process.
If supporting the President unequivocally through impeachment is really a litmus test for being part of my party, count me out. There has to be a place where conservatives, and I mean real conservatives, can debate and disagree on both facts and how facts can be applied to constitutional principles. There have been wings and factions to the Republican Party since 1858. Donald Trump’s chaotic Presidency should not change that.
I am embarrassed by my President on a pretty regular basis. I don’t think I need to list either the ways or the tweets, because you can look at other columns to find them. But acting like a petulant child is not an impeachable offense. Nor is making poor policy decisions that are based on flawed assumptions about the economy or our allies.
This Ukrainian thing is different. It is a close call. If I were a United States Senator who was confronted with what has already been made public, I don’t know how I would vote. But I wouldn’t automatically be in one column or another. I would actually listen to the evidence presented at trial before making a decision. I would search my conscience. I wouldn’t go on TV or Twitter and blather about it.
That is what we should expect of our elected officials. All of them. In each party. We expect jurors to be impartial and find facts based on evidence. If a juror does not agree to listen to the evidence, they are excused from their service because of a bias. In the courtroom, it is called a “challenge for cause.” Even though impeachment is a political process, Daniel Patrick Moynahan was right when he said that a person is “entitled to his own opinion but not to his own facts.”