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IMPEACHED!

And boy, does he deserve it.

Donald Trump is the 3rd president in U.S. history to be impeached.

The House of Representatives passed both articles of impeachment and the case will now go to the Senate for trial, where the Republican majority is expected to protect him from removal. Non-Republicans inevitably will view that as putting partisan interests ahead of country.

After all, the facts are clear, and the seriousness of what Trump did isn’t really disputable. As the Seattle Times described it, “the article on abuse of power … accused Trump of corruptly using the levers of government to solicit election assistance from Ukraine in the form of investigations to discredit his Democratic political rivals.” The obstruction article relates to the cover-up that followed.

The vote on the 1st article (abuse of power) was 230-197, with 1 voting present and 3 not voting. Two Democrats voted against this article, Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard voted “present,” and no Republicans voted for it.

The vote on the 2nd article (obstruction of Congress) was 229-198, with 1 voting present and 3 not voting. Three Democrats voted against this article, and no Republicans voted for it. Rep. Jerad Golden (D-ME) voted for the 1st article, but against the 2nd article. Rep. Gabbard voted “present’ on this article, too.

All the “not voting” seats are currently vacant.

Trump is being impeached only for his activities vis-à-vis Ukraine. Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election identified 10 specific instances of obstruction by Trump, but none of those were included in the articles of impeachment against him. Trump has done other things he arguably could be impeached for (such as offering to pardon border guards who break laws to carry out his policies), but in my opinion, they were right (and smart) to keep the focus on his Ukraine conduct, which 70% of Americans think was wrong, and not allow the impeachment process turn into an airing of grievances about his general behavior in office.

Don’t get me wrong, that behavior has been egregious, perhaps reflecting that Trump has less than a child’s understanding of civics and how our government works. He came into office with three huge disadvantages: (1) No government experience, (2) a lifetime of cheating and lying, and (3) a CEO’s perspective of bossing and ordering people around. (You can’t run a democracy that way, which is why leaders from the business community often fail as politicians.)

Trump’s Ukraine adventure left the GOP in the awkward position of defending something that looked like a mobster shakedown. But they tried.

During floor debate Republican House members, one after another, angrily denounced the impeachment proceedings. To which Rep. Susan Davis, (D-CA) retorted, “Make no mistake, we are not impeaching this president. He is impeaching himself. If you are the president, and you obstruct justice, try to bribe a foreign leader, and threaten national security, you’re going to get impeached. End of story.”

Many Republicans claim Trump did nothing wrong. But a president conducting a legitimate foreign policy doesn’t use a private citizen to go around the normal diplomatic channels, hide the records, and tell the witnesses to shut up. Obviously, Trump knew he was up to no good, or he wouldn’t have tried so hard to cover it up. The scheme unraveled when an anonymous whistleblower, going through proper channels, alerted the proper authorities. Republicans have demanded to know who the whistleblower is, and Trump has publicly insinuated that person should be shot as a spy. That’s not the legitimate behavior of a president conducting a legitimate foreign policy, either.

Some other Republicans argue Trump committed no crime. That’s debatable, but even if true, is irrelevant. Nothing in the Constitution requires proof of a crime to remove a public official from office. “High crimes and misdemeanors” is about misconduct, not crime. As a historical note, when the Framers included “bribery” as grounds for impeachment, bribery wasn’t even a crime in U.S. law, and wouldn’t be for several more decades. They obviously didn’t intend to limit impeachable conduct to criminal conduct, nor would it make sense to do so, if the goal is to protect the public interest from renegade official behavior. Laziness isn’t a crime, but it obviously should be possible to remove a public official who neglects his duties.

Still more Republicans contend Trump’s conduct doesn’t rise to the level of an impeachable offense. But constitutional scholars say the Founding Fathers, intent on preserving our democracy, feared foreign interference most of all; by that measure, Trump committed the gravest of impeachable offenses.

Finally, an argument we’ve heard from the Republican side during the debates over impeachment is that Democrats have wanted to impeach Trump from “day one.” But that’s starkly untrue. The House Democrats, under Speaker Pelosi’s leadership, have acted with great restraint and forbearance, and continue to do so.

A variation of this argument is that Democrats “refuse to accept the 2016 election results” and moved ahead with impeachment to overturn that election. There are several holes in this argument. First and foremost, if Trump is removed from office, we’ll still have a Republican president, just a different one, but one chosen by Trump and closely allied to him. This argument also ignores the fact that every Democratic member of the House voted in January of 2017 to certify the election results, and Democrats have not challenged Trump’s legitimacy the way Republicans (including Trump) disputed Obama’s legitimacy. But GOP propaganda has been so misleading on this point that Majority Leader Stenny Hoyer (D-MD) found it necessary to make the point during yesterday’s debate that Democrats still continue to accept Trump’s election as “legitimate,” then added, “Democrats did not choose impeachment. We did not want this. President Trump’s misconduct has forced our constitutional republic to protect itself.”

As Hoyer made clear, impeaching Trump isn’t about undoing the 2016 election, it’s about protecting the integrity of our elections. A rogue president has tried to cheat in the 2020 election and give himself an advantage by soliciting a foreign government to smear a potential opponent. This can’t wait, or be left to voters, because he’ll do it again if he isn’t removed and disqualified from office — he himself has said he will — and it’s difficult or impossible to conduct a fair election under those conditions. An election tampered with in this manner will violate the political rights of every American who doesn’t want Trump to continue as president for a second term.

(Note: Disqualification would prevent Trump from running again, but requires a separate vote of the Senate. Otherwise, he could be removed from office and then re-elected. In the unlikely event Trump is removed, Democrats have said they will pursue disqualification.)

At the end of the day, Republicans have no defense of Trump, because his withholding of taxpayer-funded military aid vital to an ally under attack by Russia in order to force President Zelensky of Ukraine to help him smear his potential opponent in the 2020 U.S. presidential election is indefensible. If this isn’t sufficient cause to remove a president from office, nothing is. But Republicans refuse to even acknowledge it was wrong. As Rolling Stone magazine said, we are “witnessing the complete moral collapse of the Republican Party.”

Meanwhile Trump, campaigning last night in Michigan, told his rally crowd, “It doesn’t feel like we’re being impeached.” And despite his toxic presidency, polls show the country evenly divided on the issue. Trump, of course, wouldn’t be president without his supporters, who remain stubbornly loyal to him. Something is wrong with those people. One Republican representative hinted at what it is when he said in floor debate that Trump’s supporters “gave the finger” to Washington D.C. by electing him. In other words, their attitude toward our system of government is akin to road rage. You probably wouldn’t want to encounter these folks on your local arterials, either.

What he meant, of course, is that Trump’s voters want disruption. They certainly got it, as did we all. Trump is, if nothing else, a disruptor of the status quo. But what are they disrupting, and in what manner? What Trump and his supporters call “the swamp” is the democratic system of government that keeps us free. His vision of government is something akin to a dictatorship, and many of his followers are closed-minded and intolerant of other viewpoints, occasionally to the point of threatening violence. Containing Trump’s anti-democratic movement within our democracy’s guardrails, not allowing it to overwhelm democracy itself, is a real challenge and what’s really at stake in this historic impeachment and the trial to follow.

The ultimate goal of all this is not Trump’s removal per se, or a change in which party or ideology is in charge — that’s for voters to decide in 2020 — but to make Trump and future presidents govern within the restraints and framework of our system of government; and if impeaching him forces him and those who follow to do that, should he continue in office, then mission accomplished: Impeaching him will have achieved its proper and intended purpose.

De-cluttering principles will be applied to comments submitted for this article. Intelligent, thoughtful, and insightful comments — agreeing with the author is not required — are highly desired. Rambling, incoherent, or off-topic comments, or those merely recycling partisan talking points, will be deleted, to spare serious readers from the tedious chore of wading through a refuse pile to find comments worth reading.


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