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Impeachment Now - Part Two: Who Can Lead, And How

Legal scholars and others have started drafting articles of impeachment. They should share them widely, including House Democrats and Republicans.
Impeachment Now - Part Two: Who Can Lead, And How
Senate Impeachment Trial of Andrew Johnson

Since publishing my argument for impeachment here, I've heard from readers and others and decided to add a few observations and clarifications. I believe this addendum can be helpful, especially in light of recent developments, such as announcements by House Minority Leader Pelosi and other Congressional Democrats that Democrats should not rush to lead the charge for impeachment.

Some Congressional Democrats question whether there is a complete evidentiary case for impeachment - but perhaps they're just adopting that posture for tactical reasons. Others seem concerned there isn't a broadly shared public appetite for impeachment beyond core Democratic activists, though recent polling data suggest impeachment is more popular than not.

There are high arithmetic barriers to impeachment and removal: Republicans enjoy majority control of the House and Senate and show no interest in going forward now with impeachment. To pass the House, Articles of Impeachment must get to the floor (a decision controlled by Speaker Ryan) and win a majority. Any majority at this time will have to include Republicans. If Articles of Impeachment somehow get to the Senate, a substantial number of Republicans will have to join Democrats to reach the super-majority of 67 needed for conviction.

In short, while a few House Republicans have begun talking about impeachment, in parallel to a few House Democrats who are advocating impeachment now, the numbers needed for impeachment and conviction aren't there. And Democrats can't control Congress before January of 2019 at the earliest, when the next Congress convenes after the 2018 election.This is reality.

From their comments, Democratic Congressional leaders also appear very conscious of political risks associated with leading on impeachment - not least of which is suffering blow-back from the pro-impeachment bloc of Democratic voters if the leaders can't deliver impeachment.

These are understandable reasons to go slow. Regardless, they aren't reasons to discourage progress toward impeachment or pressure for impeachment outside Congressional Democratic leadership as and while facts continue to develop that support impeachment:

  • Legal scholars and others should draft and circulate proposed Articles of Impeachment.
  • Writers and other advocates should promote draft Articles as widely as they can, for educational and consensus-building reasons.
  • Constituents of House members - especially Republicans in districts carried by Clinton in 2016 - should supply them with draft Articles and demand they move forward with impeachment.

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For anyone who's interested in starting any of these activities, at least one draft is already available, with an explanation of the basis for each of its seven proposed Articles.

While we "normalize" impeachment (far better than normalizing anything about the current President and his associates), House and Senate Republicans can argue that the appointment of a special prosecutor allows them to defer discussion of impeachment. Regardless, they can be reminded by constituents, activists, and media that the Watergate criminal investigations and impeachment proceedings progressed in parallel during the Nixon presidency. (In contrast, the Clinton investigation by Kenneth Starr preceded impeachment proceedings in the House.)

In short, if Democratic Congressional leadership believes it is best to move slowly, for whatever reason(s), other stakeholders can and should move quickly and widely to educate the public, build consensus for impeachment, and pressure Congressional Republican leadership to allow the process to begin. The factual framework for impeachment becomes stronger with each new disclosure about Trump's mis-, mal-, and non-feasance in the White House. As I argued in my last piece, there is too much at risk - domestically and internationally - to slow or defer progress toward impeachment.

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