The founders of our nation knew that the Constitution was an imperfect document. So they put mechanisms within it to allow for changes or additions, from time-to-time, when it was necessary to do so.
They understood the need to do so because the document was written by imperfect individuals, who didn’t always agree with one another. They also knew that a government could (or rather, would undoubtedly) include imperfect leaders, much like themselves, people appointed or elected to positions of power that may have initially been seen as proper but who could also abuse their positions or commit crimes against this country to further their own interests while in office.
That’s what impeachment is all about. But a number of conservative commentators say differently, believing that the mechanisms put in place to remove officers of the United States, including the president, is itself undemocratic.
Or rather, they probably say as much but don’t actually believe it, using the argument as a means to stall or derail impeachment hearings going on in Washington.
Former acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, joined by Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, penned an op-ed in USA Today this week that purports the actions of Democrats in Congress to open an impeachment inquiry into the actions of President Donald Trump are an effort to invalidate the 2016 election.
“Elections have consequences…Our Founding Fathers envisioned divisive days like today,” their opinion piece begins. “However, they did not envision that once the votes were counted and the American people had spoken, that a political party would refuse to accept the outcome of an election.”
Glad to join LA AG @JeffLandry in writing this piece.
"House Democrats are just trying to invalidate the 2016 election of President Donald Trump"
— Matt Whitaker 🇺🇸 (@MattWhitaker46) October 30, 2019
They proceed to call the proceedings now underway a “closed-door charade” run by Democrats that are operating “behind closed doors” — in spite of the fact that Republicans are inside the hearings as well. (The real charade, it seems, is Whitaker’s and Landry’s attempts to conceal the truth about the impeachment inquiry itself.)
Whitaker and Landry lay their attacks on hard against proponents of impeachment, even implying that the president isn’t being given due process in the entire affair. “These actions look more nakedly political by the day, while the president of the United States has had no opportunity to meaningfully participate or confront allegations through this flawed and abnormal process,” they write.
As lawyers, they should know better than to imply that’s how the process works. This stage of impeachment is akin to a “grand jury” investigation, where allegations based on facts are gathered to determine if removal is warranted. That’s not just the opinion of a liberal opinion writer: that’s what academics across the country have said as well.
Indeed, Randall Eliason, a professor at George Washington University, defended the hearings thus far, telling the Washington Post that Trump has been given far more due process than Republican critics have recognized.
“With Republican committee members present and able to ask questions at the closed House hearings, the president already has far more representation at the investigative stage than a target of a grand jury investigation,” Eliason said.
Finally, Whitaker and Landry suggest that the only remedy for dealing with Trump’s behavior is to wait until the next election — only a mere 13 months away, during which the president can do untold more damage to our country’s reputation and establish precedents that can undo American norms to an even greater extent than he’s already done.
Their views must be rejected — indeed, Whitaker recently said that “abuse of power is not a crime” in an interview he took part in earlier this month, forgetting that the phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors” is, itself, a standard for removing any executive officer, even the president, for abuse of power.
Opposing impeachment of the president is one thing — creating new standards for how the president can be impeached or suggesting that the matter ignores the will of the voters need to be seen for what they truly are: attempts to confuse and obfuscate the process altogether.
An election isn’t being invalidated — indeed, the 2018 midterm elections, where Democrats took control of the House of Representatives, in order to be a check on the president, is being respected. Whitaker and Landry are happy, it seems, to ignore that point.