Is the impeachment process illegal?

Published 7:37 pm Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Democrats are interviewing witnesses, weighing whether to impeach President Donald Trump for possibly using military aid for personal political benefit. Republicans are claiming the process is unfair to the president. Are they right?

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) tweeted “To the Democrats, I say this: Let THE PEOPLE choose the next leader of the free world. Do not dilute our democracy by allowing politicians to interfere in elections from their bubble in Washington DC.”

But the U.S. Constitution does provide an impeachment process, but leaves many of the details up to Congress. That invalidates the argument that the impeachment process is anti-democratic and against the will of the people. Both presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton were handily reelected. One was impeached, and the other certainly would have been had he not resigned. No Democrat in Congress in 1974 or Republican in 1998 decried the impeachment process as against the will of the electorate, of course.

The impeachment inquiry has provided the chief executive with a greater ability to respond than what presidents Nixon and Clinton had. Democrats in the Watergate hearings enabled the Nixon Administration officials to have a copy of the documents and attend the evidence presentation. 

Democrats have given the same protections to the Trump team (president and counsel). But unlike the early 1970s hearings, the Trump defenders have the right to ask questions (something the Nixon team did not get to do). It’s noteworthy that the Clinton Administration did not get those copies of documents, attendance of the evidence presentation and to ask questions when the GOP was in charge of impeachment hearings. All of this data is courtesy of MSNBC, by the way. It’s noteworthy that all three (Trump, Clinton and Nixon) featured minority subpoenas with a committee vote and allowed objections to be raised.

Several Republicans stormed the committee hearings to provide the impression that the GOP was not allowed to attend the hearings. But they were. Democrats claimed that Republicans had a fair chance to question those who testified behind closed doors. But that does not mean that such an opportunity was taken. Rep. Ted Yoho and now Sen. Lindsey Graham have admitted that they haven’t read any of the material. It should be their duty as sworn members of Congress to examine the evidence, if only to raise valid objections. Even though these hearings have clearly not been Soviet-style, antidemocratic or unconstitutional, and have provided the Trump team with more rights than prior presidents when it comes to impeachment investigations, many citizens and I would prefer that they still be made available to the public, in hearings. 

I think we have a right to know what’s been going on, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the argument.