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Davis: Impeaching Trump: Four reasons not to do so, and one reason why we must

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There are serious concerns about moving forward with an impeachment vote this week in the House.

First, it could detract from President-elect Biden’s most important message at his inauguration — a time to bring the country together and to heal. He needs unity in the country to confront the three greatest challenges he faces on Day One: the pandemic, the economy and the need for economic emergency relief for suffering Americans.

Second, an impeachment effort could allow those shameless Republican senators and House members who were complicit in this mob-led insurrection to try to change the subject by attacking Democratic partisanship. We cannot allow that to happen. The list of members of Congress who share culpability for the attack on the Capitol and the deaths of five people can be arguably attributed to every member who supported the challenge to the electoral votes certified by every state, both Democratic- and Republican-led, and validated on the merits by every court, including by Trump-appointed judges. Worst of all are those members who insisted on continuing the bogus process even after the mob’s attack threatened their own lives, as well as those of their colleagues. Most of these names can be found here.

Don’t forget them. Those who were enablers of President Trump must be held almost as accountable as the perpetrator himself. We cannot allow them to change the subject away from their own responsibility.

Third, because of the inevitable partisanship of the vote for impeachment in the House, we may divert attention from the historic, powerful anti-Trump statements made by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), calling on Mr. Trump to resign, and Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), accusing President Trump of illegal, unconstitutional incitement of an insurrectionist mob. We also cannot forget the profile in courage shown by House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), whose statements (see here and here) calling out Mr. Trump led to his inevitable public attack on her and her vilification by his fanatical followers on social media and in the mob.

The courage shown by these Republicans cannot be obscured by the fact of an impeachment vote. They and others like them hold the key to marginalizing the racist, bigoted elements of the “Trump Party” and reclaiming the true, responsible Republican Party. I am a progressive and a loyal Democrat, but I still believe this country needs a viable Republican Party — a more conservative party than my own view, yes, but one which still is needed for our constitutional democracy to work, based on the politics of civil disagreement, not on demonization and hate.

Finally, there appears to be little chance of winning a two-thirds vote in the Senate, so some may wonder if it is worth the disadvantages to proceed with a House impeachment vote.

One issue lessening the diversion of the House impeachment vote is the apparent decision — as articulated by Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) on CNN’s “State of the Union” program on Sunday — that the House can take its time to walk over the House impeachment resolution to the Senate to initiate a Senate trial, just as it did when President Trump was impeached in December 2019. This would give President Biden one or more months to get his new administration grounded, his Cabinet secretaries confirmed and his top priorities enacted. Such a trial, after Mr. Biden has become president and Mr. Trump is out of office, will bring accountability — including all members being required to vote “yes” or “no” on Trump’s guilt, while allowing the new president to do his important work in the initial first weeks.

Still, given the concerns about allowing Republicans to attack Democrats for partisanship at a time like this, is it still worth proceeding with the House impeachment resolution this week?

The answer is, yes — explainable by four words: Our children and grandchildren. We must do it for them. We must teach them the lesson of accountability.

Mr. Trump is on videotape with words convicting himself of incitement to insurrection, a clear violation of the constitutional prohibition on a president committing treason and violating his oath of office to uphold the Constitution. Mr. Trump told the mob at the rally near the White House, just before it marched to the Capitol, that “you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong.”

Guilty as charged: If this isn’t an impeachable offense for any president, then what would be, ever?

As to Mr. Trump, our children and grandchildren will read his name indelibly written into U.S. history books from now on: the double shame of being the only president of the United States to be impeached for inciting insurrection, as a traitor to our country, and the only president to be impeached twice, in one four-year term.

This is the ultimate lesson of accountability for Mr. Trump that we want our children and grandchildren to learn. Let the impeachment process proceed.

Lanny Davis is a partner and founder of the Washington law firm of Davis Goldberg & Galper and the strategic media firm of Trident DMG. He is a former special counsel to President Bill Clinton and a member of President George W. Bush’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. He is the author of several books on history, politics and crisis management. 

Tags Ben Sasse Bill Clinton capitol hill riot Donald Trump Impeachment insurrection Lisa Murkowski Liz Cheney

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