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No Good Reasons to Avoid Impeaching Trump

If Trump survives an impeachment vote because his backers in the Senate refuse to abandon him, he may go on to lose at the polls because of the impeachment process.

If any president is deserving of impeachment, it is Trump. (Photo: YouTube screen shot)

If any president is deserving of impeachment, it is Trump. (Photo: YouTube screen shot)

The impeachment inquiry aimed at Donald Trump has elicited a near-palpable sigh of relief among many Americans deeply anxious about the damage he has done to the presidency and country. Each new poll suggests rising support among the electorate to terminate Trump’s presidency. Given how Trump has devastated constitutional protections, human rights and ethical boundaries over the past two and a half years, causing untold damage to the nation, impeachment ought to be welcome news across the political spectrum. But many on both the right and the left are calling the process into question—for different reasons, of course.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to launch an impeachment inquiry into Trump over a whistleblower complaint against how he seemingly used his office for personal gain has been met with predictable backlash from the president’s most ardent supporters. Right-leaning media outlets, which have provided oxygen to Trump’s base, have doubled down on the ongoing theme of “fake news” to explain away the pesky facts. “Everything you’re seeing is deception,” says rabid right-wing shock jock Rush Limbaugh, echoing what Trump has told his supporters in the past.

Meanwhile, those Republicans who continue to tie their political fortunes to Trump’s have fixated on how his shenanigans came to light rather than the content of the whistleblower’s complaint—an echo of Trump’s own approach. They have vainly attempted to refocus attention onto former Vice President Joe Biden and the supposed corruption around his son Hunter that Trump was seemingly asking Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s new president, to investigate. But they have refused to address the illicit way Trump went about with his “investigation” into Biden.

‘Exhibit A’ is Chris Wallace’s recent interview with White House adviser Stephen Miller on Fox News. Wallace had revealed that Trump had engaged two private lawyers in addition to his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to dig up dirt on Biden and demanded to know why Trump didn’t use the American intelligence agencies at his disposal instead of private lawyers. Miller repeatedly obfuscated; ultimately, he had no answer. Indeed, none of Trump’s backers has a valid answer to his abuse of power.

Republican lawmakers, in attempting to avoid facing the clearly documented misconduct of their president, claimed they had not yet had time to read the whistleblower’s report. Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez rightly lambasted her colleagues on Twitter, saying, “There is almost no excuse for a member of Congress to have not read the whistleblower report by now. It’s a few pages. This is literally our jobs. If you don’t have the commitment to be here and do the work, cut your fancy fundraisers & make the time, or quit.” Ocasio-Cortez had earlier admonished her own party over its inaction. As the Ukraine story was breaking, she tweeted: “At this point, the bigger national scandal isn’t the president’s lawbreaking behavior—it is the Democratic Party’s refusal to impeach him for it.”

Some have dismissed the pursuit of impeachment as folly, arguing that it distracts from the much-needed legislative work for which Americans elected their representatives. In fact, Trump’s press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, trotted out this argument after Pelosi’s impeachment announcement, saying it “destroyed any chances of legislative progress for the people of this country by continuing to focus all their energy on partisan political attacks.”

Pursuing impeachment does not prevent the practice of left-wing politics. On the contrary, it furthers it by helping to expose and publicize the illegitimacy of a rabidly right-wing president and his tactics, which so many of the nation’s conservatives have bought into since 2015.

Grisham failed to mention that House Democrats have passed a number of bills addressing corruption, gun control and many other critical issues. However, that legislative agenda has been entirely stymied by one of Trump’s most effective allies, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has singlehandedly imposed a bottleneck on bills in the Senate. In fact, Democrats have pursued impeachment-related investigations through at least half a dozen committees while also debating and passing bills in the House, proving that it is possible to walk and chew gum at the same time.

Some have suggested that backing impeachment based on special counsel Robert Mueller’s report or the Ukraine whistleblower complaint legitimizes intelligence agencies like the FBI and the CIA, whose pasts are replete with repressive tactics. It is absolutely true that both agencies are known for spying on progressive movements, overthrowing democratic governments and generally obstructing freedom, democracy and progress. There is also a legitimate critique of how the CIA whistleblower in the Ukraine story is being lionized versus how whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning or Edward Snowden, who exposed the mass crimes of the U.S. government, have been demonized. Still, none of that negates the whistleblower’s documentation of Trump’s abuse of power.

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There are those who suggest it is better to beat Trump at the polls than through impeachment, as though the two are mutually exclusive. Jacobin’s Bhaskar Sunkara last week tweeted an article he had written in The Guardian in April titled, “Impeachment is the wrong way to beat Trump.” In it, he argued that “The way to defeat a rightwing political coalition is through leftwing politics, not political theater.” But one can argue that using the levers of government and exercising the congressional check on the president is a legitimate use of existing political power. Indeed, it is the most principled path for elected representatives during a time when a single individual—Trump—has laid waste to laws and ethics.

Pursuing impeachment does not prevent the practice of left-wing politics. On the contrary, it furthers it by helping to expose and publicize the illegitimacy of a rabidly right-wing president and his tactics, which so many of the nation’s conservatives have bought into since 2015.

Some on the left have also argued that an impeachment vote will strengthen Trump’s hand, enabling him to play the martyr, survive a Senate vote (which is likely but not guaranteed), and go on to win reelection because of impeachment, not in spite of it. However, if history is any indicator, an impeachment process will shine greater light on Trump’s misdeeds.

Just as support for President Richard Nixon’s impeachment started at a meager level and grew as the process played itself out, if Trump survives an impeachment vote because his backers in the Senate refuse to abandon him, he may go on to lose at the polls because of the impeachment process.

It took Democrats more than two years to begin an impeachment inquiry, holding back because they were terrified of losing House seats in swing districts. Democrats had put their party’s political power over their duty to uphold the Constitution and check a rogue president. Still, their move is better late than never, and if impeachment is to mean anything it ought to apply to a president like Trump for any one of hundreds of offenses, from brutal violations of the rights of immigrant children to blatant profiteering off the presidency.

If any president is deserving of impeachment, it is Trump.

Sonali Kolhatkar

Sonali Kolhatkar
Sonali Kolhatkar is a columnist for Truthdig. She also is the founder, host and executive producer of "Rising Up With Sonali," a television and radio show that airs on Free Speech TV (Dish Network, DirecTV, Roku) and Pacifica stations KPFK, KPFA, and affiliates. She is the former founder, host and producer of KPFK Pacifica’s popular morning drive-time program “Uprising." She is also the co-director of the Afghan Women's Mission, a U.S.-based non-profit solidarity organization that funds the social, political, and humanitarian projects of RAWA. She is the author, with James Ingalls, of "Bleeding Afghanistan: Washington, Warlords, and the Propaganda of Silence" (2006).

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