There’s a significant chunk of Americans who, when the topic of impeachment is brought up, shrug their shoulders with the sort of ambivalence typical of spouses who can’t decide where to eat for dinner. In the ever-polarized conversation surrounding the hearings last month, these are the Americans with whom I most closely identify. Like a joke that’s been told too many times, impeachment has lost its emotional gravity, but perhaps such detached incertitude is a useful mindset in examining the divisive topic of the impeachment of the 45th president of the United States.
The Founders wisely crafted a government that utilizes a system of checks and balances, wherein each branch has the duty and interest in curbing the power of the other two. Congress has a duty to check the powers of the executive, and impeachment is one of the tools they have at their disposal. To be perfectly clear, any president that commits what the U.S. Constitution outlines as “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors” should be charged through impeachment, and should be removed from office if found guilty by the Senate. It doesn’t matter whether that president is a Republican, Democrat or (God-willing) a Libertarian. Congress should perform this duty as the Constitution sets forth.
Yet, there is some credence to the GOP’s response that the Democrats have been carrying out a witch hunt — a phrase the president has tweeted 319 times since taking office. While somewhat excessive, this defense is far from unfounded, as it’s fairly evident that the Democrats have indeed been on a fishing expedition from the very first day of the Trump presidency — Rep. Maxine Waters brought up the possibility of impeachment as early as January 2017. Since then, it’s been one “bombshell” report after another. So, either Donald Trump is the most cunning figure since John Gotti, or the Democrats have been throwing everything at the wall in the hope that something sticks.
It’s certainly not unreasonable to call the past three years a “witch hunt.” But we should also consider the possibility that the president is actually a witch — or at least engaged in some form of nefarious dark arts. It’s important to remember that impeachment is not a legal process, but a political one, and the House of Representatives has the sole constitutional authority and obligation to impeach delinquent officials. There’s significant evidence suggesting President Trump engaged in bribery, and it’s entirely possible that he knowingly did so. If that’s the case, the House is obligated to bring those charges up through impeachment and pass it along to the Senate for a trial.
The inquiry hearings from last month were intended to gather evidence that would indicate whether or not the president acted improperly. Some hearings were conducted behind closed doors, but many were public and in full view of all the major channels. Though there were plenty of compelling testimonies and sharp questions from both sides of the aisle, the affair was largely political theater. These legislators aren’t simply public servants upholding the Constitution, they’re self-interested politicians trying to get video clips for their supporter email lists and Twitter followers. Accordingly, in his closing remarks on the fifth day of the hearings, Rep. Adam Schiff shouted the last word of a particularly pointed remark in the style of an amateur Shakespeare performance. Whether this “Silent!” was aiming for a Dumbledore-esque effect or not, it was entirely theatrical — far from the “solemn undertaking” he promised. Entertaining, though, to say the least.
No, the investigation isn’t a hoax — just because Congress is full of beans doesn’t mean Mr. Trump isn’t. Not only is it entirely possible, as time goes on, it’s starting to look likely that the president committed an impeachable offense. Congress has carte blanche over the process, and the president isn’t exactly a considered, tip-toeing statesman. But while I’m under no illusion that the president is infallible, neither do I buy that Congress is merely acting to uphold the Constitution, particularly when, during these proceedings, nearly every Democrat (and 12 Republicans) voted to reauthorize the Patriot Act, which gave the executive branch continued power to spy on millions of Americans.
Frankly, the only collusion here is between these two branches of government. And like many other spied-on Americans, I’m ambivalent toward the impeachment hearings, wary of the president’s ethical standing and unconvinced that these public displays of politicking are anything but self-interested chicanery. Call it impeachment ennui.
• Shaun Cammack (@shaunjcammack) is a graduate student at the University of Chicago and a contributor to Young Voices.
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