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Finally, Impeachment Is on the Table: Notes on How We Got Here

Donald Trump, COVID-19, coup, impeachment, democracy

Up until last weekend, the clarity of the law and the evidence had mostly been obscured by political grandstanding. But in the last 100 hours, we’ve finally been getting a clearer picture of whether Congressional Democratic leaders will finally proceed with articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.

As we explained yesterday, the real scandal here lies with the current administration, despite Trump’s best efforts to deflect blame onto former Vice President Joe Biden. And just moments ago, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) indicated that Trump’s attempt to coerce a foreign government to act against his political opponent will not be tolerated. On the heels of this stunning breaking news, let’s examine how and why House Democrats finally put impeachment on the table.

First, let’s start here at home
Photo by Andrew Davey

Here in Nevada, it’s been a very slow build to get the Congressional delegation to take a stand on impeachment. But in late July, Rep. Steven Horsford (D-North Las Vegas) finally moved the needle a bit when he told the Nevada Current, “I’ve never taken impeachment off the table.” 

That same week, Rep. Dina Titus (D-Las Vegas) made it even clearer where she stands when she released a video on social media. In that video, Titus declared, “I’m calling for an impeachment inquiry because of the mounting evidence that Donald Trump has repeatedly broken the law to protect his own interests. […] Lying to law enforcement officials who are investigating the Russian attack on our democracy – and ordering his staff to do the same – are serious crimes.” 

Photo by Andrew Davey

Flash forward to today: In a joint press release, Reps. Steven Horsford and Susie Lee (D-Las Vegas) finally declared, “The latest allegations of the President threatening to withhold a foreign nation’s aid—which was appropriated by Congress for specific purposes—as leverage to force an investigation of a political rival are an escalation that requires explicit action by this Congress. […] If the President interferes [in Congressional investigations], Congress has the constitutional duty to begin impeachment proceedings and we will exercise our solemn responsibility as Members of Congress to support those proceedings.”

Up until now, U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D) and Jacky Rosen (D) have tended to sidestep the question, even as they’ve spoken out on the various examples of Trump abusing his power and committing other impeachable offenses. As of publication of today’s story, either has yet to weigh in on the impeachment question.

So what are these impeachable offenses?
Photo by Andrew Davey

Since we covered Cecilia Gomez’s story last year, we’ve been digging deeper into the U.S. immigration system and how the Trump administration is changing it. For all the “concern” and occasional outrage over Trump’s detention of refugees at prison camps, there hasn’t been enough focus on how the Trump administration is violating international law on refugee treatment and bans on torture, and the U.S. Constitution states that international law can and should be enforced domestically. When viewed from this frame, a clearer picture emerges of Trump committing impeachable offenses by encouraging the violation of refugees’ human rights (as well as the rights of journalists covering this humanitarian crisis and advocates seeking to aid refugees).

Staying on the border, there’s also the matter of Trump diverting money that Congress authorized for other purposes to build his long-desired border wall. When Trump declared a “national emergency” in February, we and others sounded the alarms on Trump’s usurping of Congress’ “power of the purse strings” as granted by the U.S. Constitution. And as we noted in May, Trump administration officials from the top on down have already been working to establish a precedent of operating above the law, from revoking reporters’ press credentials to defying Congressional subpoenas.

Then, there’s the scandal that’s attracted the most attention as an impeachable offense: Trump’s ties to a well-organized transnational crime syndicate, and his ongoing efforts to obstruct law enforcement’s investigations of these crimes. Lost amidst the pundits’ mocking of Robert Mueller’s testimony to Congress in July was Mueller’s plea that Congress and the public take more seriously the matter of Russian interference in our government and our elections. Yet as long as Trump successfully evades accountability for his role in such interference, America is in grave risk of being buried in kompromat all over again next year.

Breaking News: It’s finally happening
Photo by Andrew Davey

As we’ve been pointing out since April, two of the current 2020 presidential candidates (who also have a non-zero chance of winning the Democratic nomination) have been crystal clear on impeachment: Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and Kamala Harris (D-California). In the last 48 hours, both Harris and Warren have condemned Trump’s latest attempt to misuse nearly $400 million that Congress authorized in military aid for Ukraine as leverage to demand that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky launch a criminal investigation of Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, and they both re-upped their calls for impeachment. And earlier today, fellow Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) issued his strongest call for impeachment yet while on the campaign trail in Iowa.

As we explained in detail yesterday, there’s no evidence to prove Joe Biden broke any laws or violated any ethical standards while the then Vice President directed the Obama administration’s efforts to curb corruption in Ukraine. Rather, we’re seeing a growing file of evidence suggesting Trump broke the law by misusing funds authorized by Congress for a specific purpose (again) and demanding that a foreign government interfere and influence in our election by “digging up dirt” on one of his opponents (Biden). 

Photo by Andrew Davey

Apparently, this may finally be the moment the nation’s been waiting for: Following a Washington Post op-ed by freshman swing district Reps. Gil Cisneros (D-California), Jason Crow (D-Colorado), Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pennsylvania), Elaine Luria (D-Virginia), Mikie Sherrill (D-New Jersey), Elissa Slotkin (D-Michigan), and Abigail Spanberger (D-Virginia), and Biden’s own endorsement of impeachment if Trump doesn’t give Congress evidence on the Ukraine affair and other investigations, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) finally indicated she will open a formal impeachment inquiry based on Trump’s attempt to coerce Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 election on his behalf (and against Biden).

It’s been a long and often tortuous path for House Democratic leaders to finally make this big announcement, but apparently Trump’s meddling in Ukraine and goal of Ukrainian (and really, more Russian) meddling in our politics turned out to be the final breaking point. We’ll have to see where Pelosi takes this impeachment inquiry, but at least the nation is finally getting one.

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