“Stop Asking Us To Wait”

Thirty progressive groups have sent an open letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi: 

We write to express deep disappointment and concern over your refusal to use the full scope of your constitutional power to hold [the president] accountable. We urge you to reconsider your position on this issue and immediately open an impeachment inquiry.

Voters gave Democrats control of the House of Representatives because they wanted aggressive oversight of the … administration. Yet, your leadership is resulting in dangerous inaction that enables this racist and xenophobic president. Our families, friends, communities, country and planet deserve a party that chooses people over politics – and that starts with your willingness to take bold, moral leadership.

As Speaker of the House, you have the power to ensure Congress exercises its constitutional obligation to hold this president accountable, but instead of using your power, you are giving us political excuses for why you shouldn’t. Instead of leading, you and your colleagues have asked us to wait – wait for the Mueller report, wait for the unredacted Mueller report, wait for Mueller’s testimony about the Mueller report, wait for more investigations, wait for bipartisan consensus, wait for impeachment to poll better, wait for the 2020 election.

With 10 distinct episodes of obstruction of justice already clear from the Mueller report, violations of the emoluments clause happening on an almost daily basis, and [the] administration now defying subpoenas for both documents and testimony, waiting is a privilege. But it is not a privilege available to the families separated by his deportation force or his Muslim ban, the asylum seekers languishing in Mexico, the people threatened by his embrace of white supremacy, the LGBTQ people whose rights he is taking away, the women whose bodies he is trying to control or the communities threatened by his denial of the climate crisis.

The American people deserve a leader who is willing to bravely use power to rein in the Trump administration and defend our communities. You have stated that we are facing a constitutional crisis. But the remedy for such a constitutional crisis is not traditional congressional oversight – particularly when confronted with a president who has nothing but contempt for such oversight and obstinately refuses to comply with legitimate congressional demands and requests. The framers placed the impeachment power in the Constitution precisely for the purpose of confronting a lawless president like [him].

There’s still a chance to turn things around…. Your strong leadership can help move the public narrative, not only on impeachment, but on the dangers [his] presidency poses for all Americans. Your leadership can position the House of Representatives as the body that exposes the corruption and moral abhorrence of [this] White House, proves that no president is above the law, and persuades most Americans that this president must be removed from office. <Note: I’d say “should be”> You can help expose his defenders and enablers, including those in the Senate, as craven partisans willing to destroy our democracy and defend a criminal president in order to protect tax breaks for their billionaire benefactors and stack the federal courts to defend their white, male privilege.

In the very near future, the Trump era will be one that evokes the question – what did you do? We urge you to use your power to lead and to stop asking us to wait.

Inching Toward Impeachment

One week ago, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, the fourth-highest-ranking Democrat in the House, indicated he wasn’t ready to impeach the president:

We have a constitutional responsibility to serve as a check and balance on a potentially out-of-control executive branch. But we will not overreach. We will not overinvestigate. We will not overpoliticize that responsibility. We will proceed as Speaker Pelosi has laid out, methodically yet aggressively to get to the truth.

He said that politics shouldn’t determine whether to impeach or not impeach.

Then Congress took a week off to allow everyone to travel back home and celebrate Memorial Day. After speaking with constituents in Brooklyn and Queens, it sounds like Rep. Jeffries is inching closer to impeachment:

The Judiciary Committee, on which I sit, should have hearings on three things: obstruction of justice, abuse of power and the culture of corruption that appears to exist at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. I’m of the view that those hearings should commence immediately. And we need to present the information to the American people. What you call those hearings — that is a decision that will ultimately be made by [Judiciary Committee] Chairman Nadler and Speaker Pelosi.

In that regard, the Judiciary Committee will commence hearings on the Mueller report next Monday, with “testimony from former U.S. attorneys and legal experts, including John Dean, a Trump critic and former White House counsel to President Richard Nixon”. But there is still no word on Robert Mueller testifying. 

In case the committee has trouble coming up with things to investigate, Washington Post columnist Max Boot offers “seven reasons [the president] should be impeached”, expressed as formal articles of impeachment:

Article 1. … in violation of his oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, and to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, [he] has obstructed the administration of justice….

Article II. … failed to defend America from foreign election interference…. 

Article III. … attempted to investigate and prosecute his political opponents…. 

Article IV. [and] failed to produce papers and testimony as duly directed by Congress.

Article V. … in violation of federal campaign finance laws, [he] conspired with his attorney Michael Cohen in order to conceal alleged relationships with [Stormy Daniels and Karen MacDougal] before the 2016 election.

Article VI. … in violation of his oath to uphold Article 1, section 9 of the Constitution (“No money shall be drawn from the treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law”), [he] attempted to misuse his emergency powers to spend funds on a border wall that Congress did not appropriate.

Article VII. … in violation of his oath to uphold the emoluments clauses (which forbid the president from accepting benefits from foreign and state governments without the permission of Congress) [he] retains ownership of a global business empire which allows him to benefit from dealings with foreign and state governments.

No doubt there are other “high crimes and misdemeanors” Mr. Boot didn’t get to.

He concludes: 

[The president] has committed more criminal and unconstitutional conduct than any previous president in U.S. history. If they refuse to impeach him, members of Congress will violate their own oaths to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

In case you’d like to deliver a message to your representative, you can begin by entering your zip code at the House’s handy Find Your Representative page. Then you click on their name. (They’re waiting to hear from you.)

This Is Past Ridiculous, So We Need To Speak Up

The New York Times is trying to find out which Democrats in the House of Representatives support an impeachment inquiry. So far, 54 of them do; 56 of them gave wishy-washy answers (probably in deference to Nancy Pelosi); and 125 haven’t responded. My congressman, Tom Malinowski (NJ-7) does.

If yours doesn’t, you should consider getting in touch (they all have their own websites). You might even quote these two gentlemen.

Charles Blow of The Times asks:

What the hell is it going to take, Democrats?!

What evidence and impetus would compel you to do the job the Constitution, patriotism and morality dictate?

What is it going to take to make you initiate an impeachment inquiry?

Your slow walking of this issue and your specious arguments about political calculations are pushing you dangerously close to a tragic, historic dereliction of duty, one that could do irreparable damage to the country and the Congress….

Mehdi Hasan of The Intercept takes five minutes to explain why the arguments against impeaching the president are b.s. (I apologize for displaying the disturbing image.)

The situation is only going to get worse. If she feels enough pressure, Nancy Pelosi (CA-12) will eventually admit it’s time to act.

Mad King Donald?

Simon Rosenberg of NDN and the New Policy Institute writes:

One of the great animating principles which drove the founding of America and the design of our government was the quest to curtail the power of a single person to determine the fate of the nation without reasonable deliberation and what we call checks and balances.  There is perhaps no more quintessentially American idea than this – that the President is not a sovereign, but a partner in governing the nation with Congress and the Judiciary; that he or she serves the people, not themselves; that we are a nation of laws, not men and women.

After more than two years of his Presidency, it just isn’t clear that [the President] agrees with this timeworn American belief that the power of an executive in a democracy must be limited and checked.  At the core of Bob Mueller’s report to the American people are profound questions about [the President’s] willingness to trample democratic norms and laws, even openly working with a hostile foreign power to influence the outcome of an American election.  The President showers authoritarian strongmen like Putin, Kim, and Orban with praise, and denigrates our democratic allies.  In case after case – the unrelenting lying about everything, the refusal to divest from his businesses, the unilateral deployment of the military on US soil, the years of obstruction documented by Mueller and the unprecedented disregard for the oversight responsibilities of Congress, the many times the President’s policies have been stopped by US courts, the granting of security clearances over the objections of professional staff and the intelligence community, the wanton lawlessness of his Cabinet and staff, and the persistent invocation of emergency powers when no emergency exists (either the US economy is the best ever or we are in a national emergency, can’t be both) – the President has refused to abide by the laws and norms essential to making our democracy, or any democracy, work.  In many ways he has become the type of American leader our Founding Fathers tried so hard to prevent from ever occupying the White House. 

It is in this light that we must see, and ultimately challenge, the President’s use of tariffs with Mexico, China, and other nations in the world.  The way he is using them, without consulting Congress and by whimsically announcing and enacting them without public debate or deliberation, is simply outside any reasonable understanding of how our nation should be governed.  They are the actions of a tyrant, or a Mad King, not an American President.  They also, perhaps even more importantly, violate the entire theory of how the post WWII order, designed and built by the United States, was supposed to work.  Whimsical use of tariffs has been essentially outlawed or highly constrained in our global system, in ways similar to how we’ve approached chemical and nuclear weapons. Their escalating use in the pre-war period led to world war, and leaders from around the world came together and designed a system which sought to eliminate their existence entirely.  The President’s repeated deployment of tariffs to achieve not just economic but political objectives is a clear break from the norms and laws of the modern world. 

…. Congress has a profound duty to step in now and stop this dangerous abuse of Presidential authority before more harm is done to the United States and the world.  It can begin by advancing a bicameral, bipartisan bill already introduced into Congress that is designed to reign in the President’s abuse of his tariff authorities. 

…. Congress has an additional remedy it is considering now – impeachment and removal.  It is my own belief that if Congress does begin the process of removing the President, among the more persuasive arguments which will need to be made is [his] historic abandonment of the democratic principles which have inspired the world and made America great.  Refusal to embrace those principles, flirting and encouraging autocratic whimsy rather than democratic deliberation, is perhaps the greatest crime an American President can commit, for it is a betrayal of our nation’s most important contribution to human kind – that it is the people who are sovereign, not Mad Kings and tyrants.  There is perhaps no greater rationale for the removal of a President than failure to maintain fidelity to our democratic system itself. 

Memorial Days

Today is Memorial Day in the United States. It’s one of three holidays we have for the military. Memorial Day honors those who died while serving in the armed forces. Veterans Day celebrates everyone who has served, including those serving now. Armed Forces Day, which hardly anyone knows about, only honors those currently serving. 

Two songs from an earlier time: 

More recently, the Vice President addressed the graduating class at West Point, the U.S. Military Academy:

It is a virtual certainty that you will fight on a battlefield for America at some point in your life.  You will lead soldiers in combat.  It will happen.

Some of you will join the fight against radical Islamic terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Some of you will join the fight on the Korean Peninsula and in the Indo-Pacific, where North Korea continues to threaten the peace, and an increasingly militarized China challenges our presence in the region. Some of you will join the fight in Europe, where an aggressive Russia seeks to redraw international boundaries by force. And some of you may even be called upon to serve in this hemisphere.

Somehow, he left out Africa, where we already have troops in combat, the polar regions and the Moon, but give them time. There’s no chance we’ll run out of men and women to honor on future Memorial Days.

Some Decisions Should Be Easy

Some smart people make them difficult.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, announced a decision yesterday:

The Mueller report lays out facts showing that a hostile foreign government attacked our 2016 election to help Donald Trump and Donald Trump welcomed that help. Once elected, Donald Trump obstructed the investigation into that attack. 

Mueller put the next step in the hands of Congress: “Congress has authority to prohibit a President’s corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice.” The correct process for exercising that authority is impeachment.

To ignore a President’s repeated efforts to obstruct an investigation into his own disloyal behavior would inflict great and lasting damage on this country, and it would suggest that both the current and future Presidents would be free to abuse their power in similar ways.

The severity of this misconduct demands that elected officials in both parties set aside political considerations and do their constitutional duty. That means the House should initiate impeachment proceedings against the President of the United States.

She explained her decision to Rachel Maddow last night. The senator begins speaking at 1:25 of this short video. If you watch it, you’ll see that Sen. Warren is a very smart person who made an easy decision (it’s more evidence that she should be our next president).

Rachel Maddow: “What made you decide to take this step today?”

Elizabeth Warren: “Well, I read the report.”

There are other smart people reading the Mueller report (or being told what’s in it) who believe the issue is much more complicated. They’ve seen polls that say the American people aren’t enthusiastic about impeachment. They’re concerned that impeaching the president would “tear the country apart”. They assume that Republican senators would never vote to remove this president, no matter what he’s done. They’re worried that Democrats would suffer in the next election. They think the election would end up being all about impeachment, not the issues voters really care about. They think most voters are too cynical to care about the president’s behavior. For some reason, they think that publicizing the president’s misdeeds in televised hearings would discourage Democratic voters and energize Republican ones.

It’s unfortunate that some of the smart people having trouble with this decision are Democrats in Congress.

From Jamil Smith, writing for Rolling Stone:

Despite a few outliers, such as freshmen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib [and now Elizabeth Warren], most Democrats in Congress have not recognized that the responsibility of impeachment is now at their doorstep, so I fully expect the Democratic Party as a whole will pull its punches.

The pathetic part is that it isn’t because it isn’t “worthwhile.” Impeaching a man who did nothing to stop a foreign attack on American elections on his behalf, then went on to a presidency where he obstructed justice while locking up migrant kids and letting Puerto Rico drown? Yeah, that’s worthwhile. No, they’ll hold off from impeachment… The common perception appears to be that an attempt at impeachment — with Republicans holding a slight but firm majority in the Senate — would be doomed to failure and the entire enterprise would hurt the chances of swing-state Democrats seeking re-election. But it is foolish to assume that every impeachment effort would go the way of Newt Gingrich in the Nineties, when a harebrained effort to fire President Bill Clinton backfired on the Republicans at the ballot box [and ignoring how impeaching a corrupt Republican president, Richard Nixon, helped the Democrats in the 1970s]….

Should Democrats take impeachment off the table, they would let [him] get away with it. It is that elementary. There is no guarantee that he will not repeat the very same encouragement of those Russian efforts, all the while playing dumb so as to avoid legal culpability.

If Democrats were smarter, they would understand that initiating the impeachment of [this president] might actually galvanize their base because it would demonstrate that leadership was willing to take the obvious, the logical and the constitutional step once presented with such an abundance of evidence. They would grasp that the visual of their party standing up to a president wedded equally to corruption and to his assortment of bigotries would be appealing to an electorate where black voters are increasingly driving the conversation. Democrats would seize upon the Mueller Report as a flashpoint for organization and recruitment, rather than take the task of prosecution that the Constitution assigned to Congress, hand it off to voters and call that “democracy.” It is up to us as citizens to choose our elected officials, not to do their jobs for them.

How about this instead? Since there is plenty of evidence that the president abused his office, the House of Representative should begin impeachment proceedings. If the evidence is there (hardly an open question at this point), let the House send the matter to the Senate for final determination. If they choose to, let each Republican in the Senate argue that the president’s behavior hasn’t been all that bad. But let’s see how all the senators vote when they have to go on the record, after hearing all the evidence and arguments.

Whatever Congress ends up doing, the presidential candidates will proceed with their campaigns, emphasizing the issues they want to emphasize. Then, in the next election, let the voters decide whether they prefer Democrats or Republicans. If our system of government still works, the Democrats will take the presidency, the House and the Senate in the 2020 election.

It’s really that simple.

Tell Pelosi to Impeach the Bastard Now

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi sent a letter yesterday to her Democratic colleagues in the House of Representatives:

In his summary letter and press conference, Attorney General Barr presented a conclusion that the President did not obstruct justice.  The Mueller report appears to directly undercut that claim.

Our Chairmen are studying the report, and have released a joint statement.  As we continue to review this document, we will have more to report and will update you on the next steps that must be taken.  The Caucus is scheduling a conference call for Monday to discuss this grave matter, which is as soon as our analysis and this Holy Season’s religious traditions allow.

The Mueller report states, “We concluded Congress has authority to prohibit a president’s corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice,” which “accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law.”  Congress will not be silent.

Sure, Congress won’t be silent, but will the Democrats begin impeachment proceedings or will they merely proceed with their plans to investigate and publicize the president’s unfitness? I’m not going to repeat the overwhelming arguments for impeaching the president. If you’re not convinced, you might dip into these commentaries:

Greg Sargent, The Washington Post, “Democratic Equivocation Over Impeachment Is a Moral and Political Disaster”

Noah Bookbinder, The New York Times, “Mueller’s Damning Report”

Brian Beutler, Crooked, “Democrats’s Impeachment Panic Is Endangering the Country”

Heather Digby Parton, Salon, “Roadmap for Impeachment: Mueller’s Purpose Is Clear”

Yoni Applebaum, The Atlantic, “The Mueller Report Is an Impeachment Referral”

The Moscow Project (unsigned), “The Mueller Report, Like the Watergate Roadmap, Should Be Considered an Impeachment Referral”

George Conway, The Washington Post, “Trump Is a Cancer on the Presidency — Congress Should Remove Him”

Charles Pierce, Esquire, “The Mueller Report Is a Challenge to Congress: Save the Republic. Impeach the President”

Michelle Goldberg, The New York Times, In a Functional Country, We Would Be on the Road to Impeachment”

Really, now that we have the redacted Mueller report, no argument is needed to justify the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives taking action next week.

But if you would like to give Speaker Pelosi some encouragement on the matter, you can send her a message at Speaker Contact. Or you can call her Washington office at (202) 225-4965 or her San Francisco office at (415) 556-4862.

I sent her a few thoughts. It was easy:

Madame Speaker: This is not a moment for political calculations or equivocation. It is time to fulfill your responsibilities as Speaker of the House. You must initiate impeachment proceedings against the president. We know he is guilty of obstruction of justice. The rule of law demands action now. Not impeaching him will give him license to behave even worse (and to argue that if he had done anything wrong, the Democrats would have impeached him). But even from a political standpoint, it would be a terrible blow to Democratic voters across the country who gave you back the House majority and want the president to be held to account. You must act and act now. 

Contacting the House member for your district is also a good idea. You can find their contact information at Directory of Representatives.

We need to decide as a nation if the rule of law still applies to the government of the United States or if our presidents are above the law. Now is the moment to answer that question.