Tweets, Constitution, and other impeachment tales

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The US president tweeted this morning: “So some day, if a Democrat becomes President and the Republicans win the House, even by a tiny margin, they can impeach the President, without due process or fairness or any legal rights. All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here – a lynching. But we will WIN!.”

Predictably, much has been said, and will continue to be said, about the president’s use of the word “lynching.” Words matter, and even this president should know that using this one in this context is—at the very minimum—insensitive and disrespectful. Did he make another unforced error? Or is he seeking, through the controversy guaranteed to follow, some political diversion or gain? That we can’t tell for sure is a testament to the deeply distressing strangeness of our times.

But my focus today is on another part of the president’s statement: “they can impeach the President, without due process or fairness or any legal rights.”

Do we need to remind the president that the impeachment process is written into the Constitution? That Democrats are following applicable rules? That, should he be impeached by the House, he will have the  right to defend himself in the trial by the (currently GOP dominated) Senate, as per the Constitution? Furthermore, do we need to remind him that on January 2017, through his oath of office, he swore to “faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and […] preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States?”

On October 5 (“Country over politics: A utopian take on impeachment”), I asked the president to “let [the impeachment] process play out without undue interference. You have the right to present your case at an eventual Senate trial. Or, if your conscience so tells you, you can accept responsibility and step down to skip the process. What you cannot do is threaten, incite and distract.”

We now know the president’s response. He is accepting no responsibility. He is actively interfering with the impeachment process, with no respect for his position, our nation or our Constitution. I cannot say that this is surprising. But that does not make it normal. As a matter of fact, this is clearly abnormal, unacceptable behavior by the elected leader of our nation—behavior that undermines our democracy.

If on Ukraine or other issues, the president committed “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors,” the House should impeach, and the Senate should convict, as mandated by the U.S. Constitution, Article II, section 4. As a citizen, I have the right to let my elected officers know what I think. But, in the end, it is solely their choice how they vote in their respective chambers of Congress.

It is also not my choice whether or when the Vice President, or the Cabinet, invoke the 25th Amendment, in face of an arguably increasingly erratic presidential behavior. Once again, the Constitution defines processes and responsibilities to determine whether “the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office,” a fairly extreme call if exercised against the will of a sitting president.

However, If this president is still in office by election day on November 2020, we the voters have the ultimate, unfiltered, say. For me, it will be an easy moral choice, before it is a political one. Whatever your political preference is, please vote to not re-elect this unfit president, and anyone who has enabled or silently accepted his disrespect for the principles, ethics and laws of our nation.

— Antonio Baptista

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