Impeachment? Sure. How Many Counts? Ah, Well, Let’s See…

How Impeachment Goes Depends to Some Degree on the Number of Charges

Where Are We?

Anyone involved in prosecutions – or impeachments – can tell you. A critical decision is determining how many charges to file and for what offenses. There are a lot of factors to consider. It is not simply a question of what offenses have been committed.

I recognize that some people are still undecided about impeaching Donald Trump. Still others are determined that it is God’s Will that he not be impeached, ever, for anything. For the rest of us, the case is blindingly clear at this point. There is still much we don’t know, but what we do know is compelling, to say the least. It does not seem possible that anyone could read the Mueller report and watch the testimony of the last few weeks and come to any other conclusion. But they do.

By the way, if you found the Mueller Report too daunting, the Washington Post has kindly produced an illustrated version. Easy on the eyes, and it comes with audio!

Decisions to be Made

It has been said so often. If not to impeach on these grounds, what would ever qualify for impeachment? What president would ever be accountable for anything? But how to charge?

Many favor a very narrow case for a couple of reasons. One, it was the Ukraine case that broke the ice for some reluctant Democratic legislators. They may be comfortable with that issue, not with others. Two, it makes the case easier for the public to follow. Keep it clean and crisp. Over half the country already supports impeach and convict already. A simple case will bring in more, the theory goes.

Others note that Trump has violated the national trust at an impeachable level. He must be called to task on all counts, to reinforce the rule of law applies to all. I expect some in this camp would not object to a count list that ran double digits. But there is the risk in such approach of making a case too complex and seeming to pile on as a form of punishment. The NY Times polled constitutional scholars and came up with 8 charges these experts see as valid. 

As is so often the case, a middle course seems the way to go. I would submit that four charges are about right. Three of those I am about to list seem likely to make the cut in the House. It would be a mistake to let the fourth one slide, but we shall see. Each charge will have some component elements. That is necessary, but hopefully each can be not too dense. Remember, conviction results on the necessary votes on any one of the charges. 

A Prospective Charge Sheet

Charge 1: Abuse of Power and Bribery. The evidence here is ample around the Ukraine case and other elements.

Charge 2: Obstruction of Justice and Obstruction of Congress. The Mueller Report makes obstruction of justice clear, as does other information. Obstruction of Congress will take explaining. The public must understand how serious this is. If an administration has a pass on stonewalling documents and testimony, we have no balance of power. We have no executive accountability. It is that simple.

Charge 3: Endangering National Security. Many are familiar with this charge in relation to the Ukraine matter. Trump has actively encouraged Russia. He has put Ukraine, a budding democracy that borders four NATO countries, at risk. That endangers America and our allies in the most fundamental way. So too their and persistently careless use of insecure communications. This from the “Lock her up” crowd, no less. The Russian and Chinese translators must be exhausted.

Less understood is this charge on the basis of Trump’s pardon of two convicted war criminals. Nothing I could imagine does more damage to military standards and discipline. After 30 years of military service, it NEVER occurred to me that a US president would do such a thing. Nor would a president interfere so directly in the military justice system. It is not a question of having the power. It is a question about having minimal judgment and morals to exercise power justly. Trump failed this test miserably, and we fail to call him out on it at great peril.

Charge 4: Violation of the Emoluments Clause. This one has gotten lost on the back burner but should be back front and center. Trump and his family have routinely used the presidency to enrich themselves. Over and over, from day one. No other president has come close to such abuse. The founders understood the corrupting potential of such conduct. Call it out and punish it.

We Will Know the Plan Soon Enough

That’s my list, anyway. Shortly we will know what Speaker Pelosi and the other Congressional leaders determine. I submit that less than this misses what history requires of us. More than these risks losing it all in an overload.

What do you think?

   Bill Clontz

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2 replies to Impeachment? Sure. How Many Counts? Ah, Well, Let’s See…

  1. Do you remember how Donald Trump refused to submit his tax returns during his original campaign for election? He had something to hide, even before he became president. I agree we need to impeach to remove a leader unable or unwilling to use the powers entrusted to serve the nation instead of himself. It’s sad that we have to divert this time and energy from other problems our government could be addressing. I hope we can move forward soon to face the issues we need to face for a thriving healthy planet and to take pride in our leaders’ respect for human rights and the dignity of all people.

    • Yes, right you are. The patterns have been clear from the beginning, haven’t they? Much to get cleaned up and corrected; will take years.

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