Impeachment is a vital aspect of the checks and balances system that has (somewhat) kept our democracy true to its primary promise of being a government for the people, by the people. Impeachment ensures that Congress has the ability to investigate the executive branch when wrongdoing is suspected. This, in turn, ensures an executive branch that can be held accountable instead of becoming tyrannical. Our nation has evolved in many ways in the 200-plus years since the creation of the Constitution, making many things our founders said and wrote then not applicable or relevant today. However, the checks and balances between branches of government, the pillars of the system itself, must remain strong in order for the nation to function in any recognizable way.
Trump has admitted to the crime that started the impeachment inquiry. According to the Federal Elections Commission it is illegal to solicit foreign assistance, or anything of value, in a United States election. Not only did Donald Trump ask President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to investigate the Bidens, he — on national television — asked that China open an investigation into the Bidens. These are two, well-documented instances of the president soliciting assistance — something that would be of value to his reelection campaign — from foreign countries. The crimes aside, there is also the moral dilemma of a president asking foreign nations to investigate U.S. citizens he doesn’t like or agree with. Importantly, regardless of what your opinion of the Bidens is, whether or not crimes were committed by Hunter Biden and the company he worked for — there is not yet any evidence to suggest such crimes — Trump’s actions are still a crime.
Now the White House has announced it will not cooperate with the impeachment inquiry because it is “partisan and unconstitutional.” This is in itself another impeachable offense as he is acting in contempt of Congress (obstructing the work of Congress, or any of its committees). The impeachment is not partisan or unconstitutional, though one could have expected this response since Trump has shown his inability to handle dissenters. He recently described the whistle-blower who exposed the crime as treasonous. Imagine that — we are now a country in which the president calls people who disagree with him or call him out on wrongdoing treasonous. That is not treason, it is our right, granted us in the Constitution as United States citizens.
At least two of the 11 articles of impeachment against Andrew Johnson included his public speaking. The Congress then regarded it as a high crime that Johnson “make and declare, with a loud voice, certain intemperate, inflammatory and scandalous harangues, and therein utter loud threats and bitter menaces, as well against Congress as the laws of the United States … amid the cries, jeers and laughter of the multitudes then assembled in hearing.”
By this standard, if held accountable for his divisive speech (even if we didn’t consider his Twitter public speech, though we should), Donald Trump would have been impeached several times over. But we no longer hold him to the same standards to which past presidents have been held.
Let us not slip even further in upholding those standards. As a nation we should at the very least admit and understand the crimes the president has committed. From there it is up to each person, and ultimately to Congress, to determine whether those crimes constitute removal from office. The spotlight will be trained on Republican congressmen as they must decide whether to continue blindly following Trump through the mud in exchange for the support of his base, or to put democracy above party and uphold the constitutional ability for Congress to check a president acting outside the bounds of law.