Infest the Rat's Nest
Usually made from trash and debris left by humans, rats can embed a nest nearly anywhere the sun does not shine. As such, a rats’ nest will not be found in plain sight. However, by tracking the footprints, tail marks, droppings, or urine spots of a rodent, one can find a rats’ nest. A rats’ nest is a breeding ground for infectious diseases. If handled inadequately, a rats’ nest can quickly become a bigger problem for all those concerned. Creatures living within a rats’ nest have no care for those that do not. Self-interest is a rat’s only end.
WE THE PEOPLE
Self-interest is at the heart of tyranny. Wherever there is a position of power over the people, there is the possibility for tyranny. There is an opportunity for one to place their own self-interest above that of the common good. Tyranny is what this nation’s founders feared most. They feared that upon achieving independence from the tyrannical ruler King George III, this nation would fall back into submission to some other tyranny. From this concern came the idea of checks and balances; safeguards against tyranny. Of these safeguards, impeachment was essential (1) .
Should the leader of our nation be proven corrupt, neglecting their duty, or otherwise abusing their power, “We The People” need some mechanism to say "enough". Securing this right, Article II Section IV of our founding document states the following “The President, Vice President and all officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” (2) In other words, no individual, not even the elected President of the United States, is above the rule of law.
THE PROCESS OF IMPEACHMENT
It’s important to note that impeachment does not just refer to the removal of an elected official from office. Rather it represents the two-step process of potentially removing that official. The first step is to find out whether there are grounds for impeachment, also known as an inquiry. That is, did the official commit treason, bribery, or some other high crime, as stated in the Constitution? Based on the findings of a House committee or independent panel, the House committees can then draft and approve articles of impeachment. These articles may then go to the House floor for a vote. If the articles of impeachment pass the House vote with a simple majority, they are brought to the Senate.
The Senate floor, then, acts as a courtroom. In presidential impeachments, Senators serve as a jury and the Chief Justice of the Supreme court serves as a judge. In non-presidential impeachments, the president of the Senate acts as a judge. Conviction requires a two-thirds majority of Senators. Usually, the penalty is removal from office, sometimes with a lifetime ban on holding government offices with it (3).
Historically, the process of impeachment has hardly been put to use. Since 1787, only two Presidents, one Senator, one cabinet member, and fifteen judges have been impeached. Of those impeached, only eight judges have ever been convicted and subsequently removed from office (4). The House impeached Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998 - but the Senate failed to convict either of them. Both presidents were Democrats, impeached by Republican-controlled Houses and tried by Republican-controlled Senates. To read my post on the history of impeachments against sitting presidents, click here.
In order to have an edge in the presidential election of 1972, President Nixon hired a team known as the “White House Plumbers” who attempted to bug Democratic National Headquarters in a political scandal known as “Watergate”. Ultimately the attempt failed, and the Plumbers were caught inside the Democratic National Headquarters. To keep the Plumbers quiet, President Nixon used his personal attorneys to deliver hush-money. Once Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward uncovered this story, it became a political scandal and subsequently an impeachment inquiry was launched. In an attempt to salvage the situation, President Nixon told the public that he had no knowledge of the Watergate incident. However, audio recordings detailed when President Nixon ordered FBI officials to cover up the Watergate scandal in what became known as the “smoking gun” (7).
In order to get an edge in the presidential election of 2020, the Trump administration allegedly withheld military aid to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenski into investigating the son of Democratic candidate Joe Biden. President Trump used his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, as a middle man for many of these talks. Between September 25 and October 5, two whistle-blower complaints detailed President Trump’s campaign to get Ukraine to investigate Hunter Biden in a phone call made on July 25. These complaints also stated that White House officials were directed to remove records of the call from the system where such documents are normally stored and place them instead in a system for storing highly classified information (8). When Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, announced the impeachment inquiry to the public - she called this misuse of White House security systems a cover-up.
THE RATS' NEST
The cover-up, however, has become more blatant since Speaker Pelosi’s announcement. Since September 23, committees undertaking the inquiry have subpoenaed Vice President of the U.S, Mike Pence, personal attorney to President Trump, Rudy Guiliani, and U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland. All of them have announced that they have no intention of complying with the subpoenas (9). On October 8, White House counsel Pat Cipollone wrote in a letter that the White House will not cooperate in any form or fashion with the House impeachment inquiry (10).
As more disturbing information comes out about the way in which this White House operates, I have become more convinced that the situation the 116th Congress must face is far more insidious than what our founders could have imagined - not solely by measurements of President Trump himself, but by the willingness his entire administration to reject and obstruct the powers of Congress to fulfill its constitutional obligations. The Executive has become plagued with the ill-conceived idea that it is above the law. As federal officials burrow themselves deeper into the rats’ nest, they posit that not only are they incapable of committing crimes, but that congress has no authority to investigate the possibility of any criminal activity, what so ever.
ARGUMENTS FOR IMPEACHMENT
If I had the authority to speak with these officials, knowing for certain that they would heed my words, I would say the following. First off, Members of Congress not only have a right to investigate potentially impeachable offenses, it is their constitutional obligation to do so. In United States v. Rumely, the Supreme Court explained that it is the duty of Members of Congress to “look diligently into every affair of government and to talk much about what it sees” (11). If this were not the case, members of the public would not be able to act as informed voters because we would have no way of knowing whether their federal officials are performing their duty appropriately or not. In addition, I would remind them of the Third article of impeachment against President Nixon, which was for contempt of Congress (12).
Second, failure to impeach for deep-seeded corruption, such as inviting foreign governments into our election process for personal gain, is an invitation to more corruption going forward. A common reason I hear for impeaching President Trump is that if we do not draw the line here, then where? This particular impeachment could set a precedent for executive accountability in ways that no other impeachment has before. As I have said before, no sitting president has ever been impeached for treason. By making a point now, the American public can alleviate some fear of it ever happening again.
Third, I would point to the pattern of reckless behavior by this President time and time again. If the partisan veil is too thick to see President Trump’s crimes, act on impeachment for the greater good. To give one example, at least, consider President Trump’s decision to pull out 1,000 American troops from northern Syria has already put our Kurdish allies in grave danger, while devastating America’s credibility (13). Putting national security in harm’s way for personal gain may not be an explicitly impeachable offense, but it is tyrannical by all definitions of the word.
ARGUMENTS AGAINST IMPEACHMENT
Of course, there are many sides to this issue. One counterargument to launching an inquiry is that it will impede Congress from addressing other issues. At the moment, however, there are over two-hundred bills and resolutions that have passed the House of Representatives, addressing a wide variety of issues from climate change to gun control. Impeachment has nothing to do with why these bills are dying in the Senate. That would be on the self-proclaimed “Grim Reaper” of proposals, Senator Mitch McConnell (14). I would advise concerned constituents should take that issue up with Republican Senators before opposing the impeachment inquiry.
Another counterargument that the administration seems to support is that there is nothing wrong with seeking a foreign investigation of Hunter Biden. That to investigate the son of a political opponent is but the pursuit of justice under rule of law - not a dismissal of it. To those of this opinion, however, I would implore that you read George Washington’s farewell address to the American people – His last speech as president. Washington states that “Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence, I conjure you to believe me, the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government.” (15) George Washington, as did many of our other founders, feared tyranny above all else. The issue is not that presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son would be investigated. The issue is that President Trump failed to heed the warning of the first president and used military aid to pressure a foreign country to meddle in the nearly-sacred process of U.S. elections. If such blatant treason does not constitute an impeachable offense, I am not sure what would.
A rat will bury their nests into the darkest corners of a home. Once exposed, the rats have nowhere to go but to bury themselves further. At some point, however, they are stopped by bedrock and live at the whim of the exterminator. The sight may be ghastly, and the stench may be foul, but sunlight does wonders to kill bacteria.
END NOTES1. Sunstein, C. R. (2019). Impeachment: a citizen’s guide. New York: Penguin Books.
2. The United States Constitution, Article II, Section IV.
3. Murphy, J. (2009). The impeachment process. New York: Chelsea.
4. Interactive Constitution: The National Constitution Center. (n.d.). Retrieved here.
5. Hearn, C. G. (2007). The impeachment of Andrew Johnson. Jefferson, NC: McFarland &; Co.
6. Aaseng, N. (2000). The impeachment of Bill Clinton. San Diego, CA: Lucent Books.
7. Uschan, M. V. (2010). Watergate. Detroit: Lucent Books, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning.
8. The New York Times. (2019, September 26). Document: Read the Whistle-Blower Complaint. Retrieved here.
9. Felicia Sonmez, C. I. (2019, October 16). Pence, Giuliani will not cooperate with impeachment inquiry. Retrieved here.
10. Segers, G. (2019, October 9). White House won't cooperate with House impeachment inquiry, counsel says. Retrieved here.
11. United States v. Rumely, 345 U.S. 41 (1953)
12. Uschan, M. V. (2010). Watergate. Detroit: Lucent Books, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning.
13. The Economist. (2019, October 17). Donald Trump's betrayal of the Kurds is a blow to America's credibility. Retrieved here.
14. Montoya-Galvez, C. (2019, April 23). "Think of me as the Grim Reaper": McConnell vows to thwart Democratic proposals. Retrieved here.
15. Washington, George, 1732-1799. Farewell address Farewell address of George Washington to the
people of the United States of America, New-York, D. Fanshaw; 1852.