And so our trial begins

Ann McFeatters

WASHINGTON (Tribune News Service) — And so it begins. Our trial as a people.

The question before us is whether we can get past our animosities and social and political divisions to handle the upcoming clash over Donald Trump’s actions and save our institutions.

Somebody noted that the Mueller investigation was about foreign interference in our 2016 presidential election, while the new Ukraine investigation is about foreign interference in the upcoming 2020 election.

Sounds simple; it’s not because we no longer agree on what facts are. What is one lawmaker’s unconstitutional demand by a president that a foreign leader become involved in our domestic politics is another lawmaker’s innocent request by a president for a favor from a foreign leader in return for $391 million worth of anti-tank military weapons.

To half the country, Trump’s conversation with Ukraine’s president asking him to investigate Joe Biden’s son’s business activities in Ukraine before Trump would release money Congress appropriated for Ukraine is a clear abuse of power. They argue it is a matter of national honor and preservation of U.S. democracy to hold the president accountable.

But to the other half, it is another effort to turn the country against a president whom they love. To them, Trump’s clearly troubling conversation with Ukraine’s president – the White House released notes about Trump’s call with the Ukraine president showing Trump offered Ukraine the help of the U.S. attorney general to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden— is just how Trump rolls. They understand that Trump would do anything to be re-elected and to them that is a good thing.

What is clear is that we are going to have one of the ugliest, most bitter confrontations in our nation’s tumultuous history.

If after six House committees hold investigations of Trump, the House does decide to vote to undertake a vote to impeach Trump, the vote will be close but will proceed along party lines. The House will vote to impeach. (The House has 235 Democrats, 198 Republicans, one independent and one Republican vacancy.)

After a House vote to impeach, the matter goes to the Senate for a trial, presided over by the chief justice of the Supreme Court. Since Republicans control the Senate, (there are 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and two independents who vote with Democrats) and because it takes 67 votes to convict, it is likely Trump will not be convicted and will remain in office. Two presidents (Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton) have been impeached; no president has ever been removed from office by a Senate vote. Richard Nixon was urged to resign by Republicans who told him he would lose an impeachment vote.

Meanwhile, Trump is in full fightback mode, complaining to everyone he sees about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to unleash the forces of impeachment against him. At the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, other leaders sat by expressionless while Trump vented his rage against Pelosi and House Democrats.

Democrats are worried that the public is not on board with a full impeachment investigation of Trump and may take it out on them in the elections of 2019. But Democratic hardliners are arguing that the Constitution means nothing if the president can thwart it and pay no penalty. They hope to convince the public over the next few months that impeachment proceedings are necessary.

Republicans say that even though Trump’s telephone call with Ukraine’s president is obviously troubling, asking another country to investigate a political rival does not rise to the level of an impeachable offense.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who pursued impeachment proceedings against Clinton, said of this case: “From my point of view, to impeach any president over a phone call like this would be insane.” He then tweeted “Democrats have lost their minds when it comes to (Trump).”

Whatever the ultimate outcome, it is not likely much regular business will get done in Congress while impeachment fever afflicts the nation’s capital.

We have to hope that at the end of this long, bumpy road we now all have to tread, historians will not say, “and this is how the path to the end of democracy began.”

Ann McFeatters is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may send emails to Distributed by Tribune Content Agency. © 2019 Tribune Content Agency.

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(6) comments

hermit thrush

But to the other half, it is another effort to turn the country against a president whom they love.

hard to know what's worse, the idea that anyone would lower themselves to the level of loving as odious a figure as trump, or that we can't impeach trump because that would hurt his supporters' delicate feelings.


A telephone call doesn't quite come under the umbrella of "high crimes and misdemeanors."

hermit thrush

it is fun being this detached from reality?


ISnt it fascinating how each side interprets law Andy the constitution. The writer clearly has chosen her side. I just believe it’s time for a cleansing. Out:








From the right I would vote for jim Jordan/ dan Crenshaw type ticket

From the me here! None of the current crew is exciting. I want thinkers with focus on everyday issues and not knee jerk reacting trump types. I would love to see Tom dinopoli get into politics. Our state comptroller is a worker and not overly caught up in party politics

hermit thrush

lol jim jordan


The Judiciary Committee's 1974 report "The Historical Origins of Impeachment" stated: "'High Crimes and Misdemeanors' has traditionally been considered a 'term of art', like such other constitutional phrases as 'levying war' and 'due process.' The Supreme Court has held that such phrases must be construed, not according to modern usage, but according to what the framers meant when they adopted them. Chief Justice John Marshall wrote of another such phrase:

"It is a technical term. It is used in a very old statute of that country whose language is our language, and whose laws form the substratum of our laws. It is scarcely conceivable that the term was not employed by the framers of our constitution in the sense which had been affixed to it by those from whom we borrowed it."

Since 1386, the English parliament had used the term “high crimes and misdemeanors” to describe one of the grounds to impeach officials of the crown. Officials accused of “high crimes and misdemeanors” were accused of offenses as varied as misappropriating government funds, appointing unfit subordinates, not prosecuting cases, not spending money allocated by Parliament, promoting themselves ahead of more deserving candidates, threatening a grand jury, disobeying an order from Parliament, arresting a man to keep him from running for Parliament, losing a ship by neglecting to moor it, helping “suppress petitions to the King to call a Parliament,” granting warrants without cause, and bribery. Some of these charges were crimes. Others were not. The one common denominator in all these accusations was that the official had somehow abused the power of his office and was unfit to serve.[

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