If you missed out or were disgusted by the impeachment hearings in the House Judiciary Committee last week, I don’t blame you.
I just hope you saw Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-WA).
Impeachment is a test of courage and conscience.
And for those lacking both, Jayapal was there to help.
From her opening statement, describing herself as a young girl who immigrated from India to the U.S. by herself at age 16, she was speaking for many of us. An immigrant who knew the value of being an American, she held up a copy of the Constitution and defended it throughout the hearings.
When she spoke, she reassured the country we had all we needed to impeach.
“The president himself is the smoking gun,” she said, referring to Trump’s action regarding Ukraine.
She was sticking to the facts, while the Republicans tried to distract and confuse everyone by avoiding direct refutation on the issue.
Jayapal constantly challenged her Republican colleagues to put politics aside and say that what the president did—engage a foreign power to interfere in our elections and help his own campaign—was never acceptable behavior.
Republicans said nothing.
In the cultish politics of Trump, you only say what the leader allows you to say.
Clearly, Donald Trump has learned something from his intimate meetings with Kim Jong Un.
Jayapal pointed out that Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) did say that it was OK to “involve” a foreign country, and not “interfere.”
But there’s no difference.
It all works to diminish your vote and take power away from the American people.
Jayapal consistently hammered home the idea that if we allow Trump to get away with what he’s done, then it will put all presidents in the future above the law.
“We will no longer be a democracy,” she said. “We will be a monarchy or a dictatorship.”
Let that send a chill down your spine, all ye freedom lovers.
THE SOMBER VOTE
And so on Friday the 13th, you can understand the solemnity of the Judiciary Committee’s vote to move two articles of impeachment–for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress–to the full House for a final debate and vote.
The 23-17 vote may have been along party lines, but it was a picture of diversity.
It looked like America speaking.
Nine votes came from a solid block of people of color, men and women, including Jayapal. And there would have been a tenth had Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) been there instead of recuperating from a heart procedure.
Lieu had tweeted after the Dec. 9 hearing the key findings of the case: that Trump abused the power of his office to pressure a foreign nation to interfere in U.S. elections; that Trump withheld $391 million in aid and a White House meeting; that Trump’s conduct undermined national security; and that Trump engaged in unprecedented obstruction of Congress to do so.
Apparently, it was all enough to make him sick.
The next day, he was in the hospital, according to his office staff.
Lieu’s vote would have made the committee vote 24-17. He’s expected to be back for the full vote in the coming week. But there’s already a majority of votes in the House to impeach.
But not to remove Trump. That’s for the Senate to decide in January.
Still, an impeached Trump will soon be a thing.
It will be like drawing a big red “I” on his cheek, fitting for the megalomaniac-in-chief.
Every step of this process is all at once both new and historic. It’s a news person’s fantasy.
Impeachment has only happened four times in 243 years, and only three if you consider that Nixon resigned before he could be officially impeached.
The question to everyone in America, but to the political class especially, is where were you when democracy was put to the test?
What did you do to save it?
If you sent in a note of support to your Congress or told a friend to watch the hearings, that may be enough In our representative democracy.
The diverse block of “Aye” votes were somber and forthright.
And then came the “No” votes, primarily white males, all angry, defiant, and anything but forthright.
It could be the future of politics in America, where people of color, fast becoming the majority, are constantly butting heads with the white minority.
It would be more helpful if the Republicans did more than vote their political self-interests, facts be damned.
The facts are undisputed: The president made that call to Ukraine. The president withheld money for an ally fighting Russia. The president said he wanted a “favor” of investigations into a tech company suspected of hacking and into his political rival, Joe Biden. Abuse of power.
And then the president did all he could to prevent Congress from investigating. Obstruction.
The Republican strategy was to bring up irrelevancies.
The most egregious might have been Rep. Matt Gaetz, infamously arrested for DUI in the past, though he saw no shame in going after Hunter Biden’s past substance abuse as evidence to discredit the son of Joe Biden.
It all amounted to a massive delaying tactic.
For fourteen hours on Thursday alone, after a marathoner on Wednesday, the talk went on. Was it the undoing of the 2016 election? A Democratic coup? What about the economy?
Republicans even asked if two articles of impeachment were enough or was it, as Trump put it, “impeachment lite”?
I don’t know of any defense attorney who ever got away with saying, “Your honor, the defendant only killed one man.”
NOT ABOUT TRUMP
I was hoping to hear the Republicans sound like the founders themselves, engaging in enlightened debate about the Constitution.
The Republicans needed to rise to the occasion. But they didn’t.
The full House now debates the issue and votes, probably by the end of the week.
I’m sure we’ll see the arguments made in committee come back before the full House in a sycophantic attempt by Republicans to show Trump love.
But the real love will come if Republicans remember Jayapal’s words, and find the courage to acknowledge the truth, for the sake of the country and the Constitution.
Will we see it?
We’ll probably hear about a dozen more conspiracy theories before a Republican finds the courage to vote his or her conscience, knock Trump off his high horse, and go with the truth.
What will we do to save our democracy as we know it?
That’s the test of this impeachment.