Impeachment Hearing Conclusions
Yesterday the House Intelligence Committee’s two-week long impeachment hearings came to an end. I watched most of the proceedings and contemplated how these televised proceedings offer a unique window into our constitutional system of checks and balances. Since the investigation has now come to a close, let me offer my conclusions:
I find the witnesses extremely credible. Despite baseless accusations that the witnesses only testified out of dislike for President Trump, most of them were Trump-appointed officials and all readily praised his official Ukraine policy. All took their work in the government’s foreign security sector seriously. I appreciate that the witnesses refrained from offering opinions on the impeachment outcome itself, instead merely stating the facts of the case as they experienced them. They appeared professionally determined to not stray from their exact, personal knowledge. Apart from Sondland, who found it necessary to revise problematic testimony several times, each new testimony corroborated the previous witnesses’ testimonies and the whistleblower’s initial account.
The hyperpartisanship was painful. Both political teams went into the hearings with predetermined outcomes in mind, an approach which should be anathematic to every American. The Democrats presumed impeachment to be the inevitable outcome from the start. Republicans, meanwhile, repeatedly changed the subject of the hearings to attempt a referendum on Joe Biden and his son, the Russia investigation, and even the witnesses’ patriotism. Only Will Hurd (R-TX) was willing to gesture to the position of the other side when he noted serious mistakes from the president while voicing opposition to the impeachment process.
Unfortunately, I fear that the rushed nature of these hearings will ultimately damage public perception of the outcome’s validity. It would be much wiser to slow down and hear testimony from reluctant firsthand witnesses such as John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, and Mick Mulvaney – among others. I hope that they will yet testify before the House Judiciary Committee reaches a verdict.
Despite the rushed nature of the proceedings, I find the existing evidence compelling. By all accounts, it appears that President Trump engaged in attempts to leverage a political investigation for his own political benefit in exchange for essential military aid. While aid to Ukraine was ultimately released without the demands being met, the fact that the president made the demand and then obstructed justice to cover it up is clearly impeachable.
House impeachment isn’t a conviction. It is like the grand jury indictment. In a grand jury proceeding the accused is not entitled to having a lawyer present or presenting a defense. That is for the trial. The indictment merely says that there is enough evidence for a trial to be held. In this case it is the Senate who holds that trial. If the House ends up voting for impeachment, the case will then be moved to the Senate for a full trial with lawyers and witnesses for both sides.
Investigations like this need to be narrowly focused. It is better to have multiple investigations on different topics than one behemoth out-of-control investigation covering a multitude of issues. In this way, the inquiry functions as an investigation of a specific issue, rather than as a venue in which to air all partisan grievances. Members on both sides have attempted to implement arguments about unrelated issues, from the Mueller Report evidence to Hunter Biden’s involvement in Burisma. Anything not directly to investigating President Trump’s actions in Ukraine is inappropriate.
During the hearings, many Republican House members argued that foreign policy decisions are at the discretion of the President. I agree. While I disagreed with much of President Obama’s foreign policy, my disagreement did not justify a congressional investigation. Executive scandals (suspected crimes and misdemeanors, abuses of power, or constitutional overreaches) that happen to tangentially involve foreign policy decisions, however, are well within Congress’ oversight mandate. Fast and Furious, Benghazi, and the IRS Scandal during the Obama administration, for example, were fair game. I believe that this investigation is justified, too, as long as it continues to be pursued on the constitutional grounds that the President used official government channels to seek personal political benefit. The decision to withhold aid from Ukraine, divorced from an attempt to benefit personally, would merely be wrongheaded policy.
As a member of Congress, I will fight to uphold the rule of law in the government. I will work to ensure that congressional oversight of the executive branch is exercised wisely and fully. There are three co-equal branches of government, each meant to be a check on the others. It is not an unconstitutional “coup” for Congress to check the Executive Branch by investigating its actions. In fact, investigation helps prevent serious abuses of power that undermine our nation’s foundation of justice.
These hearings have epitomized Washington’s greatest problem – putting party ahead of principle and the nation’s good. When I am in Congress I will continue to research and listen to evidence before formalizing my opinions on important issues. I will work to end the hyper-partisan framing of controversial issues and individuals. I promise my constituents that my votes will be based on facts instead of team pressure.