House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently announced that she was directing three House committees to open an “impeachment inquiry” based upon the whistle-blower complaint filed with the CIA Inspector General.
The whistle-blower complaint and the written transcript of the phone conversation between President Trump and Ukrainian President Zelensky have been released by the Trump Administration.
Mr. Trump calls the call “perfect”; Democrats call it evidence of an impeachable offense.
It likely was neither.
First, President Trump often says ill-considered and harmful things; while Twitter insults to political opponents have become the cringe-inducing norm for our 45th President, Mr. Trump’s contention that his referencing former Vice-President Biden and his son in the conversation with his presidential counterpart was “perfect” is patently untrue.
A “perfect” conversation wouldn’t have convulsed the nation and inspired the initial complaint. Mr. Trump’s later suggestion that China should investigate Biden and his son was also wrong. The notion of a US president calling upon a closed, authoritarian communist government to investigate a potential political rival was clearly wrong and indeed, outrageous.
Second, the Democrats haven’t covered themselves in glory either.
Reviewing the statements of Nancy Pelosi and Jerry Nadler from 1998 where they argued that an impeachment couldn’t be sustained if it was done on a partisan basis are revealing when compared with their statements today. Their arguments then, highlight their hypocrisy now.
More important, unlike the Nixon and Clinton impeachment procedures, Mrs. Pelosi is not submitting the impeachment authorization to a formal vote of the House of Representatives. Whether she is doing so to avoid having to force her vulnerable members to take a hard vote or not, she is undermining the legitimacy of the impeachment investigation.
Having the support of a full vote of the House creates a solid foundation for the inevitable fights in federal court over the validity of subpoenas for information from the White House. Precedent and rules are critically important in our system and Pelosi is making a major blunder by not following the example made in the Nixon and Clinton matters.
Impeachment and the potential to remove a president after a vote in the Senate means that there were compelling and incontrovertible grounds to overturn the results of a presidential election. It cannot be accomplished or even considered unless procedural standards of fairness are maintained. Both sides in a matter this grave should be entitled to subpoena information and interrogate witnesses; yet Democrats have set up a process which shuts out Republicans. This inherent unfairness will surely taint any potential impeachment vote, if one takes place, in the minds of many Americans.
Impeachment cannot be a partisan exercise and no matter how much Mr. Trump is hated and reviled by his Democratic opponents and no matter how much he often disturbs many Republicans by his behavior, he was elected our 45th President.
Impeachment will also make it impossible for many other pressing issues to be considered, including the revised NAFTA agreement critical to our manufacturers and farmers, critical issues on drug pricing and surprise medical bills, as well as a host of other national security and domestic issues.
The 2020 election is already in full swing and voters go to the polls in just 13 months to decide who occupies the White House. Better to let the people decide this question. In the meantime, both sides in Congress and the Administration would be better advised to spend their time actually getting something done for the nation.
Former Representative John Faso of Kinderhook represented New York's 19th House district in the 115th Congress.
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