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Impeachment is Not a Political Weapon

December 24, 2019
Weekly Columns

While history was made in the United States last week, it was sadly done so as a result of hyper partisan politics and Democrats’ longtime dislike of President Donald Trump. Though Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared an impeachment inquiry in the U.S. House of Representatives was underway earlier this fall, sparks first flew the moment the president was elected and caught fire when Democrats took control of the House this Congress, setting off politically-motivated and fruitless investigations into the Trump Administration. With that record, it should come as no surprise then that the process Democrats pursued to impeach the president was flawed – purely partisan, blatantly unfair and clearly crafted for a pre-ordained outcome.

Unlike any impeachment proceedings in modern history, the process has been partisan from the start, contradicting Speaker Pelosi’s own words and assurances. Back in March of this year, she said, “Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there's something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don't think we should go down that path, because it divides the country.” Certainly, on something as consequential as impeaching the president, it is a disservice to the American people for one political party to dictate the terms of the process and then to charge ahead on a vote, with disputable evidence – especially when there’s an election less than 11 months away, when voters can decide, at the ballot box, whether or not to remove him from office. Unfortunately, that’s exactly how things have played out in the House.

While I was not on the investigating committees for impeachment, related matters twice moved through the House Rules Committee, where I serve as the Ranking Republican. First, the committee dealt with setting the actual process for impeachment in the House. Though Speaker Pelosi declared an impeachment inquiry was underway at the end of September, it wasn’t until late October that a House vote was scheduled to authorize the inquiry and a process was put forward by Democrats. However, before the Rules Committee received the process resolution, weeks of closed-door hearings led by Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff had already taken place. By the time Democrats bothered with an official process for impeachment, it was clearly an attempt to legitimize what they’d already been doing.

It’s worth noting that during the Nixon and Clinton impeachments, both sides treated the process with the seriousness it deserved, negotiating and finding agreement across the aisle to ensure fairness and due process for all involved in the inquiry. In stark contrast, the unfair process laid out by Democrats to impeach President Trump was absent any Republican input. Moreover, it limited the president’s right to due process and trampled the rights of the Republican minority. At the outset, I warned Democrats were treading on shaky ground with such a flawed and partisan process, obviously crafted to ensure a pre-ordained outcome. That was made clearer when Democrats refused to include any of the 17 constructive amendments proposed by Republicans.

In the weeks that followed, the flawed process was tarnished further by the speed with which Democrats on the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees rushed to deliver their pre-determined judgment – to impeach the president for something, anything, whether stones were left unturned or whether there was sufficient evidence at all. At the end of it, Democrats chose to impeach President Trump over something that did not happen.

The entire premise of the two articles of impeachment rest on a pause placed on Ukrainian security assistance – a pause of 55 days. Throughout the impeachment hearings, we heard Democrats over and over again spin creative narratives as to the meaning and motive of this pause, alleging that the president demanded a “quid pro quo” but with no factual evidence to back it up. The fact is security aid to Ukraine was released, and the Administration did so without Ukraine ever initiating an investigation into anyone or anything. Tellingly, the articles passed out of the Judiciary Committee on a straight party line vote.

Ahead of the vote on the partisan impeachment articles, the Rules Committee was tasked with setting the terms of floor debate. During our daylong hearing and again during floor debate, I warned about the damaging consequences the Democrats’ rush to impeach could have in the days ahead and how it should concern every single one of us. In the short term, impeachment will sharpen partisanship and political differences nationwide, but it will also make it much more difficult to enact meaningful and bipartisan legislation in the future. More alarming in the long term though, it sets an unfair precedent that runs the risk of legitimizing impeachment as an acceptable weapon that can now be used in partisan political warfare.

After all the drama and rush to impeach by Christmas, I am troubled that Speaker Pelosi is now threatening to withhold the impeachment articles from the U.S. Senate until she knows how the process for a trial will go. The fact that she suddenly cares about fairness is political hypocrisy at its worst, and it confirms that she intends to cheapen impeachment to be used as a political weapon.