On December 18 of last year, President Donald Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives. The two articles of impeachment charged the president with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The vote was strictly partisan; not a single Republican voted in favor of the articles, and no more than three Democrats voted against either one. Interestingly, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had originally declared that she would suspend sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate for the President to stand trial, but recently reversed this decision. As a result, the impeachment trial began on January 21.
Should Speaker Pelosi have stood her ground? Why, or why not?
I believe that she should have, as the decision to hold on to the articles is beneficial to our government’s integrity. Since the president has been impeached, our government should do all that is necessary to secure a fair impeachment trial. Our government should do all that is necessary to follow precedent in impeachment proceedings. It should do all that is necessary to ensure our legislative branch does its duty. If the articles of impeachment had been sent to the Senate immediately, our government would have done none of these things.
I certainly do not think a fair impeachment trial is being conducted because of these extenuating circumstances. In particular, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has stated that he will not be an impartial juror, reneging on his obligation as a Senator during an impeachment trial. Lindsey Graham (Republican-South Carolina) has said he’s “not pretending to be fair” with regard to the current impeachment trial. Proponents of the current Senate trial would cite the aforementioned partisan divide in the House vote. They claim the impeachment itself is being treated as a partisan process, and purport that no Senators need to act impartially. Obviously, it would be wonderful for there to have been bipartisan support or opposition to the articles of impeachment. However, abandoning this idea after it wasn’t achieved in the House vote means abandoning a key difference between the House and the Senate when it comes to impeachment. It’s that the Senate is holding a trial. A trial where the Senate acts as a jury. In standard trials, jurors are often removed for their biases and other problematic flaws. There is no such opportunity in the Senate; senators simply swear an oath to be fair. This is a promise which Senators including, but not limited to, Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham have already claimed they will revoke.
On the other side of the aisle, there are Senators for whom removing the president from office personally benefits them. Senators Elizabeth Warren (Democrat-Massachusetts), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota), Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont), and Michael Bennet (D-Colorado), all may have a vested interest in voting to remove their main Republican rival, Donald Trump, out of office. They too need to recuse themselves. Now, while it might not have been Pelosi’s intention for those Democrats to recuse themselves, their corrupting of the trial is a consequence of sending the articles to the Senate. Her first decision to prevent the articles of impeachment from being sent to this court of corruption was absolutely the correct one.
Another large problem with impeachment proceedings is that under the current state of the Senate, our government is not achieving nearly the same level of scrutiny it did during Watergate. America needs all the testimony and evidence it can receive. The day the trial began, the Senate voted against bringing new documentary evidence and witnesses to the trial by a vote of 53 to 47. This is contrary to Richard Nixon’s investigation where many top officials testified. His chief of staff, deputy chief of staff, former White House counsel, and former President Nixon himself all testified. Our government’s only opportunity to be equally thorough was the fact that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was preventing the articles of impeachment from reaching the Senate.
All in all, our government has a duty to conduct these impeachment proceedings properly. This means a fair trial. This means attaining a similar or greater amount of thorough investigation, such as what former President Richard Nixon had received. The Senate, as it is right now, is not providing these things; it is clear that allowing the articles of impeachment to be sent to the Senate was detrimental to our government’s integrity.