There seemed uniform agreement at the weekly Thursday night “Drinking Liberally” gathering in Waco, Texas that former special counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony at minimum changed no one’s mind and at worst was periodically painful. Consistent to form, Mueller in House testimony was reserved, cautious and understated. The problem is — as Trump’s forerunner Barry Goldwater once admonished — that “extremism in defense of liberty is no vice. Moderation in pursuit of justice is no virtue.”
By CNN’s count, as of July 25, 2019, there were 95 U.S. House Democrats favoring an impeachment inquiry. This is the same number of House Democrats who recently voted to table Texas Rep. Al Green’s call for proceeding to immediate impeachment. It’s clear that even the Democrats — particularly those elected from swing districts — aren’t yet ready to impeach Trump.
What, then, to do? Further investigations may only confirm that what Mueller says is true — something most Americans likely already have built into their calculations. If Trump is not impeached but re-elected, systemic tolerance for presidential criminality may be forever heightened. If even Democrats cannot agree to impeach, that process would be a suicide mission.
Taking into account where things stand now (and, as progressives, we do make changes based on data), we have come around to agreeing with those who urge the House to censure President Trump. We urge it be done almost entirely based on the Mueller findings, while leaving the door open to more severe action later — such as if Trump continues to obstruct law-abiding congressional inquiries.
We could spend a lot of time explaining, but we prefer to just spell it out: Those who vote against this reasonable approach will be confirmed to be Trump’s simple sycophants. Trump will stand as the only president with an active censure. (The other true censure — of Andrew Jackson — was later expunged). As a bonus, Senate participation isn’t required. Here we go:
“Whereas the independent, bipartisan Special Counsel investigation found that a hostile foreign power — Russia — actively interfered in the 2016 presidential election in an illegal manner;
“Whereas the Special Counsel found that the Trump presidential campaign sought out and welcomed such assistance;
“Whereas the Special Counsel found that President Trump and his campaign prior to the election misled the American public about the extent of Trump business interests in Russia;
“Whereas the Special Counsel found that ‘several individuals affiliated with the Trump Campaign lied to the [Counsel’s] Office, and to Congress, about their interactions with Russian-affiliated individuals and related matters’ and that ‘[t]hose lies materially impaired the investigation of Russian election interference’;
“Whereas the Special Counsel found that President Trump (and his staff) on multiple occasions sought to curtail the investigation by the Special Counsel of Russian interference in the presidential election, to prevent the public disclosure of evidence, to mislead investigators about the President’s actions, and to discourage witnesses from cooperating with the investigation;
“Whereas the Special Counsel found that some of the individuals associated with the Trump campaign whose conduct was investigated and/or who were interviewed deleted relevant communications or used means of communication that provide for encryption or non-retention of messages, and that access to the unavailable information might shed additional light on, or cast in a new light, events described by the Special Counsel;
“Whereas the President improperly has attempted to curtail congressional investigation into the above matters and others, such as by directing witnesses not to appear and asserting a frivolous objection that Congress must prove to a court a ‘legitimate legislative purpose’ for its inquiries;
“Whereas approval of this censure resolution has no binding effect on whether or not Congress later determines there to be sufficient grounds to consider impeachment of the President;
“Whereas approval of this censure neither requires nor prohibits any criminal prosecution of the President after he leaves office and may not be cited as precedent in any criminal proceeding;
“Whereas the United States Constitution requires the president to ‘take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed’ and to serve as Commander in Chief in defending the nation from foreign attack;
“Whereas the United States Constitution vests in Congress the authority to ‘provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States’;
“the House of Representatives does hereby condemn and censure the President for such violations of his fundamental constitutional duties;
“the House of Representatives further calls upon the President to protect the country from future foreign interference in our elections; and
“the House of Representatives further calls upon the President to hereafter faithfully execute the laws and to cooperate in Congress’ oversight of the activities of the Executive Branch and its representatives.”
There you have it. Congress should continue to investigate potential Trump wrongdoing. After all, there were many things Mueller did not investigate, such as whether there were other nations whose interests Trump put ahead of our own for the sake of financial gain.
But in the meantime the pressure valve on impeachment can be dissipated and the House can refocus the political dialogue on issues faced every day by everyday Americans: health-care bills that bankrupt them, climate change that is increasingly drowning and burning down their cities and a national debt that threatens to enslave our grandchildren, assuming they can literally keep their heads above water.
Let’s also put down a marker that affirms that no one is above the law. Whatever happens in 2020, history will record that at least some boldly spoke up when it was essential to do so. An all-or-nothing bet on a possible impeachment that someday might occur hopes too much in times like these when constitutional and conventional norms are broken daily and what we all assumed presidents would do holds no sway. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other members of the House, please act now. Hesitancy is not your friend, nor democracy’s.