By Elpidio R. Estioko
The entire universe witnessed on world-wide television US President Donald Trump impeached by the US Congress on December 18, 2019, thus becoming the third president in US history impeached by the Legislature. Just like the rest of the world, I watched the proceedings because I want to be a part of a very historic event.
I learned that there were two other U.S. presidents formally impeached by Congress. They were Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. I likewise learned that no U.S. president has ever been removed from office through impeachment and so I surmise that this will likely happen in the case of Trump since the Senate is GOP-dominated, Trump’s party, and the lawmakers are voting along party line. In fact, Democrats need 20 GOP senators to side with them to be able to get the two-thirds vote to impeach Trump. This is far from reality… but who knows? There are about six senators who are very vocal and another six who are trying to weigh their options based on the outcome of the trial. Will there be more? But the question is: Will there be a trial in the first place?
In addition to Johnson, Clinton, and Trump, President Richard Nixon also faced formal impeachment inquiries but he resigned before the actual voting on the floor occurred. Many other presidents have been threatened with impeachment but these did not gain any actual traction in Congress.
What happens next? The entire universe is in a quandary as of this moment! We still don’t know when because House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is holding on the two articles of impeachment until such time that Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell shall have laid down the rules of the trial with Senate Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer agreeing to it. Once the rules are set, Pelosi will be forwarding the two articles of impeachment to the Senate and will be naming the Democratic managers who will be arguing for Trump’s impeachment. The trial will be presided over by Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts with the senators serving as jurors.
The GOP is saying that Pelosi has no right to delay or withhold the impeachment articles while the Democrats argue there’s no law prohibiting them from delaying the articles of impeachment. They will send it to the Senate anyway once they are assured of fair trial. For the meantime, the world is waiting… and will be waiting…
Reacting to the House impeachment decision, Fe Malagayo-Alluri, a Filipino-Canadian who considers herself a citizen of the world being impacted by the impeachment proceedings said: “For goodness sake, for the sake of the US and the whole planet, it is better if the US President is impeached.”
For his part, Vocations Instructor Ruel Manipis from San Jose said, “Nobody is above the law… not even President Trump!”
What I’m asking myself is: If Trump kept on telling the people that he is innocent and didn’t do anything wrong, how come he is preventing probable witnesses to testify? Why not just allow them to take the witness stand, so if the evidence say he is not guilty, then he can be exonerated. But, if the evidence show he is, then, he should be impeached by all means. Is he hiding something? Is this one of the bluffs he forwarded? Meaning, saying things but not doing it like stating he will release his income tax returns, but he never did it; will allow witnesses, but he is blocking them to testify; etc.
Majority Leader McConnell has indicated that he doesn’t want witnesses to testify in Mr. Trump’s trial. Democrats, on the other hand, insist they want to hear from four witnesses whose testimonies the White House blocked during the House investigation. Among them are acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton. If they allow them to testify, then the GOP can also invoke former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden to testify to be fair and that will balance the trial. This way, we will be able to way both sides and come out with the truth. This is what fairness is all about!
Another thing is: Why is McConnell acting under the direction of the President or getting signals from the Office of the President through its legal counsel when in fact he is representing a co-equal branch of the government? And… he is not under the Office of the President? Isn’t that an anomalous situation? Where is the checks and balances there?
Security officer Nestor Punzalan, also from San Jose, California, said, “What’s going on with our country? Is the rule of law dead?”
The impeachment process started in the House of Representatives with the House Judiciary Committee finding sufficient impeachable grounds, so two articles of impeachment against President Trump (abuse of power and obstruction of Congress) were written and were sent to the full House for a vote. The House voted 230-197 for the first article which is on abuse of power and 229-198 for article two which is obstruction of Congress.
A simple majority in the House is all that was needed to formally impeach the president. The House-approved articles of impeachment will then go to the final stage which is the Senate impeachment trial which needs a two-thirds of the Senate to find the president guilty of the crimes laid out in the articles of impeachment to remove him from office.
There is an impasse during this Christmas holidays, although there are rumors that the two sides are silently preparing their arguments, and most likely, the articles of impeachment will be forwarded to the Senate, hoping that between now and the first week of January 2020, McConnell should have finalized the trial rules after meeting with Schumer.
Until when will the waiting be? “I think it pays to wait,” long-time San Jose resident Andy Casabar said. “We need to resolve it… the proper way! This is democracy in action!”
(Elpidio R. Estioko was a veteran journalist in the Philippines and a multi-awarded journalist here in the US. For feedbacks, comments… please email the author @ [email protected].