Impeachment: The People’s Court, a citizen’s perspective

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As I See It

by ELPIDIO R. ESTIOKO

The impeachment proceedings started its public hearings this week and US President Donald Trump is going through a public scrutiny, a process otherwise interpreted in layman’s language as the people’s court.

This is the case because the US Congress went public to build their case to the American people that President Trump violated the US constitution by committing impeachable act or actions unlikely for a US president to do which are violations of the Constitution they pledged to uphold as duly elected public officials.

The impeachment inquiry was made official as a result of the whistleblower complaint when the US Congress passed it with a majority vote of 232 to 196. There were 231 Democrats who voted yes, 2 no and one did not vote. The GOP voted 0 yes, 194 no and 3 did not vote while there was one independent who voted yes for a vote of 232 to 196.

In the Senate, it’s expected to vote also along party line with 47 Democrats and 53 GOP senators and they need 2/3 of the 100 lawmakers to pass the resolution. Most likely, at this point in time, it’s not happening, with only about five vocal senators who may be inclined to vote no but not sure because they might ultimately side with the president at the end… depending upon the outcome of the public hearings.

What will happen then if this is the case? Is it an exercise in futility? Or, is it a worthy exercise?

I think it is a worthy exercise. It is the right thing to do considering that nobody is above the law, including the president, and elected officials are supposed to be upholding the US constitution. We should not overlook this as the public hearings progresses. Three witnesses testified this week: State Department official George Kent and top US Ukraine diplomat Bill Tylor testified last Wednesday and former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch appeared last Friday. Next week, eight more witnesses will testify.

So, fellow Americans, let’s try to drop all our bias first and then follow the public hearings.

After a week or so of public deliberations, if we think that there is a clear case of violation of the Constitution, solid evidence of abuse of power, and that there is a preponderance of evidence, let’s support impeachment. If not, then, it’s a political exercise we need to drop.

There seem to be a strong case against the president as indicated by the initial closed door testimonies impartial witnesses, but we need to hear it from people who witnessed and are knowledgeable of what really happened. Let’s remember that public opinion plays a major role in people’s court.

The idea, however, is to be involved, tune in your television, watch the presentation, and analyze the situation. We need a public validation before we decide to condemn the president. Public opinion matters. It shapes public perception and may led to impeachment.

Now, if your senators saw your sentiments in favor of impeachment, they might change their mind and vote “yes” in the resolution. Remember, they represent you and you are their constituents. They will be following the public hearings and how their constituents are reacting, so with your reactions and preferences in the issue at hand, they may be influenced in their decision.

The inquiry focuses on Trump’s request in a July 25 telephone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate a domestic political rival, Joe Biden, the former vice president who is a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination to face Trump in the 2020 election.

Last week, a senior Republican senator predicted the resolution would never get a vote on the Senate floor because it would put vulnerable incumbents and GOP senators who have expressed concerns over Trump’s conduct in a very tough position. They may be thinking of their re-election.

But, maybe…. Let’s consider this: Political observers say there are two key groups in the GOP caucus who are worth watching as the impeachment saga moves to the Senate. The first is made up of veteran senators who’ve announced their retirement in 2020. This group includes Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina (whose current term lasts until 2022 but who announced that 2016 would be the last time he’d run for elective office), Sen. Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia, and Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas.

The second group consists of GOP senators who are facing close re-election races and have to balance between pleasing President Trump’s reliable base of voters and the moderates and independents they may need to secure their seats. These include: Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, Senator Ernst of Iowa, Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona, and Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina.

Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, on the other hand, belongs to neither category, but has become President Trump’s most vocal Republican critic in the chamber. Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska has also regularly taken positions independent of the party line.

Writer Ed Kilgore, in his article, said “Impeachment is to official misconduct… and the procedure for congressional impeachment of Executive branch officials was spelled out in some detail in the U.S. Constitution. Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution specifically mentions “treason” and “bribery” as grounds for impeachment, but it also stipulates that “other High Crimes and Misdemeanors” are sufficient. It’s important to understand that when the Constitution was adopted, the term “misdemeanors” had not assumed its later meaning as a type of criminal offense. According to the most common interpretation of this language, impeachment does not require the allegation of a crime, but simply some grave act or pattern of misconduct deemed by Congress as necessitating this radical remedy.”

So, how long does the impeachment proceedings go? The impeachment hearings has begun and may have to go into the 2020 presidential election cycle because there’s no clear expectation about the duration or depth of impeachment hearings.

On the other hand, the pace could be dictated by public opinion, which has been moving slowly but steadily in the pro-impeachment direction. This might be fast-tracked by the public hearings going on.

Let us be involved! The people’s court is in session!

(Elpidio R. Estioko, was a veteran journalist in the Philippines and an award-winning journalist here in the US. For feedbacks, comments… please email author at estiokoelpidio@gmail.com).

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