I’m with Mitt Romney: I’d vote YES on Article I and NO on Article II.

The enormous powers of the Executive Branch should not be marshaled or weaponized to damage, investigate or monitor political opponents.

That’s a terrible precedent.

This goes for a president coaxing foreign allies either with favor or via threatened-withheld resources to get them to launch a damaging investigation, or getting them to announce one.

And it also applies to allowing a discredited opposition research paper — whether it’s called a “dossier” or simply an oppo-research paper — known at the time to have been paid for by one’s political opponents and “sourced” from abroad — and known to the FBI to have less than stellar credibility — to spark a full-blown FISA electronic monitoring and multi-year investigation effort. This electronic monitoring affected not just a private citizen but also a rival political campaign, and it was done by people with very clear partisan views. There was no valid reason for the prior administration to unmask political opponents. This whole FISA monitoring and resultant, unsubstantiated “collusion” smear campaign damaged the political opponent, damaged the institutions of the FBI and the Presidency, and consumed the nation with wild, unproven rumors for a couple of years.

The Obama Administration’s Crossfire Hurricane just prior to the 2016 election, and the attempts by the Trump Executive Branch to use federal powers to investigate a direct political opponent just prior to the 2020 election are two sides of the same corrupt coin. Tell me the consistent governing principle which decries one and yet celebrates the other.

Executive Branch abuse of office also, for that matter, should cover allowing the IRS to repeatedly harass and investigate those with a different political ideology, or those who form “small, accountable government” political action groups.

ALL those things are wrong. They are all Nixonian. I wrote about this two years ago and will share that post below.

Now, mechanically, given the political realities that a full removal vote in the Senate (i.e., requiring 2/3rds of Senators to agree) was never going to happen, I’d have favored censure.

But given these two articles as written, I think a YES on 1 and a NO on 2 is the correct vote, and it’s the one I hope I’d have cast were I in Romney’s shoes.

Why a NO on Article 2? Because it’s decidedly not impeachable “obstruction of justice” to refuse a subpoena. Otherwise, President Obama’s refusal to turn over “Fast & Furious” documents and many other occasions of presidential refusal including and predating him would have risen to an impeachable offense.

Our Constitution provides a specific and clear remedy when two branches disagree — go to the third branch, the judicial branch, to resolve it. The House did not do so. We don’t know how the courts would rule, but THAT is the right place to adjudicate this difference.

So, personally I’d have pushed for a Censure, not an Impeachment drive, but given these articles as written, I support Romney’s vote.

Two years ago, I wrote this:

I don’t see how one can rationalize the clear Executive Branch abuse that happened during “Crossfire Hurricane,” yet look the other way on a pretty clear abuse of Executive Branch powers to damage a political rival.


A friend asks:

So by that logic, no one running can be investigated? Even the Obama State department said it was conflict of interest. Trump is the top law enforcement officer of the land. How do you see an investigation happening then? Certainly there is probable cause.

I think the right thing to do, in clear cases of conflict of interest, is to hand one’s suspicions to a more “arm’s length” party for investigation, not to manage it oneself. But it’s true that they would ultimately report into the presidency.

Therefore I think it’s appropriate to have some kind of independent counsel or investigator for such a concern raised, but it should be with oversight, ideally by a bipartisan panel of three or small committee of some kind, and NOT done in wheeling-and-dealing, secret fashion behind the scenes. Otherwise we will forever be in a position of approving and even applauding “ginned up” concerns.

But your point above is I think precisely the knife’s edge here, and the question of where one draws the line, and what the “test” is or should be. For me, it’s pretty clear that it was done for political damage (as in the FISA case against Trump’s campaign), not really to root out corruption. But I also think part of it was done because he reasoned “welp, they did something just like this to me,” and he’s not wrong in that assessment. We should not let the moment go by, though we will. We will spiral forever worse and hand yet more power to the Executive Branch, when we shouldn’t.

But unfortunately, I think both the R’s and the D’s would like to play it that way, as clearly evidenced by whoever is in power at the time over the past 6 or so years.

Author

Steve's an entrepreneur and software leader. Most recently, he founded HipHip.app, a way to create celebration cards easily. He also founded bigthanks.org, helping people discover and share productive ways they can respond in times of crisis. Steve's worked on consumer apps, online travel, games, relational databases, management consulting and telecom. He launched Alignvote in 2019, which helped Seattle voters find their best-match political candidates. Steve founded BigOven, the first recipe app for iPhone, now with more than 15 million downloads, which was purchased in 2018. Steve served as Chairman of Escapia Inc., the leading SaaS solution for the US vacation rental industry, sold to Homeaway, now part of Expedia. In 1997, Steve was cofounder, President, CEO and Chairman of VacationSpot, a pioneer in the online reservation of vacation rentals, bought by Expedia in January 2000. At Expedia, Steve was Vice President of Vacation Packages, leading the vacation package and destination services teams, helping to create two patents on the first-ever dynamic vacation packaging system on the Internet, which now represents billions in annual transactions for Expedia. He has keynoted on several occasions at the Vacation Rental Managers Association (VRMA), and taught a graduate level course on the strategic management of innovation at the University of Washington Foster Business School in Seattle, Washington. Steve worked for Microsoft from 1991 to 1997 in a variety of senior marketing and executive positions, and led the creation of the internet games group, helping develop several products and patents related to online multiplayer gaming. He helped launch Microsoft Access and was involved in the acquisition of Fox Software by Microsoft in 1993. He's worked for IBM, Booz-Allen Hamilton and Bell Communications Research. He holds an MS in Computer Science from Stanford University in Symbolic and Heuristic Computation (AI), an MBA from Harvard Business School, where he was named a George F. Baker Scholar (awarded to top 5% of graduating class), and a dual BS in Applied Mathematics / Computer Science and Industrial Management from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) with University Honors. Steve volunteers when time allows with Habitat for Humanity, University District Food Bank, YMCA Seattle, Technology Access Foundation (TAF) and Speak Out Seattle, among other groups.

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