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.
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.