EDITOR'S NOTE: This opinion piece is the second submission from a group of four citizen authors of differing ideologies who meet numerous times to discuss public issues and seek agreement on public policy solutions.
By John Agar, Roger Bernier,
Rick Dean and Richard Hammes
For our democracy to function effectively, Americans with different points of view must be able to talk to each other respectfully and work through their different perspectives. Our hope is that if we can succeed often in reaching agreement on thorny issues, others might be encouraged to join our group and we can begin to serve as a credible model for the type of change needed in our political discourse at all levels.
We have read widely about impeachment related issues, met face to face, and exchanged emails and multiple draft documents on the topic. This article describes an agreement we reached on how best to address the articles of impeachment against President Trump.
First and most importantly, we agreed that the evidence suggests that President Trump leveraged U.S. foreign aid money and the possibility of a White House meeting for his personal gain rather than the good of the country. His goal was to influence our 2020 election in his favor by pressuring the President of Ukraine to undertake investigations of the Bidens and the role of Ukrainians in the 2016 U.S. election.
Free and fair elections are the cornerstone of a healthy democracy and we agree President Trump's alleged wrongdoing was his willingness to sacrifice the integrity of our election for his own benefit.
Also, the Democratic controlled House concluded that President Trump obstructed the work of the Congress, which is empowered to investigate what it considers wrongdoing by the President. He refused to turn over documents and, on the grounds of executive privilege, blocked key witnesses from testifying.
In the judgment of the House, this is one branch of government disempowering another branch, and violates the intent of the Constitution. However, the President himself was not obligated to assist in his own impeachment inquiry.
While courts have tended to limit the scope of executive privilege, the House did not wait for their judgment. Whatever that judgment might have been, it would have been in a civil case, not a criminal one involving misdemeanors or high crimes.
Nonetheless, based on these considerations, the House made a political decision that impeaching President Trump was in the best interest of the country. It appears, however, the Senate will not convict the President, because Senators are said to be likely to vote along party lines, and Republicans outnumber Democrats. This is largely what took place in reverse in the House, with Democrats in the majority and a near perfect partly line vote to impeach.
While acknowledged to be a political process, this impeachment appears to us to have become excessively politicized. It failed to receive bipartisan support in the House and appears unlikely to earn significant bipartisan support in the Senate. Demanding such support could serve as a safeguard against the impeachment process being abused by any party in the majority. Impeachment supported by only one party is a grave concern.
Because the evidence of the President's wrongdoing is concerning, especially for the first article on abuse of power, but bipartisan support is lacking, our dialogue group agreed that a sound course of action would be for the Senate to agree on a resolution to censure President Trump for his harmful actions, but not remove him from office.
This would help reaffirm the importance of candidly dealing with facts and evidence in our political discourse. It could help reinforce the President's oath to defend the constitution and the integrity of our democratic system and prevent him from abusing his power for personal gain in the future.
Finally, censure might reasonably gain bipartisan support, while at the same time acknowledging that removing a President from office without bipartisan support is an undesirable outcome for the country now or in the future.
The actual censure resolution could use some of the wording from the articles of impeachment to describe the President's wrongdoing and its potential impact on the country. It could note that the wrongdoing raises serious concerns for a bipartisan majority of the Senate even if it does not quite rise to the level of warranting conviction on the impeachment charges.
Such a resolution would not allow the wrongdoing to go unpunished completely, while recognizing the importance of avoiding excessive politicization in a process as serious as removing a duly elected President from office.
Our dialogue group is poised to grow larger following the inclusion of new members who became interested after reading about our first agreement on gun violence. If you can have an open mind, are willing to learn regardless of your political views or party, and would like to join or learn more about our group, contact Richard Hammes at firstname.lastname@example.org.
John Agar, Rick Dean and Richard Hammes live on Hilton Head Island; Roger Bernier is a resident of Okatie.