ABOVE PHOTO: Moderator Tiffany Cross (2nd from right) and panelists listen to audience concerns during the Q&A portion of the session. (Photo: Amy V. Simmons)
Since his election in November 2016, President Donald Trump and his administration have waged a war upon our nation’s precedents and norms with their incendiary rhetoric and outright cruel policies. From his failure to divest from his businesses to his attempts to obstruct justice as outlined in the Mueller report, it now falls upon Congress to determine whether his actions have risen to the level of “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”
By Amy V. Simmons
The United States of America is in the midst of a full-blown leadership crisis. Now that the 2020 presidential election season is now officially underway, pressure is mounting on Congress to make a move regarding the impeachment of President Donald Trump.
Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver II (D- Mo.) hosted a panel at the 49th Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference entitled “To Impeach or Not to Impeach” which explored several possible actions that Congress must consider in response to Trump’s flagrant disregard of regular order, the Constitution and the rule of law.
The panel many included former U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman and author of “The Case for Impeaching Trump”; Rep. Stacey Plaskett (At-Large, US Virgin Islands) and Rep. G. K. Butterfield( D- N.C.), chief deputy whip, House Democratic Caucus.
Tiffany Cross, political commentator, co-founder and managing editor of The Beat DC was the session’s moderator.
The panel discussed the pros and cons of impeachment, as well as other remedies.
There is a danger in not acting at all, said Holtzman — who was a member of the House Judiciary Committee that voted to impeach President Richard Nixon.
“I believe that Donald Trump will hit the Democrats over the head if they don’t do these investigations and if there is no action, and [he] will say, ‘See? This was all fake news, this was all a hoax. They knew from the get-go there was nothing there!’” she said. “My view is that the very least we can do, by doing a thorough, serious investigation, is to create a record and make the charges.”
The Mueller investigation and report alone as it stands was disjointed and lacks a narrative, Holtzman said.
“We need a narrative,” she said. “Maybe the narrative comes from articles of impeachment, or maybe the narrative comes from just a report that is issued, not articles of impeachment after this, but we can create a record. And don’t think that that record, even if it doesn’t lead to impeachment, can’t affect the outcome of this election [in 2020]. We cannot close our eyes to that.”
Both Butterfield and Plaskett acknowledged the difficulty of conducting a successful impeachment trial without Republican support.
“If we do go through with it, it will be an impeachment off of the books, but not anything that removes him,” Plaskett said. “If we don’t do it, is [there] the possibility that there will be additional actions that he takes in the next Congress,[and] that we can [still] do impeachment at that point if — God forbid — he should win. Yes, that is the case also.”
Whatever happens, Trump could still be subject to possible prosecution through the Southern District of New York as a private citizen once he leaves office, she said.
“Since they have not taken action now, does not mean if he leaves office, either by not being reelected, that it does not preclude them from allowing felony charges to be lodged against him,” Plaskett said.
She then pointed to some of the current actions that have been taken to hold the president to account.
“Trump Hotel [in Washington, DC] is a federal property,” Plaskett said. “ He is not supposed to have federal property in his hands while he’s president. So we have a lawsuit because GAO refuses to give us the lease agreement. We’ve been successful in lawsuits against Deutschebank and others to try and get his records. Those are the things that our subpoena power [achieves] — to call people before our committees, and let the American people hear exactly what’s going on. Those are the tools in our toolkit that I think members of Congress are utilizing now.”
Business owner Gregory Hodge, director of marketing and business development for AvDyne AeroServices in Glen Burnie, Maryland, and a former federal prisoner, voiced his frustration with the situation during the Q&A portion of the session, particularly when it comes to the trust people placed in Congress during the midterm election to address the issues raised by Trump’s actions since taking office.
“Either we have laws or we don’t,” he said. “I wasn’t even going to the Eastern District and lying my behind off — that would have been more time. What does it say to somebody who has been through the scarlet letter of our judicial system when somebody [else] can say that their privilege is enough for them and their families to lie and walk. … either you’re going to do something now House leadership, or you’re not.”
“I think that you would hope that our leadership, and our vision for what this America is, is a long term strategic one, and that you put us in power because you believe that over the long term our strategy is for the best of us going forward,” Plaskett responded. “It’s just like in school, [if] someone hits me. I’m not going to hit them in front of the teacher, but I’m sure enough going to get them after school is over. I think that’s what some of us are thinking about. Me “popping” Trump right now is not going to be the best outcome for my four sons and their long term benefit, but sure enough, getting him out of office so that there is a Department of Justice that will go after him on January 21 and not just impeach him, but put him in jail, [will].”
“I’m on the Financial Services Committee; we’re dealing with Deutschebank right now, and we have a whistleblower,” Butterfield added. “I had dinner a few months ago with the attorney general of New York [Letitia James]. If you think Donald Trump is getting away with things, you don’t know about her. … this is his worst nightmare, because nobody can pardon him on any charges she brings forward.”
“All of us end up trying to get information to the American public that they may not have so that we can change opinions,” Cleaver said in his concluding remarks, which were followed by a reading of excerpts from the resolution for impeachment that was passed at the NAACP’s annual convention on July 22, 2019 by board chairman Leon W. Russell.
The resolution — which is currently subject to revision — will not become the official policy of the NAACP until it is ratified by the national board of directors at their October board meeting in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where it may be tweaked further prior to ratification.
It reads as follows:
Calling for the Impeachment of Donald John Trump, President of the United States of America
WHEREAS, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (“NAACP”) upholds the bedrock principle “no one is above the law”; and
WHEREAS, the Constitution of the United States of America is the supreme law of the land; and
WHEREAS, Article 2, Section 4 of the United States Constitution states “The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”; and
WHEREAS, in his capacity as President of the United States, unmindful of the high duties of his high office, of the dignity and proprieties thereof, and of the harmony, and respect necessary for stability within the society of the United States, Donald John Trump has with his bigoted statements harmed the American society by attempting to convert and by converting his bigoted statements into United States policy and by associating the presidency and the people of the United States with bigotry on one or more occasions; and
WHEREAS, on January 27, 2017, Donald John Trump issued Executive Order 13769 providing for a partial shutdown of immigration from mainly Muslim countries to fulfill a bigoted campaign promise that read as follows: “DONALD J. TRUMP STATEMENT ON PREVENTING MUSLIM IMMIGRATION (New York, NY) December 7th, 2015—Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what’s going on,” thereby attempting to convert a bigoted campaign promise into United States policy, associating the presidency and the people of the United States with bigotry, thereby casting contempt upon Muslims, inciting hate and hostility, and sowing discord among the people of the United States on the basis of religion; and
WHEREAS, on July 26, 2017, Donald John Trump made a public statement substantially as follows: ‘‘After consulting with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail,’’ thereby attempting to convert his bigoted statement into United States policy, associating the presidency and the people of the United States with bigotry, thereby casting contempt on transgender individuals, inciting hate and hostility, and sowing discord among the people of the United States on the basis of gender; and
WHEREAS, on August 15, 2017, Donald John Trump made a widely-published statement characterizing a group of anti-Semites, bigots, racists, white nationalists, and Ku Klux Klansmen who rallied in Charlottesville, Virginia, as ‘‘very fine people,’’ thereby associating the presidency and the people of the United States with bigotry; and
WHEREAS, on October 7, 2017, hate groups returned to Charlottesville, Virginia, at the statue of Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general, chanting ‘‘You will not replace us!’’ after having chanted in their August Charlottesville rally that ‘‘Jews will not replace us!’’ Since this event on October 7, the President has made widely-published statements about many issues, including the National Football League, but has not made one widely-published statement condemning the hate groups for returning to the place where an innocent person lost her life at the hands of hate; and
WHEREAS, on January 11, 2018, Donald John Trump held a meeting with a bipartisan group of Congressional leaders that focused primarily on legislation that would provide a statutory protected status for individuals brought to the United States without documentation. At this meeting, as has been widely-published, Donald John Trump made references to people from s- h-i-t-h-o-l-e (or s-h-i-t-h-o-u-s-e) countries. He also questioned why we need more Haitians or people from African countries, proclaiming that we should take them out. Donald John Trump then suggested that Norwegians were better suited to be immigrants to this country, thereby casting contempt on citizens and noncitizens who were welcomed here by previous Presidents due to natural disaster and civil unrest, thereby attempting to convert his bigoted statements into United States policy, associating the presidency and the people of the United States with bigotry, inciting hate and hostility, and sowing discord among the people of the United States on the basis of national origin; and
WHEREAS, it has been widely reported that in April 2018, the United States Justice Department commenced a “Zero Tolerance” Policy requiring all cases of unlawful entry into the United States be prosecuted; causing thousands of children to be separated from their parents without a prudent plan to reunite all of the said children with their parents. And notwithstanding Donald John Trump having signed an executive order to end the family separations at the border in June 2018, many children have not been reunited with their parents as of July 22, 2019; and
WHEREAS, the House of Representatives on July 16, 2019, strongly condemned President Donald John Trump’s racist comments that have legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color by saying that our fellow Americans who are immigrants, and those who may look to the President like immigrants, should “go back” to other countries, by referring to immigrants and asylum seekers as “invaders” and by saying that Members of Congress who are immigrants, or those of our colleagues who are wrongly assumed to be immigrants, do not belong in Congress or the United States of America; and
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that Donald John Trump is unfit to be President, is unfit to represent the American values of decency and morality, respectability and civility, honesty and propriety, reputability and integrity, is unfit to defend the ideals that have made America great, is unfit to defend liberty and justice for all as extolled in the Pledge of Allegiance, is unfit to defend the American ideal of all persons being created equal as exalted in the Declaration of Independence, is unfit to ensure domestic tranquility, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity as lauded in the preamble to the United States Constitution, is unfit to protect government of the people, by the people, for the people as elucidated in the Gettysburg Address; and
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) go on record in supporting Congressman Al Green in his efforts to impeach President Donald Trump.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that in all this, the aforementioned Donald John Trump has, by his statements, brought the high office of the President of the United States in contempt, ridicule, disgrace, and disrepute, has sown seeds of discord among the people of the United States, has demonstrated that he is unfit to be President, and has betrayed his trust as President of the United States to the manifest injury of the people of the United States; and
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that Donald John Trump, by causing such harm to the society of the United States, is unfit to be President and warrants impeachment and trial.