Rep. Gerry Connolly is a strong progressive and represents his district extremely well, but he’s probably not on anybody’s list of the most liberal members of the House of Representatives. That’s why his announcement this morning that he supports starting an impeachment inquiry is extremely interesting. This comes shortly after Jennifer Wexton has also announced her support of starting an inquiry, which was something she was hesitant to support and one of the few candidates in her primary last year who didn’t come out in support of impeachment during the campaign.
Through his role as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations for the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Connolly has made it clear that he wants to hold the Trump Administration accountable. But while I’ve heard him speak about conducting hearings and investigations, he hasn’t actively been promoting the idea of impeachment. It therefore makes sense that he declared impeachment “the most serious means of oversight we can undertake” and says it “must not be rushed, abused, or taken lightly.”
As direct evidence of why an inquiry needs to be launched, Connolly pointed to how the Mueller Report and his testimony before Congress suggests “at least ten instances in which the President of the United States obstructed justice,” Trump’s refusal to have his administration comply with Congressional subpoenas, and his violation of the emoluments clause that’s lead to his personal enrichment. And although this isn’t a cause for impeachment, the Congressman also highlighted Trump’s divisive and hateful rhetoric that’s divided our country when we needed a leader who would “call us to our better angels.”
As we’re seeing an increasing number of Members of Congress coming out in support in starting an impeachment inquiry, there’s a lot of speculation about whether or not there will be enough pressure on Speaker Nancy Pelosi to actually move forward with proceedings. There’s some legitimate reasons about why the House shouldn’t move forward, including the plain and simple fact that the Senate is extremely unlikely to convict — assuming Mitch McConnell would even allow articles of impeach to be considered on the Senate floor.
On top of that, polling shows 60% of the general public doesn’t want Congress to start impeachment hearings. While the majority of Democrats (61%) and African Americans (66%) do want to move forward with the process, it could come across as extremely partisan. Especially with the public being tired of the divisiveness in Washington that’s prevented any meaningful legislation, that narrative could also be used by the Trump during the 2020 campaign if the Senate fails to convict (which would give a sort of official exoneration to Trump’s claims).
With all that being said, Gerry Connolly is correct in his statement that the evidence suggests Trump’s behavior is worthy of the House starting an impeachment inquiry. As it stands now, it seems as though the main consideration leaders must take into account is the political consequences of moving forward with the proceedings.
For those who are interested, Connolly’s full statement can be read below the fold.
“In their wisdom, the Founders rejected the idea of an executive branch that could go unchecked, and granted the power of impeachment to Congress – one of the most serious means of oversight we can undertake – to hold accountable those in high office, including the President. It is a serious action that must not be rushed, abused, or taken lightly. But after careful thought and consideration, I believe the time has come for the House of Representatives to begin an impeachment inquiry into President Donald J. Trump. Four reasons lead me to this conclusion.
First, the gravity of the revelations in the Special Counsel’s report and testimony before Congress should trouble all Americans. The report details at least ten instances in which the President of the United States obstructed justice. Further, it chillingly warns, “The protection of the criminal justice system from corrupt acts by any person – including the President – accords with the fundamental principle of our government that “[n]o [person] in this country is so high that he is above the law.” I firmly believe, but for the flawed Justice Department opinion, President Trump would be indicted for his actions.
Second, I have seen firsthand the Trump administration’s across the board defiance of Congress’ legitimate investigations and subpoenas on everything from adding a citizenship question to the census to this Administration’s cruel and inhumane child separation policy. If these constitutionally-mandated oversight responsibilities are left undefended, our very democracy is threatened.
Third, the American people have also been witness to a president who at every opportunity has chosen to disregard the rule of law and our constitution for his own enrichment. He continues to violate the emoluments clause and his conflicts of interest are rampant. He makes decisions not for the good of the country, but for his own benefit.
Finally, I caution that we cannot allow ourselves to become so desensitized to the President’s behavior that there are no consequences. This is a man who continues to debase the office he holds. He has instilled fear and incited violence. He has called American communities infested, he has told members of Congress to go back to where they came from, he stoked the flames of white supremacy by repeatedly referring to an invasion of foreigners, and he has questioned the allegiance of our fellow Americans. At every moment, whether it was in the aftermath of Charlottesville or El Paso or Dayton, he has failed to heal our country and call us to our better angels. Instead, he has stained the Oval Office with his racism, xenophobia, and bigotry.
We stand at a perilous moment for our country. No individual should be above the law. No individual should act the way this president behaves without consequence. No administration should be allowed to disregard the constitution at their whim. Now more than ever, Congress must assert its constitutional role and that is why I believe we must immediately start an impeachment inquiry into President Trump.”