As many people have noted in the last 24 hours, Robert Mueller has said that he could not exonerate the president, is unable to charge him, and Congress can begin impeachment. If you’ve read Volume II of the Mueller Report, you are well aware that Mr. Trump attempted to obstruct justice on at least eleven occasions. These instructions are clearly “high crimes and misdemeanors,” actions worthy of impeachment proceedings.
In Federalist 65, Alexander Hamilton wrote on the character of these proceedings and the crimes. After noting how undesirable impeachment is, he wrote, “The subjects of [impeachment’s] jurisdiction are those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated POLITICAL, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.”
Any reasonable or even a skeptical reading of Vol. II meets Hamilton’s threshold. Clearly, Mr. Trump is a public official. He clearly abused his public trust by, among other things, attempting to remove Mr. Mueller through White House counsel, through former Attorney General Sessions, and through advisers, and urging the Attorney General to un-recuse himself to interfere with the investigation. He also urged his subordinates who he asked to interfere, to lie about whether he instructed them to do so. If only one-half or one-third of that is true, then we have four to six acts of obstruction. Hamilton would say these were all acts of misconduct by a public man and a violation of the “take care” clause of Article 2 Section 3 of the Constitution.
There are those who are saying, “Impeachment is unrealistic” or “Impeachment is too partisan.” Hamilton foresaw this rancor too. He wrote, “The prosecution of [impeachments], for this reason, will seldom fail to agitate the passions of the whole community, and to divide it into parties more or less friendly or inimical to the accused. In many cases it will connect itself with the pre-existing factions, and will enlist all their animosities, partialities, influence, and interest on one side or on the other; and in such cases there will always be the greatest danger that the decision will be regulated more by the comparative strength of parties, than by the real demonstrations of innocence or guilt.” This is a danger. Moreover, in a world of weaponized partisan identity, the factions may—may—be even more fractious and vicious than in Hamilton’s time. Sane and civil people have to recognize and account for skullduggery of the worst kind. But the rancor and ugliness must not stop us.
What is more important to democracy than truth and honesty? Perhaps fairness and accountability. But those two characteristics ultimately rest on the need for truth and honesty. You cannot achieve anything like fairness when lies and deceit have more sway than reality and adherence to the truth. When we give away power to those with the most, especially when we let them lie without consequence, we lose our rights because we have abandoned responsibility.
It doesn’t matter if it will be awful. Killing the truth for the sake of political niceties poisons the soil of democracy. Nothing truly Democratic will grow there again if we abandon the truth.
Hamilton is knocking on Congress’s door. Will they answer?