Ever since Donald Trump won the Republican nomination in 2016, effectively ending the era of Reagan-Bush conservatism, GOP partisans have mastered the art of mental gymnastics to preserve their careers at the expense of the country. Officials regularly defend the indefensible, not only in public statements but also through their actions in the legislative chamber. The majority of congressional Republicans voted against resolutions condemning Trump’s executive border security power grab via “emergency declaration” in February and his racist attacks on sitting congresswomen in July. Similarly, Republican leaders are standing by Trump in the impeachment fight dominating Washington these days.
The House’s impeachment inquiry into Trump’s alleged (and admitted) misconduct during a July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenzky gives these same members of Congress an opportunity to take a principled stand for the Constitution and the rule of law. President Trump made congressionally-mandated military aid conditional on the Ukrainian government investigating his foremost 2020 rival, former Vice President Joe Biden. Make no mistake: this is an impeachable offense.
Right-wing pundits have spent the last several weeks lying by promoting the “Joe Biden is actually corrupt and that’s why Trump wanted help investigating him” farce. However, the facts remain clear: the President of the United States went above the law for personal political purposes, once again teaming up with a foreign power against his fellow Americans. To insinuate that Donald Trump is an anti-corruption crusader demonstrates even lower awareness than the unrepentant serial adulterer’s proclamation that “character counts.”
While it is clear that Trump’s actions constitute an abuse of power, the hot question at the moment is whether impeachment is the appropriate course of action. Since there is an election in the foreseeable future, Bush-era attorney John Yoo argued on Fox News last week that Founders would have wanted Congress to defer to the American people to decide if this was truly presidential misconduct. However, Yoo neglected the fact that America’s first presidential impeachment, that of Andrew Johnson, took place in an election year.
Heath Mayo is a conservative advocate and founder of Principles First, a grassroots organization seeking to reintroduce principled conservatism into the 21st century. As Mr. Mayo points out, “Impeachment is a check on the president. It’s a part of our constitutional system.” The conservative movement established its credibility on a commitment to the ideals of the Founding. When James Madison wrote that “enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm,” he imagined an official with a complete disregard for the separation of powers and rule of law. If Madison and the other Founders did not intend for impeachment to check a lawless administration, why did they include it in the document at all?
This moment is especially critical for the constitutional conservative movement, which seeks to preserve our system of checks and balances and has scoffed at giving a freebie to, for example, Bill Clinton on the issue of perjury. There is no point in even having a conservative movement if it is not willing to defend the most basic line between liberty and autocracy. Could you imagine Ronald Reagan calling Ruhollah Khomeini to ask for help defeating Walter Mondale in his reelection campaign?
Although conservative legends such as Reagan and George H.W. Bush are no longer with us, the power of the Constitution lies in its ability to survive incredibly challenging times. However, to preserve the republic, Americans must be willing to acknowledge when our leadership has gone astray. Mr. Mayo sums it up well: “This is not constitutional government.”
The Trump administration is a cesspool of corruption, and an inquiry into such strong allegations of misconduct makes perfect sense. If the President is allowed to run wild and free with election interference on top of obstruction of justice and “emergency declarations,” the executive branch will operate completely unchecked in the future, regardless of any criminal conduct that takes place in the Oval Office.
Mayo views the public information on the Ukraine scandal as “the tip of the iceberg” and believes the American people will benefit from a full impeachment inquiry. Even if the evidence uncovered in the inquiry might ultimately be ignored by the Senate, that is no reason for the House to abdicate its constitutional duty to oversee the conduct of the executive branch.
Admittedly, a full impeachment vote by the House followed by a conviction in the Senate is unlikely. That being said, Congress will set a dangerous precedent if it turns down its chance to protect the Constitution against the transgressions of a power-hungry executive. As Heath Mayo declares, “It’s important for people to have the courage to dissent.”