November 8, 2022—Exactly two years to the day after President Biden’s victory over then President Donald J Trump in the 2020 election, a victory Biden celebrated with the now famous phrase “the true jury has finally voted,” the House of Representatives voted today to impeach Mr Biden for the same two articles, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, that led to Mr Trump’s trial and acquittal in 2020. In what pundits widely consider a more artful and nuanced spinoff of Mr Trump’s efforts to secure his second term, Mr Biden is now formally accused of coercing the governments of Iraq and Mexico to influence the 2024 election in his favor.
In his first major role following the late Speaker Pelosi’s sudden demise in September, House Speaker Adam Schiff announced the articles of impeachment as “the right thing to do.” To a sparsely attended press conference, Speaker Schiff praised the bipartisan vote of 235-200, while acknowledging that Mr Biden has defied no less than 13 subpoenas in the past three months of House inquiries into his apparent dealings with Iraq and Mexico. Speaker Schiff said, “While we are also concerned about the declining health of Mr Biden, as seen in his persistent refusal to trust his own Cabinet over the past six months, our overriding duty is to protect this nation from abuses of power. We acknowledge that, lacking the power to subpoena, a power we once held dearly, we can only base our evidence on hearsay. We acknowledge that the Democratic majority in the Senate is not inclined to convict one of its own. Perhaps censure is an option. Let the record show that Mr Biden has been charged and the public duly informed. And let us pray that in 2024 the true jury will finally vote, if we can keep this Republic until then.”
That’s my fast forward from the sidelines of our Impeachment Trial, now after a week and a half of presentations, entering the first day of questions. I guess the fantasy works just as well with any plausible Democrat who could beat Trump in the 2020 election. The most baffling aspect of this whole Impeachment process for me has been the hard party line towed by both sides since the day the inquiry began in November. No member of Congress has yet dared to cross that line.
For me, Article 2—the less talked about obstruction of Congress charge—captures the most urgent and most non-partisan issue at stake here. What does this trial mean for the power of Congress to investigate? Not just this President, but any future President? None of the several hundred Republican Senators and Representatives has publicly expressed a concern so far about the effect that an acquittal in this trial will have on their future capacity to subpoena members of the Executive Branch, whether the President is in their own party or the opposition.
Am I missing something here? Is it not true that acquittal in this trial will invite future Presidents to cite the precedent of Trump’s acquittal in 2020 for ignoring or defying multiple Congressional subpoenas in the future? Without subpoena power, Congress can’t check an unfit President. Shouldn’t all Representatives and Senators vigorously refuse to have their teeth extracted? Where are the legal scholar pundits when we need them to be screaming at these apparently para-suicidal Senators, “Don’t Jump!! Don’t give up your teeth!!”
And what does this have to do with the theme of this blog, the art and science of making contact? Here is a chance for two large groups of powerful people with loyalties that divide them to seize a common ground, to protect a power they all covet. And here is a chance for this Congress to claim a power the voters need and want them to own, protect, and exercise. Shouldn’t this bond among all members of Congress trump party loyalty at this time? For Republican Senators to choose loyalty to Mr Trump over loyalty to their own power as Senators would be not just a one-time folly driven by fear. It would also be choosing to turn our Congress into a toothless body for all time by giving up the power to effectively subpoena future Presidents.
Tell me I need not fear. Tell me our Senators would never do such a thing. That’s the kind of contact that would give me hope—that these Senators could find each other soon enough to save their power and our Republic. Next Monday I’m going to see my dentist.