MUSINGS ON IMPEACHMENT*
Untitled, Acrylic on Panel, 11" x 13", Richard J Van Wagoner, Courtesy of Van Wagoner Family Trust**
It May Not be Overstatement To Say The Fate Of The Country, And By Extension The Course For Much Of The Rest Of The World, Is Largely In The Hands of Speaker Pelosi
Early in Individual-1’s presidency I began running out of words to fairly characterize his unbridled corruption. Since his past and ongoing conduct has come under increasing scrutiny, he has ratcheted up his already sustained assaults on and defiance of the principles and institutions that serve as constitutional checks on his abuses. He has successfully recruited loyalists who willingly compromise themselves to protect him from the consequences of his illegal conduct. They do so, in part, by undermining the very principles and institutions they swore to protect. Despite (or maybe because of) the 2018 referendum on Individual-1, his wrecking ball has only gotten bigger, his defiance more blatant, the destruction accelerated, the damage to the United States verging on irreparable. Short of opening an impeachment inquiry, does the House have the wherewithal to stall his destruction, counter his obstruction, hold contemptuous people accountable and educate the public on his misconduct? Time will tell. Time, however, is becoming of the essence. Hopefully, we won’t just be picking through the rubble, suffering the fallout of a decision we didn’t make.
I have read and heard many arguments against impeachment and the more measured step of opening an impeachment inquiry: only 60 members of the caucus support impeachment (although the Judiciary Committee has plenty of votes to open an inquiry); impeachment is what Individual-1 wants; the Senate will never, ever convict; Individual-1 (again falsely) will claim “total exoneration” and martyrdom — more red meat for his base — when the Senate acquits; impeachment caused Clinton’s favorability rating to increase substantially. I’m sure there are others.
In one of many public comments, Speaker Pelosi said decisions concerning impeachment cannot be based on politics, but must be grounded only in facts. Which facts are those? And, given that the legislative branch is the most political body in American government, and the responsibility for impeachment is assigned solely to the House and Senate, what does she mean? My own sense is the Speaker’s decision making is based on sophisticated political calculus of the highest order. She is, after all, Speaker for a second time. She is also second in line of succession to the presidency. Two too many.
One interpretation of her comment is that the known and alleged facts, irrespective of political considerations, have not reached a threshold to warrant opening an impeachment inquiry. I doubt that’s what she really meant.
As for her statement about facts, we have Volume II of the Mueller Report describing overwhelming evidence of Individual-1’s serial attempts to obstruct justice. I’ve read it. The behavior it details is devastatingly corrupt. Consistent with many of the findings in Volume I of the Mueller Report, we have Individual-1 moving this week from no collusion to pro collusion, inviting foreign governments, especially our adversaries, to continue to interfere with and undermine the sovereignty of our elections. We have his blanket obstruction of congressional oversight, its constitutional right and duty to hold him in check and investigate executive misconduct. We have his failure to protect the country from enemies, foreign and domestic. We have his sale of influence. We have his claims that the House has no authority, constitutional or otherwise, to investigate him for criminal misconduct. We also know he was compromised throughout the campaign and continues to behave as though Russia still has the goods on him. He chose and chooses the North Korean dictator and Mr. Putin over the United States intelligence agencies. And the moniker (Individual-1) given him by the Southern District of New York, for having conspired to violate campaign finance laws by directing his fixer to purchase women’s silence so he could cheat his way into the presidency, will stick.
Among his highest crimes and misdemeanors, we also have his administration’s sustained human rights violations, separating children from parents, losing them from time to time, and holding “bodies” (that’s what the agents call the human beings from sh!thole countries) in concentration camps under dangerous and squalid conditions at the southern border, denying them even basic rights and necessities.
If Speaker Pelosi meant that the known and alleged facts will reach the threshold to open an impeachment inquiry, if at all, only after the public is sufficiently aware of those facts and polling supports it, I agree the House investigations must be allowed to proceed uninhibited by Individual-1’s efforts to obstruct. The problem is he and key figures in his cabinet are fully aiding and abetting the obstruction of the House investigations. We eventually will see how the courts respond to his obstruction of Congress. But Individual-1 has the ability to delay the process through the courts while causing further devastation to the rule of law, the Department of Justice, the FBI, Congress, the intelligence agencies, alliances throughout the world and United States’ credibility
If the facts, irrespective or politics, meet Speaker Pelosi’s threshold for opening an impeachment inquiry, what better way to educate the public than by opening that inquiry? Formalizing the investigation, but stopping short of issuing articles of impeachment (for now), would eliminate a step and expedite the process by removing any argument Individual-1 claims to have that the House lacks a legal/constitutional basis to conduct a thorough inquiry, compel testimony, obtain documents and put teeth in its inherent powers to hold people in contempt. Courts would, most likely, summarily reject Individual-1’s arguments against the Congress’ constitutional right to fully vet the facts under the auspices of an impeachment inquiry.
The only way to determine whether the House should issue articles of impeachment is for the House Judiciary Committee to hold public hearings in which the entirety of Individual-1’s misconduct and criminality is laid bare. If more than 33 Senators remain steadfast in their support of the head of a criminal enterprise, at least the American public will be more informed in advance of the 2020 election.
*My brother the very talented fiction writer and novelist, Robert Hodgson Van Wagoner, deserves considerable credit for offering both substantive and technical suggestions to https://medium.com/@richardvanwagoner and https://lastamendment.com
**Richard’s list of honors, awards and professional associations is extensive. He was Professor Emeritus (Painting and Drawing), Weber State University, having served three Appointments as Chair of the Department of Visual Arts there. He guest-lectured and instructed at many universities and juried numerous shows and exhibitions. He was invited to submit his work as part of many shows and exhibitions, and his work was exhibited in a number of traveling shows domestically and internationally. My daughter Angela Moore, a professional photographer, photographed more than 500 pieces of my father’s work. On behalf of the Van Wagoner Family Trust, she is in the process of compiling a collection of his art work. The photographs of my father’s art reproduced in https://medium.com/@richardvanwagoner and https://lastamendment.com are hers