Censure Trump — Impeachment isn’t worth it

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By Claire Guo, Co-Editor-in-Chief

The sensational drama of American politics has reached a three-year high. House Democrats are exploring the impeachment of President Donald Trump, and they’re serious.

That leaves us with two questions. One, is what Trump did impeachable? And two, should Congress move forward with impeachment if his actions are impeachable?

The short answer? Yes, and no.

The long answer:

1. Is what Trump did impeachable?

Yes.

Most of us aren’t political experts, so sometimes it’s hard to determine how wrong any political action really is. (Before the televised hearings on Watergate, a Gallup poll found that only 31 percent of Americans thought Watergate was a “serious matter.”) But Trump’s phone call to the Ukrainian president is grounds for impeachment. 

The Democratic Party began a formal impeachment inquiry — an investigation, the first step to impeachment — three weeks ago. Why now? A “whistleblower” in the intelligence community sent a complaint to the director of national intelligence claiming that in a July phone call, Trump pressured Ukraine’s president into investigating Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden while withholding nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine.

Since then, the White House has released a rough transcript of the call. In it, Trump asks Ukraine’s president to investigate Joe Biden and Biden’s son (in regards to a baseless theory that Biden deliberately sabotaged a Ukrainian prosecutor’s investigation of his son). Trump then says, “I will have Mr. Giuliani give you a call and I am also going to have Attorney General Barr call and we will get to the bottom of it.”

A highlight of what’s wrong with the above picture: Trump wanted to have his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani work with a foreign president on investigating possible campaign rival Joe Biden (on a matter for which there is no evidence of Biden’s wrongdoing). The vague Constitution boundaries of acceptable presidential behavior are nowhere in sight.

If the impeachment process moves forward, “articles of impeachment” will reach the House, where a simple majority vote would “impeach” Trump. But Trump wouldn’t be removed from office until a trial is held in the Senate and a two-thirds majority votes to convict him. That brings us to our next question.

2. Should Congress move forward with impeachment?

No.

The results of such an impeachment are easy to predict: the Democrat-controlled House will succeed in “impeachment,” but the Republican-controlled Senate won’t convict and won’t remove Trump from office. In the meantime, the American public will be dragged through mountains of Trump coverage and grow more polarized than we already are, if you can believe that. Issues that truly matter to Americans, like health care and education, won’t matter. Not to Congress, not when each side is so focused on getting the other.

But if Trump deserves impeachment (see 1.), how can Congress ignore his actions?

What if I told you there was a third option? One that publicly condemns Trump but doesn’t drag Americans through the tedious and ultimately damaging impeachment process?

Congress should censure Trump. Censure is a formal statement of disapproval of a politician’s actions that requires a simple majority vote from both houses. It doesn’t remove members from office, but it is a public condemnation. One without hearings.

Censure forces all members of Congress to vote on one thing and one thing only: is what Trump did wrong? There is no evasion of the question, no disagreeing with impeachment “because it overrides the American people’s decision.” Censure lets Americans choose the president themselves on November 3, 2020, little over a year away.

What’s more, only one president has ever been censured: Andrew Jackson, in 1834. Succeeding to censure Trump now would make a statement, and that was really the whole point of impeachment, wasn’t it?

 Members from both parties have introduced dozens of resolutions over the years to censure presidents from Lincoln to Nixon, Clinton to Obama, and even Trump himself earlier in his presidency. Besides Jackson, every attempt failed: the evidence wasn’t strong enough, or the party attempted impeachment instead. Censure could succeed now. Impeachment won’t. Worse, it’ll waste our time.

 Censure Trump. Move on. 

The 2020 election is on its way, and that’s when the American people will decide what they want.