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Montana Viewpoint: Trump impeachment a sad state of affairs

Jim Elliott

Well, it has come to this; President Trump has been impeached by the House of Representatives and this week the trial that will determine whether he stays on as President or leaves in disgrace is taking place.

Of course, by the time you read this it will all be over and the outcome determined. I am not necessarily a betting person, but on this I would lay good odds; he stays. After all, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said — not indicated, but said — that the Republican Senate will do whatever the White House wants.

McConnell is no dummy and Trump is lucky to have him on his side. That is not coincidence. Trump appointed McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, a Taiwanese immigrant, as his Secretary of Transportation. Kind of an insurance policy, you might say.

McConnell is as ruthless as they come when it comes to politics. He flaunts Senate rules and traditions because he can. Shortly after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia at a private resort in Marfa, Texas, McConnell announced that the Senate would not confirm ANY nominee that President Obama might nominate, and so the High Court’s decisions were made by only eight justices for nearly a year, and several important issues were not heard or were defeated by a tie vote.

Well, this is hardball and the only real rule is the rule of the majority, which McConnell has. Perhaps a more subtle approach could have accomplished the same thing, but why waste words.

Trump’s legal team has been augmented by none other than Kenneth Starr, who was the Independent Counsel conducting the investigation into President Clinton’s amorous activity which led to Clinton’s impeachment for lying to Congress. Starr later became President of Baylor University but was demoted and eventually resigned because of the University’s cover-up of rapes committed by several football players. That’s an interesting symmetry topped only by his appointment as Trump’s impeachment attorney. In a 1999 interview Trump said about Starr, “I think he’s a lunatic.”

It passes comprehension, though, how on one side of the argument, the Democrats, after listening to testimony by U. S. diplomats and espionage experts have no doubt that Trump used his office for personal political gain, while the Republicans, after listening to the same testimony, claim that Trump has done no wrong and they have marshaled some 84 arguments — some of them contradictory — to that effect. It would have been a lot simpler and more believable to have offered only one argument which would be, “We don’t care.”

Some Senate Republicans — but not many — are in a hard spot; between the President and the Constitution. The distinction between duty to the nation and loyalty to a political party is not a murky one, and those few Senators must be doing some soul-searching.

By now, I am sure, there are more Americans expert in Constitutional interpretation than ever before. My guess is that there are about 325 million of us and each one of us is correct in our interpretation. It’s easy to interpret the Constitution because it means just what each of us wants it to mean. True, there are some pesky legal judgements which are annoying, but they can be dismissed on our own firm legal footing which is that we disagree with them. Argue with that logic at your peril.

Well, it is sad. Dissention and even violence in support of dissention is not unknown in American politics but what has gone before seems tame compared to what we are facing in this national public stand-off. We are all Americans, aren’t we? Of course, that comes with some qualifiers because we all know that those who do not agree with us are not as American as we are.

I wish that it had not come to this; that the House hadn’t impeached Trump, that Trump had done nothing to warrant impeachment, and that, truth and justice aside, the matter had been let lay. The entire mess will have accomplished nothing but to harden opinions on each side.

But, again, there is the Constitution, and Democrats feel that it is their Constitutional obligation to pursue the issue no matter what the consequences are. There is duty and there is discretion. They have made their choice.

Jim Elliott served sixteen years in the Montana Legislature as a state representative and state senator and four years as chairman of the Montana Democratic Party. He lives on his ranch in Trout Creek. Montana Viewpoint appears online at missoulacurrent.com. and in papers across Montana.