'Corruption is there for all to see': Why Congress must impeach Trump

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'History will recognize this moment as one in which Democrats risked their political interests to defend the Constitution while the Republican Party abandoned its values and traditional principles to defend Donald Trump.'

On Friday, the House Judiciary Committee voted to advance two articles of impeachment — abuse of power and contempt of Congress — to the full House of Representatives for consideration.

Republican talking points notwithstanding, neither the speaker of the House nor the majority of Democrats ever wanted to impeach Donald Trump. Impeachment is polarizing and distracting. It takes the focus off the many bills the House has passed to protect and improve health care, fix our immigration system, and institute universal background checks for gun purchases. It obscures Trump's ongoing efforts to line the pockets of the wealthy, take away health care, and stop efforts to combat the climate crisis.

Republican nonsense includes the charge that impeachment is simply Democrats relitigating the lost 2016 election. That is absurd, of course, as impeachment is neither remotely likely to result in the removal of the president, nor is it politically helpful in 2020 presidential battleground states like Michigan and Wisconsin.

But congressional silence in the face of an out-of-control president who risks our national security, abuses his power, and shows contempt for our system of checks and balances would make us complicit in the deliberate erosion of our democracy. That will not happen on our watch. History will recognize this moment as one in which Democrats risked their political interests to defend the Constitution while the Republican Party abandoned its values and traditional principles to defend Donald Trump.

Republican hypocrisy in this regard is particularly galling. I served through both terms of the Obama administration, and there is no doubt at all that Republicans would have impeached President Obama for behavior far less egregious than Trump's. Lacking real scandals with which to attack President Obama and Secretary Hillary Clinton, Republicans simply made them up: Uranium One, a “stand down order” at Benghazi, "her emails." Each of these so-called scandals were comprehensively investigated. Total indictments and convictions achieved: zero.

By contrast, the Mueller investigation into the Trump campaign’s interaction with Russia has produced 37 indictments and 7 guilty pleas. Trump’s core corruption is there for all to see in the summary transcript of his call with President Zelenskiy of Ukraine, or frankly, just about any time he speaks or tweets.

As Democrats stand, sadly alone, for the Constitution and our democracy, we cannot forget our obligation to improve the lives of the American people. Consequently, over the course of a dramatic morning this week, the speaker of the House announced both the articles of impeachment and Democratic support for the USMCA trade agreement, a signature Trump initiative.

Some observers asked me why Democrats would move forward with the USMCA and "give Trump a win." This reaction shows the deep cynicism Trump's behavior has engendered. Democrats support the USMCA because it is good for the American (and Mexican and Canadian) people. It has brought together the most unlikely of allies in support of a truly modern and progressive trade agreement.

I think very few of us would want to live in a world in which policy could only be made on a purely partisan basis. The moments when one party controls the House, Senate, and presidency are rare. Were the House speaker to torpedo such a broadly beneficial deal, she would be doing precisely what has gotten Donald Trump impeached: sacrificing the national good for a partisan interest.

Again, not on our watch. That’s not who Democrats are.

Jim Himes is the representative for Connecticut's 4th Congressional District. He is chair emeritus of the New Democrat Coalition, and currently serves on the House Permanent Select Committee, also known as the House Intelligence Committee.