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* * Caldwell Butler would impeach Donald Trump

Only those of us in the Medicare set remember Caldwell Butler, a Republican congressman from Roanoke who served Virginia’s 6th District from 1964 until 1972. A bookish looking man with a mop of dark hair, heavy black eyeglasses, and a massive double chin, Butler was known for his integrity, courage, and bipartisanship. Butler was one of few Republicans to call for Richard Nixon’s resignation over the Watergate scandal.

We’ll return to him momentarily.

While I’m guessing not too many people read the entirety of Special Council Robert Mueller’s Report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, millions of Americans did watch all or part of Mr. Mueller’s testimony in front of Congress last week.

We learned that:

Russia made a purposeful and successful attempt to interfere with our election.

Candidate Donald Trump and his inner circle were fully aware of it, and were complicit. We know that Trump lied and directed others to lie to hide those facts.

After his election, Trump fired people and attempted to fire others who were investigating his actions.

Mueller documented 10 textbook instances of obstruction of justice.

Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee and House Intelligence Committee spent their time asking Mueller to clarify and justify his conclusions. Republicans spent their time discrediting Mueller and marginalizing his conclusions, asking why anybody should care.

Caldwell Butler would have known why people should care.

We all should care.

We know that if Mueller is correct, the President and many of his inner circle are guilty of helping Russia help Trump, and if that’s giving aid and comfort to an enemy, it is treasonous. The remedy our Founding Fathers gave us for a renegade president is impeachment.

Let’s refresh our memories from high school government class what impeachment is. Impeachment of the president in the United States is the process by which the House of Representatives brings charges for crimes allegedly committed, analogous to an indictment by a grand jury. Then the matter moves to the Senate where a trial is held. The result is either guilt, necessitating removal, or acquittal. Historical note: only two presidents (Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton) have been impeached, and both were acquitted.

The bipartisanship that Butler knew in his day is all but gone now. Without Republican support, any vote for conviction seems wholly unlikely. So many Democrats are reasoning that with the inability to force removal, perhaps their chances for limiting Trump’s term are better served by advancing their own legislative ideas and winning at the 2020 ballot boxes.

Both Nixon and Trump (allegedly) cheated to win an election. But Trump’s manner was far more pernicious in that Nixon only involved domestic assistance to win while Trump benefited from assistance from a hostile foreign power. And Mueller found that not only did the Russians interfere in 2016, but are actively laying and executing plans to do the same in the 2020 election. Republicans seem unmoved by that, because hey, their guy won!

We must impeach now. Here’s why.

Trump has (allegedly) lived a long life of criminality, and has never been punished. His campaign manager, personal lawyer, and former national security advisor are either in jail or are awaiting sentencing. And yet Trump continues to live in our White House and play golf at his resorts on our dime. Knowing he can flaunt the law with impunity guarantees he’ll only continue, and the abuses will worsen.

A fair election in 2020 is by no means assured.

Even a failed impeachment effort would provide an enquiry that would reveal the extent of Trump’s criminality, perhaps enough to convince independent voters to abandon him. Mueller’s report is damning enough, but a trial in the Senate, where the American people could hear for themselves testimonies from Trump’s inner circle about what they’ve done, might convince them. Transcripts would create a perpetual record of Trump’s crimes for the history books.

In a speech a decade after Watergate, Butler admitted that his deliberations were neither fun nor easy. But he reasoned that while standards for impeachment often seemed imprecise and vague, he felt that an impeachable offense was to be judged by a simple standard: “the reasonable expectations of the American people.” Conspiring with a hostile foreign power to throw an election is, in the words of Mueller, not only an unethical thing to do and a crime, but is unpatriotic. Ask any group of 100 Americans, Democrats or Republicans, if this is within their reasonable expectations of a president, not one would say yes.

The Founders gave us impeachment as a remedy for a lawless president. If we don't use that power, we may as well not have it. Russian interference is ongoing, as is Trump’s criminality. Both must be stopped.

Where is today’s Caldwell Butler?

What do you think?

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