Georgia’s members of Congress predictably voted along party lines on the impeachment of President Donald Trump, a historic third time such drastic action has been taken in our country. Polar opposite partisan views marked the proceedings as the Democrat majority approved articles of impeachment charging Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. All the Republicans voted against impeachment, labeling it a sham and a hoax preempting the right of voters to choose the president.
The first article charges Trump with pressuring Ukraine to announce investigations of former Vice President Joe Biden — a potential presidential opponent of Trump — and Biden’s son Hunter for ties to a Ukrainian company, while at the same time withholding almost $400 million in U.S. military aid and not agreeing to an official White House visit by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. The second article charges Trump with obstructing the House’s investigation into the Ukrainian matter.
Trump insists he has done nothing wrong, asserting that he did not pressure the Ukrainian president or seek a quid pro quo for releasing the military aid, the position affirmed by Zelenskiy as well. Trump derided the impeachment as another step in the efforts by Democrats to remove him from office since he was inaugurated, first focusing on charges of his colluding with Russians to interfere in the 2016 election, then finally seizing on his telephone calls to the Ukrainian president. Trump said the impeachment was the work of “the Do Nothing Dems on their continuation of the greatest witch hunt in American history.”
Among Georgia’s congressional delegation, Rep. John Lewis, Atlanta Democrat and civil rights icon, took to the well of the House to support impeachment, saying it was “a sad day” for the country but “this nation does not have a king,” referring to Trump. Lewis urged his colleagues to vote for impeachment. “We have a mission and a mandate to be on the right side of history,” he said.
Leading the Republicans in the contentious debates in committees and the full House was Rep. Doug Collins of Gainesville, the ranking minority member of the House Judiciary Committee and staunch Trump defender. He said the House Democrats were breaking the rules of that body in rushing impeachment through. Vowing Trump was innocent, Collins said that despite impeachment, the president “will put his head down even through this sham impeachment and he will do his job. He will put the American people first. He will tell them that ‘I care about you.’ He will still put the economy first and he will make sure this country stands strong.”
The most vulnerable Georgia Democrat, Rep. Lucy McBath, the liberal gun-control advocate, voted for impeachment although voters in her 6th District are virtually evenly divided between the major parties. It’s certain her impeachment vote will intensify Republican efforts to defeat her. And her chances may be diminished by an apparent trend favoring President Trump in the midst of the impeachment push. A poll by USA TODAY/Suffolk University found that before the vote Trump led all his top Democrat rivals including Joe Biden by 3 percentage points, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders by 5 points and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren by 8 points.
The next phase of impeachment would normally be a trial in the Senate to determine if Trump would be removed from office — which is not in the cards since Republicans hold the majority in that chamber. But normal does not prevail with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has orchestrated the impeachment effort as she sees fit, rules or not. She held up transmittal of the articles to the Senate, declaring that “So far we haven’t seen anything that looks fair to us” in that body. She blasted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as “a rogue leader” and labeled Trump a “rogue president.” McConnell fired back, saying it seemed “House Democrats may be too afraid to even transmit their shoddy work product to the Senate.” He went on: “Looks like the prosecutors are getting cold feet in front of the entire country and second-guessing whether they even want to go to trial.”
Pelosi could withhold transmittal of the articles indefinitely but how this would play out, whether to the advantage of Trump or the Democrats, is unclear. If a Senate trial is delayed very long after New Year’s, that would create problems for the five senators running for the Democratic presidential nomination since they would be required to attend the trial during the crucial time ahead of the first primaries.
Whatever the outcome, it will only serve to deepen the partisan divide in our country to the detriment of our politics going forward. Now as Democrats in Congress are bent on unseating the president or hurting his chances for reelection, Republicans are equally determined to thwart those efforts. This came through in no uncertain terms when Rep. Drew Ferguson of West Point, chief deputy whip for House Republicans, spoke against impeachment. He said: “How dare you — the liberal elites, the condescending bureaucrats and every other kind of swamp critter in this godforsaken place — tell the American public who the president should be! That’s the job of the American voters, not yours!”
And so it is.