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Debbie Dingell: Why I Will Vote to Impeach Trump

Washington, December 18, 2019
This op-ed originally ran in the New York Times, click here to read it.

No one enters Congress hoping to impeach the president. But when duty demands it, we have no other choice. Our founders included in the Constitution a provision for impeachment, a provision to be used only in the face of the gravest threats to our democratic republic.

Deciding how to vote cannot be accurately portrayed in tweets or sound bites, so I welcome the opportunity to explain my thoughts.

Unlike many others in the Democratic Party, I was, at first, hesitant about impeachment. As one of the few who predicted that Donald Trump could win the election, I made clear that I would work with him if he would help the hard-working men and women of my district in Michigan.

I worked with his team on lowering drug prices, improving trade policies, addressing the opioid crisis and updating major conservation efforts. We made progress in some areas.

I have also opposed many of this administration’s positions, including threatening to take away protections for people living with pre-existing medical conditions, withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement, instituting a travel ban affecting Muslim-majority countries and tearing families apart at the border.

These policies were wrong, but they were not impeachable offenses. Our democracy supports dissenting opinions, and I respect the office of the presidency.

Pressure began early this year for me to call for impeachment. The billionaire Tom Steyer ran advertisements in The Detroit News and The Detroit Free Press and on news websites and social media calling for impeachment. People in my district had strong opinions everywhere I went, from the grocery store and farmers markets to church and my bagel place.

At the time, my constituents were focused on the Mueller report into Russian interference in the 2016 election, which they hoped would provide a case for impeachment. But it wasn’t clear. What the report did reveal — a finding that was often overlooked in the focus on the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russians — is that Moscow is trying to divide our country.

Then, in October, came reports that Mr. Trump and his administration withheld congressionally approved military aid to Ukraine while asking for a foreign government to investigate one of his political rivals. An inspector general appointed by Mr. Trump found that there was a credible, urgent and potentially immediate threat to our national security.

No matter the party affiliation of the person occupying the White House or the party of the majority in Congress, our founders built our Constitution on a system of three equal branches of government, with very clear oversight responsibilities delegated to the Congress. The whistle-blower report required Congress to investigate the facts and follow the issue.

News outlets seem to assume that House Democrats and Republicans have been as obsessed with impeachment as they are, and that every single Democrat had her mind made up from Day 1. But the truth is that many of us on both sides have remained focused on kitchen-table issues that matter to everyone.

While the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees undertook the job of gathering the facts, House leaders and other committees worked to lower prescription drug prices, protect the environment, restore voting rights to citizens and devise trade deals that level the playing field.

A vote as serious as impeaching the president of the United States deserves thoughtful, reflective and deliberate attention. Each day, after attending my own committee hearings and markups, meetings and events with constituents, I would come home to start my own studies on the impeachment inquiry.

I read testimonies from firsthand witnesses, parsed the majority and dissenting opinions from the committees’ reports and listened to the voices on both sides. I spent weeks reading the Constitution, constitutional scholars, the Federalist Papers and papers from both the Nixon and Clinton impeachment processes.

By the end, I was convinced: The facts showed that President Trump and his administration put politics over country by asking a foreign government to investigate a political rival while withholding military aid that affects our national security.

Further evidence showed a clear obstruction of Congress. Blocking key witnesses from the administration from testifying and even intimidating sitting witnesses sets a dangerous precedent.

 If we don’t address this abuse of power, we abdicate our constitutional and moral responsibility. Failing to address it would also condone these actions as acceptable for future administrations.

Did President Trump’s actions rise to the level of a threat to our democracy? Yes. Future generations and historians will judge us if we did not address these dangers. I will cast my vote to protect our Constitution, our democratic republic and the future of our country.

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