Rashida Tlaib Recognizes Trump Must Be Held To Account By Beginning The Impeachment Process

The Michigan representative just accepted petitions signed by 10 million Americans who say it is time to act.

By John Nichols

Rashida Tlaib calls for impeachment

Rashida Tlaib announces that advo­ca­cy groups will deliv­er over 10 mil­lion pro-impeach­ment peti­tion sig­na­tures to Congress on May 9, 2019. (AP /​Bill Clark)

Can we please start the impeach­ment process now?” Rashida Tlaib asked a month before she was sworn in as the rep­re­sen­ta­tive from Michigan’s 13th con­gres­sion­al dis­trict. It was the right ques­tion at the right time — a moment in December when President Trump was casu­al­ly announc­ing: “I will shut down the gov­ern­ment.” And Tlaib was the right per­son to ask it: a lawyer with a firm grasp of the Constitution and deep regard for the oath she was about to swear to “sup­port and defend the Constitution of the United States against all ene­mies, for­eign and domes­tic” and to “bear true faith and alle­giance to the same.”

Yet, Tlaib got only a lit­tle notice when she spoke up in December. She got more atten­tion in January when, after being sworn in, she employed some salty lan­guage in an enthu­si­as­tic dec­la­ra­tion. of her deter­mi­na­tion to hold the pres­i­dent to account. Trump labeled her “dis­grace­ful” and “high­ly dis­re­spect­ful to the United States of America.” But Tlaib was unde­terred. She con­sult­ed with experts on the sys­tem of checks and bal­ances and advanced a pro­pos­al root­ed in a savvy recog­ni­tion of the fact that impeach­ment is a process.
Now, as polit­i­cal and media fig­ures who once eschewed dis­cus­sions of the “I” word are sud­den­ly talk­ing about noth­ing else, it is time to rec­og­nize the wis­dom of Tlaib’s pro­pos­al.

Trump is reject­ing the sys­tem of checks and bal­ances. He is abus­ing his exec­u­tive author­i­ty in an effort to thwart con­gres­sion­al review of the full Mueller report, and his attor­ney gen­er­al has refused to coöper­ate with the House Judiciary Committee. The Democratic major­i­ty on the com­mit­tee has tak­en nec­es­sary and appro­pri­ate action, vot­ing last Wednesday to rec­om­mend that the full House hold Attorney General William Barr in con­tempt of Congress for refus­ing to share the unredact­ed report from spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller III with the com­mit­tee. Yet, Barr is still refus­ing to coöper­ate. And what of Trump? Committee chair Jerry Nadler (D‑NY) says, “the President is dis­obey­ing the law, is refus­ing all infor­ma­tion to Congress.” “The phrase con­sti­tu­tion­al cri­sis has been overused…” says Nadler, “but, cer­tain­ly, it’s a con­sti­tu­tion­al cri­sis, although I don’t like to use that phrase because it’s been used for far less dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tions.”

This is a dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tion and its should be addressed with the response that the founders of the American exper­i­ment iden­ti­fied. “If we do not engage in the impeach­ment process, we set a dan­ger­ous prece­dent for all future pres­i­dents — that they can defy the law and tram­ple on our con­sti­tu­tion, tak­ing us on the road to autoc­ra­cy,” saysFree Speech for People’s John Bonifaz, a lawyer who has work­ing with Tlaib on account­abil­i­ty issues.
The key word is “process.”
Before for­mal arti­cles of impeach­ment are writ­ten and vot­ed on by the House, infor­ma­tion must be gath­ered, hear­ings must be held, efforts must be made to pro­vide the American peo­ple with a full sense of why account­abil­i­ty is nec­es­sary, and out­reach must be made to those con­sti­tu­tion­al­ly-inclined Republicans who might rec­og­nize the dan­ger of allow­ing a pres­i­dent — even a pres­i­dent with an “R” after his name — to dis­miss checks and bal­ances and dis­re­gard the rule of law. This process of apply­ing the cure for a con­sti­tu­tion­al cri­sis, as estab­lished by the founders of the American exper­i­ment, moves the dis­cus­sion of account­abil­i­ty toward con­crete reality.Tlaib is propos­ing to begin the process with leg­is­la­tion resolv­ing that:

(1) the Committee on the Judiciary shall inquire whether the House of Representatives should impeach Donald John Trump, President of the United States of America;

(2) the Committee on the Judiciary or any sub­com­mit­tee or task force des­ig­nat­ed by the Committee may, in con­nec­tion with the inquiry under this res­o­lu­tion, take affi­davits and depo­si­tions by a mem­ber, coun­sel, or con­sul­tant of the Committee, pur­suant to notice or sub­poe­na; and

(3) there shall be paid out of the applic­a­ble accounts of the House of Representatives such sums as may be nec­es­sary to assist the Committee on the Judiciary in con­duct­ing the inquiry under this res­o­lu­tion, any of which may be used for the pro­cure­ment of staff or con­sul­tant ser­vices.

Tlaib’s pro­pos­al is on point. Her res­o­lu­tion does not out­line spe­cif­ic arti­cles of impeach­ment. It sim­ply sig­nals that the time has come to begin the nec­es­sary process. It is this process that will iden­ti­fy the offens­es that might form the basis for arti­cles the Judiciary Committee and the House could consider.While many in Congress remain cau­tious, the American peo­ple under­stand the wis­dom of Tlaib’s pro­pos­al. Last week, she and Congressman Al Green, the Texas Democrat who has been a stal­wart cham­pi­on of pres­i­den­tial account­abil­i­ty, accept­ed a flash dri­ve con­tain­ing 10 mil­lion sig­na­tures on dig­i­tal peti­tions call­ing for an impeach­ment inquiry. MoveOn, CREDO Mobile, Need to Impeach, Women’s March, By the People, Change​.org, Democracy for America, and Free Speech for People have sup­port­ed the call, which will be ampli­fied this week by activists in DC and nation­wide. “Ten mil­lion peo­ple said that we need to hold this pres­i­dent account­able. I think that speaks vol­umes,” says Rashida Tlaib. “Ten mil­lion peo­ple want us to uphold the United States Constitution.”

ohn Nichols wrote the fore­word for the book The Constitution Demands It: The Case for the Impeachment of Donald Trump (Melville House) by Ron Fein, John Bonifaz, and Ben Clements.