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Point-Counterpoint: Two views on impeaching the president


"Sunday Morning" invited opposing views on the current impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump over the scandal involving the illegal withholding of security aid to Ukraine in return for an acknowledged political favor. Articles of impeachment – on abuse of power, and obstruction of Congress (for refusing to abide by subpoenas for testimony and evidence in the impeachment inquiry) – are to be voted on this week in the House of Representatives.

Eliana Johnson, editor-in-chief of the political website Washington Free Beacon:

Tom, the American people voted, and they should have the final say on whether President Trump is reelected.

The Democrats say the president tried to undermine the election process. But they have worked to delegitimize this president since before he was sworn into office. Their outrage over his disregard for cherished norms rings hollow.

This past week we learned of the appalling abuse by federal agents in surveilling the Trump presidential campaign in 2016. There are violations of norms everywhere, and on both sides.

The Democrats have rushed their investigation to suit a political calendar, demonstrating that even they don't take it very seriously. They fear the lengthy battles in the courts over executive privilege, so they haven't even invited key witnesses to testify. Not Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; not Energy Secretary Rick Perry; and not Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani. This is not the sign of a serious investigation.

Their arguments in favor of impeachment have morphed from "quid pro quo" to bribery and now to election meddling.

The Democrats are right: it was wrong for Donald Trump to pressure his Ukrainian counterpart to announce an investigation into a political opponent, but the system worked. Unlike Barack Obama, this president delivered lethal aide to our Ukrainian allies in their fight against Putin's Russia.

The Democrats have not made a convincing case for impeachment. That's why, heading into the House vote, the question is not how many Republicans will join their Democratic colleagues and vote to impeach the president, but how many Democrats will oppose the measure.

Tom, why don't we adhere to the most important norm of our democratic republic – abiding by elections and their consequences?

New York Times opinion columnist Thomas L. Friedman:

Let's get right to it: President Trump not only should be impeached, he must be impeached, if we're to preserve America as we've known it.

Of course, ideally presidents should be removed by the will of voters through elections. But Eliana, when I hear Trump defenders say impeachment would subvert that process, I say: "Really? What the hell do you think Trump was doing?'' He was subverting the will of the people by using our tax dollars to force Ukraine to investigate his most feared opponent, Joe Biden, in the next election, rather than trusting voters to do that. 

The only reason the plot was aborted was because a whistleblower drew attention to Trump's scheme, forcing him to release the money to Ukraine – just before his shakedown was exposed. 

Eliana, if you say (as Republicans are) that what Trump did is not impeachable, we are telling ourselves – and every future President – "Hey, it's OK to enlist a foreign power to tilt the election your way." Can you imagine how much cash future candidates could raise from Saudi Arabia, or how many cyber warriors they could enlist from Russia, to tilt future elections?

The sanctity of our elections would be shot, and we would never again have a president who, whether or not you liked him or her, was at least seen as legitimately-elected. That is a prescription for chaos.

Eliana, you ask: Why haven't Democrats subpoenaed key witnesses like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, national security adviser John Bolton, and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani to testify? Hello? It's because Trump barred them from testifying or turning over documents. He wanted to force the Democrats to subpoena all his top aides so they could go to court to resist and then delay everything until past the 2020 elections. It's called running out the clock. 

Luckily, nonpartisan U.S. diplomats and civil servants with integrity stepped up to tell us what happened. If Trump is so innocent, why doesn't he order Bolton, Giuliani and Pompeo to testify, to tell the truth? That's what I'd do if I were innocent. Why does he want his aides who know the most to speak the least? If we let Trump stonewall Congress like that, without a price, we'd be saying we no longer have three coequal branches of government. Now we just have a king. 

We'd be saying the America you grew up loving – the America the world grew up respecting – is no more. Oh, how we will miss that America when it's gone. 

      For more info:

Thomas L. Friedman, The New York TimesEliana Johnson, Washington Free Beacon

      Story produced by Ed Forgotson, Julie Kracov and Emily Lazar.

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