Idaho’s two Republican representatives in the U.S. House this week had the same bottom line on the question of impeaching President Donald Trump - both voted against - but they delivered different kinds of rationales.
As the scores of congressional statements zipped by on Impeachment Day, there was little chance to parse what people of either party were saying. Here, a look at the Idaho two.
In the floor debate, Idaho 1’s Russ Fulcher was concise. He said he would use his time “to enumerate in detail every high crime and misdemeanor committed” by Trump, and then of course offered a period of silence. (That pause in the sound and fury in any event probably was broadly enjoyed.)
There are levels to this. Trump has not been convicted in court of any crimes, though in fact many have been alleged and outlined by many people, in connection with the impeachment subjects and elsewhere. But “high crimes and misdemeanors,” as many legal and historical reviews have made clear, is a category different from crimes as such. They’re in the eye of the congressional and public beholder, and relate to serious misbehavior in office and abusing the public trust. If you take Fulcher’s statement as an expression of his opinion that what Trump has done is not an abuse of the public trust, then that’s that. But opinions will vary.
Mike Simpson, in the second district, set out a more detailed rebuttal to the two articles of impeachment.
First, “Democrats have yet to present any evidence that President Trump abused his power. In fact, everything we have seen thus far paints the opposite picture. Ukraine President Zelensky has stated multiple times publicly that he never felt pressure from President Trump to complete any task for the United States. Further, at the time of the July 25th call between the two leaders, Ukrainian officials did not even know that security assistance was paused. Finally, no Ukrainian investigation was ever initiated. Aid was delivered and no investigation took place. I fail to see the connection the Democrats are trying to make here that would rise to an impeachable offense.”
There are problems here. First, Zelensky has been placed (as he still is) under such extreme pressure, facing a threatening holder of his nation’s fiscal lifeline, that his attempts to remain diplomatic with President Trump can hardly be taken at face value. (A man holds a gun in your face and demands you proclaim him a great humanitarian: What are you going to say?) There’s been ample testimony that the Ukrainians knew of the withhold of funds around and probably well in advance the time of the call (as in truth, they would have had to be idiots to not understand as much). And the Ukraine investigation Trump required ultimately did not happen because, as Democrats pointed out repeatedly on the House floor, Trump was caught, and the gambit had to be abandoned.
On Article 2, “There are perfectly legitimate avenues to resolve differences between branches of government. When Administration officials did not make themselves available for a partisan, predetermined investigation, House Democrats chose to pursue the most drastic of options, instead of the appropriate and Constitutional option that is available when two co-equal branches of government disagree: letting the judiciary branch decide. This move again showed me that Democrats were looking for any reason to impeach this President rather than trying to conduct a serious and honest investigation.”
Simpson here is saying Trump’s order that current and former administration officials not provide testimony, documents or other information - in ways past presidents considered for impeachment did not do - could have been cured by getting an order from a court that they must testify. But leaving aside the slow-walking aspect - how many months or even years would that approach have taken through the appeals system? - that would require, it still doesn’t answer the original point. The president blocked cooperation with a constitutionally-allowed action by Congress, not allowing it to do its work, without even providing a legal rationale. How is that not obstruction of Congress?
With the wealth of statements and ideas released from the House floor on Wednesday, many deserve a more careful look. It’s time to slow down and think.