To the editor,
The Palladium-Times has led with front page headlines on Sept. 26 and 28, 2019, addressing the position of Representatives Brindisi and Katko on impeachment of the president. These headlines contribute to the perception that some have that this impeachment inquiry is unfair because it suggests that too many have rushed to judgment. In the process of impeachment as stated in the United States Constitution, the impeachment inquiry is a fact gathering process to determine whether or not there is sufficient evidence for the House of Representatives to approve articles of impeachment. If the House of Representatives approves articles of impeachment, it is like a grand jury in a criminal proceeding. The actual trial wouldn’t occur until articles of impeachment are approved and forwarded to the Senate.
Asking a member of the House of Representatives if the president should be impeached before this inquiry has gathered and assessed all of the facts is asking our representatives to rush to judgment in a manner that harms at least the appearance of fairness. It is also unfair to Representatives Brindisi and Katko, because it leaves the reader to conclude that they do not support impeachment, when their words in the body of both articles clearly tell us that they support getting all the information so that a fair assessment of the facts can be drawn. The House of Representatives is in the early stages of an impeachment inquiry, and is not even close to voting on articles of impeachment. Asking any member of the House of Representatives for their position is on impeachment is like asking a juror whether or not they think a defendant is guilty before the jury is seated. In a criminal trial, this is grounds for excusing a juror for cause. Jurors in a criminal trial and members of the House of Representatives must keep an open mind and consider all of the facts before drawing conclusions and voting.
In order for the current impeachment process to be perceived as fair, two things must happen. First, the members of the House of Representatives must not appear that they are rushing to judgment, and second, the impeachment inquiry must gather facts and interview witnesses who represent all sides of the issue. According to Tim Naftali, Associate Professor at New York University and former Director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, when we look back to the impeachment inquiry of President Nixon, we find that the House Judiciary Committee was very careful to interview witnesses from all sides of the issue, and allowed house Republicans and southern Democrats to rewrite the articles of impeachment so they would be comfortable voting for them. This was all in an effort to ensure that the impeachment process was perceived as a national effort and not a Democratic kangaroo court. We would be wise to learn from their example.
The reported comments of Reps. Brindisi and Katko indicate that they support a full and fair investigation of the facts. This is the only question that the media should be asking them, or any member of the House of Represntatives right now. It is too early for a whip count on voting for articles of impeachment because we have just barely started the investigation and don’t have all of the facts. Asking whether they support impeachment now is asking them to rush to judgment.
We would be wise to listen to the words of Susan Hennessey, executive editor of lawfare and senior fellow at the Brookings Institute:
“No one should kid themselves or feel gleeful in this moment. Impeachment always tears at the fabric of a nation. The only thing that is more destructive would be to not impeach when the Constitution demands it.”
Since the House of Representatives had decided that the constitution demands an impeachment inquiry, the house owes it to the integrity of their own institution and to all United States citizens to conduct the impeachment inquiry in a manner that is, and is perceived as fair. To do anything else would harm both the House of Representatives as a critical branch of our government, and our society as a whole.