What does it take to impeach the president of the United States?
Under the bright lights of a Capitol Hill hearing room Wednesday, Robert Mueller gave testimony that’s been anticipated for weeks as a possible tipping point for the Trump presidency.
Did Mueller say enough to keep the impeachment torches burning? Or did he stick to his pledge not to elaborate on his 448-page special counsel report, thus aiding Republican efforts to let the flames sputter out?
Analysts from the left and right will spend days sifting Mueller’s remarks and making arguments on both sides.
Tipping point or not (the safe bet is on the latter), I’m feeling increasingly restless waiting to hear from South Sound members of Congress who’ve kept their lips mostly zipped to this point.
Mueller’s reticence doesn’t bother me much because I didn’t elect him. But local representatives have important insights on the question of the House impeaching our 45th president, a historic act that should be thoroughly ventilated in both Washingtons.
Two things happened in the last week that ought to increase pressure on them to crack open a window on what they’re thinking.
No. 1: A resolution came to the House floor calling for Trump’s impeachment, trial and removal from office.
It was the first time such a gambit has been attempted since Democrats gained control of the House this year, and it forced our local electeds to go on record.
The resolution sponsored by Texas Rep. Al Green was half baked, a one-note call to dump Trump based solely on ugly racist tweets he recently directed at four minority congresswomen.
There was no mention of obstruction of justice, witness tampering or other serious charges — the kind that build the strongest case for impeachment.
What we don’t know is why they voted that way. Or under what circumstances they would vote differently. Or whether they’re any closer to supporting an official impeachment inquiry today than they were weeks or months ago.
No. 2: Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Everett) became the latest Washington member of Congress to come out in favor of a full inquiry.
He joins a pair of Seattle-area Dems — Pramila Jayapal and Adam Smith — as the beat goes on to hold Trump accountable for a catalog of misdeeds.
Larsen told the Seattle Times he wanted to seize “an opportunity to send an early message about the evolution of my thinking.”
Is it too much to hope that his South Sound colleagues will show us the evolution of their thinking?
If I’m guilty of impatience, I’m not alone. Consider a few letters to the editor published in the TNT in recent months:
“I urge my elected officials to show they really care that when I die in 10 years or so, my three great-grandchildren will have a fighting chance at true democracy,” wrote Jolinda Stephens of Tacoma.
“Stop procrastinating, wringing your hands, deliberating, wimping out!” wrote Pamela Schied of Gig Harbor.
Fiery words, for sure, though too precipitous for my tastes. Just because I want leaders to talk about impeachment doesn’t mean I expect them to immediately call for removing this president.
Impeachment is a last resort not to be taken lightly, exercised by the House only twice in U.S. history, and there are many factors in any attempt to take down Trump. Our Editorial Board, for its part, hasn’t reached consensus and continues to debate the variables.
But why not talk openly about them? I’d like to know what type of misconduct my representative believes constitutes a high crime or misdemeanor. Or whether he’s identified a deadline for action so that an inquiry doesn’t overshadow the 2020 election.
I’d like to know how he weighs being on the right side of history against the reality that a GOP-controlled Senate wouldn’t vote to convict. Or whether he’s concerned about giving reelection ammunition to Trump’s formidable base.
This is stuff that should be aired in town halls, media interviews and other forums. It’s among the stuff representatives should discuss with folks back home during the August recess.
Pressed to provide a statement from Kilmer on the eve of Mueller’s testimony, his staff gave me this:
“Congress must further investigate these issues, follow the facts, and take this one step at a time. If the evidence is clear, America cannot and should not condone obstruction of justice or a willingness to benefit from the help of a foreign adversary in the midst of a campaign.”
It’s not a lot, but it’s better than nothing. (Which is what I got from Schrier’s and Heck’s staff.)
In the end, the best chance for the public to see the evolution of their representatives’ thinking on impeachment is for voters to demand they be given a glimpse.
Sooner rather than later.
Reach News Tribune editorial page editor Matt Misterek at (253) 597-8472 or firstname.lastname@example.org