'The time has to begin an impeachment inquiry'
On Monday Rep. Jim Himes, D-Fourth District, became the first member the Connecticut delegation in Congress to call for the opening of an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. The power to impeach rests with the House of Representatives. The decision whether to convict a president and remove him from office abides with the Senate. The following are the remarks Himes delivered on the floor of the House.
During my career, I have learned that there are moments for calculation, prudence, compromise and the careful weighing of competing interests. And there are moments for clarity and conviction. This is such a moment.
The time has come for the House of Representatives to begin an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. From the moment of his inauguration, this president has shown contempt for the truth, has attacked our institutions, and has ignored the Constitution he swore to defend. He has refused the oversight which is Congress’ long-established right and duty. In recent weeks, he has refused to comply with subpoenas, he has ordered administration officials to refuse to testify, and he has asserted executive privilege of unprecedented scope with respect to attempts to alter the census.
The president attacks our free press, threatens to jail his political opponents and attacks courts and judges when they challenge his unprecedented behavior.
That we have not slouched closer to autocracy is due to the strength of the democratic safeguards and protections that we have built and defended for two and a half centuries. Most Americans sense the danger and have reacted, most recently by electing a House of Representatives with the power and desire to check this president. The president has refused to acknowledge or acquiesce to that power.
The framers of the Constitution placed the power of impeachment not in the courts, but in the Congress, so that Congress might consider not just the facts and the letter of the law, but the broader interests of the Republic.
I have, until now, been conflicted about those interests. Impeachment, along with the right to declare war, is the most awesome power of Congress. The politics of impeachment are messy and uncertain, and might, in the short run, serve the president’s narrow political interests.
But look at where we are today. Republicans cheer or justify or stand woefully silent in the face of behavior for which they would have impeached a Democratic president many times over. Our best and most proven ideas cannot get even a hearing in the United States Senate. Unless we restore respect for the law, respect for truth and respect for common decency, we cannot hope to solve any of our other pressing problems.
The American people should understand that opening an impeachment inquiry is not removal of the president. Given the behavior of the United States Senate, that outcome is probably out of the question. An impeachment inquiry will be a fair consideration of the facts that the American people must understand, with both sides fairly and openly represented.
My motive today is not to pressure the speaker of the House, whose leadership in this Congress has been superb. She leads us today in the epic mission of defending our democracy. That mission requires a vigorous debate and competing ideas, but it also requires care, discipline and a measure of deference.
There are moments for careful calculation. For weighing political expediency and conflicting interests. And there are moments for clarity and conviction. This is that moment.
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