Inaction Is No Longer an Option

As the Judiciary Committee’s only career prosecutor, I know we must impose consequences for lawlessness. That includes the president.

Donald Trump
Leah Millis / Reuters

We have no choice: Congress must begin an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump. Even if the effort to remove him comes up short in the Senate, showing a willingness to hold a lawless president accountable may be the only way to save our democracy.

I purposely have not rushed headlong into this or prejudged the outcome, as he would have done. Along with my colleagues on the House Judiciary Committee, I have carefully weighed the available evidence. Impeachment is the most extraordinary remedy the Constitution offers, and even this president deserves fairer and more impartial justice than he ever renders. Yet no other American would have been afforded—and refused—so many chances to cooperate, come clean, and do the right thing.

The president continues to betray America, putting his own interests ahead of our country’s. His statement that he would accept a foreign power’s offer of information harmful to an electoral rival, and probably not inform the FBI of such an effort, shouldn’t be shocking—because he already did it.

But for a president of the United States to say such a thing while sitting at the Resolute desk in the Oval Office is so far beyond the pale, every single American should feel violated. Trump is inviting foreigners to attack our elections, again. Our democracy is still reeling from Russia’s 2016 attack. We cannot weather another blow, particularly one that our own president encourages.

Let others debate whether impeachment proceedings are “good for Democrats” or are “playing into Trump’s hands,” or whether they “will tank the 2020 race.” As the Judiciary Committee’s only career prosecutor, I know we must put our country first and impose consequences for lawlessness.

The first half of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, even in redacted form, leaves no room for debate: This president and his campaign eagerly exploited help from Russian agents, despite being aware that Russia was sabotaging our election. Mueller’s conclusion that he couldn’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that this was a crime under current law simply means previous Congresses couldn’t imagine a candidate or president ever behaving this way—not that we can condone such behavior, or let it pass unanswered.

We cannot let Trump continue to deny that this attack happened; we cannot let him continue his cozy relations with the regime that perpetrated the attack; and we cannot let him leave us undefended against future attacks.

The second half of Mueller’s report is equally damning, examining 10 instances in which the president might have obstructed justice. Any other American who committed these acts would have been criminally charged, and reading the report, I was forced to conclude that the only reason Trump was not is because of a Justice Department policy barring indictment of a sitting president.

The next president needs to rescind that policy. But after two years of a Republican Congress unwilling to check this president’s obstruction and obfuscation, American voters gave us a House that can serve as a counterbalance on Trump’s abuses of power. Through oversight and litigation, a Democratic majority has sought to meet this responsibility. Even after the release of the redacted version of the Mueller report, though, this president has obstructed Congress by instructing witnesses not to cooperate and by invoking executive privilege where none exists. While insisting he did nothing wrong, he’s actively burying evidence.

America must know whether our president is compromised by financial ties to foreign governments. We deserve to see his tax records—to have the same level of visibility into his finances that hostile foreign actors may already enjoy. We must see the unredacted Mueller report, the full truth that Americans have demanded all along. We won’t let a serial liar and obstructer sully this office—if not for the sake of maintaining the dignity of past presidents, then certainly for the sake of ensuring no president acts this way ever again.

The rule of law, and the idea that it applies to everyone regardless of what office that person might hold, is the chief ingredient in our democracy. The accountability and transparency it provides allow for all the freedoms we hold dear; without it, America’s promise is only fulfilled for the connected and crooked.

Our democracy is worth saving, so we must begin the impeachment inquiry. A fair process will either remove a corrupt president or acquit him. He will be judged on his words and deeds, and either way, justice will be served. But inaction is no longer an option.