UNITED STATES─We seem to be suspended in an alternate universe regarding our laws, our courts and our once revered constitution. How can we explain to students the astonishing civics lesson that is unfolding in this impeachment trial?
We have been taught that daylight is the antibacterial solution to subterfuge and blatant lies. Yet our congressional Republicans have been unapologetically opposed to any new information or witnesses that could shed that all-important light on the shadowy goings-on in all three branches of our government.
Our justice department’s sycophantic Attorney General William Barr has apparently abandoned his oath of office to defend us, the people. Instead he is acting as the president’s personal attorney. Who then can citizens appeal to when the nation’s highest law enforcement officer is compromising his own oath by unashamedly shielding our compromised president?
We already know that the executive branch has abused its powers; Trump’s impeachment clearly describes how our president used the power of his office with threats to get Ukraine to damage his political rival’s reputation. Our Founding Fathers had a realistic fear of foreign interference in our elections; that’s why protections against this threat were specifically written into our constitution.
Then there is our legislative branch. Anyone who has even a minimal understanding of court proceedings and decorum knows that something is very wrong. Although the impeachment trial is not a criminal trial, there are nevertheless basic elements that cross over onto the senate floor.
Facts and information are part of any trial, or at least they used to be. Although McConnell was denied the opportunity to summarily dismiss the charges and not even have a trial only because a few Republicans insisted on a basic level of justice, he still is trying to avoid having any witnesses. Please stop a moment and imagine that you are on a jury and the judge announces there will be no witnesses, just the biased opening and closing statements of the opposing attorneys.
McConnell is not alone in his urgent quest to quell the sunlight. Maine Senator Susan Collins does not seem too interested in hearing new evidence, specifically from Ukrainian-American Lev Parnas. She feels that if the House did an incompetent job by not securing his testimony during the impeachment proceedings, then why should she bother to listen now? She seems unconcerned with the fact that his evidence was not presented to the House until January. But even if it were true that the House mismanaged this information, why is she not interested in correcting it?
This is a trial that affects every single American and it should be widely available for all of us to witness. Yet Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants to limit press coverage. Why? This is not a rhetorical question. Stop a minute and ask yourself why this one man does not want you or the other 330 million Americans to witness this trial? Could new facts emerge that could sway all of us in a direction this one man does not want us to go?
Whether you despise or revere our president, this impeachment trial is not about him. It is about us. What happens will affect future presidents of any party for the rest of our lives. Too many high level actors are working overtime to literally undermine the laws of our land by simply circumventing them. This should send not only a shudder, but outrage through us all. We are smack in the middle of a time that will be forever memorialized in our history books. It will either read as the time when our constitutional government was sorely tested and found too weak to survive, or as the time when we fought successfully to preserve it.
Our constitution has been in operation since 1789 and is the longest surviving written charter of government of any country in the world. Its first three words – We the People – affirm that the government of the United States exists to serve its people.
Our republican members of congress are not serving us if they are hell bent on denying us the right to know emerging new information. They are not serving us if they want to hide the proceedings from us. They are not serving us if they admit before even being sworn in that they will not be fair. They are not serving us if they are consulting with the White House who is the defendant in this trial.
Benjamin Franklin was asked what kind of a country America was to become. He answered, “A republic – if we can keep it.”
If we aren’t incensed about the assault on our rights being eroded and resolute in halting this gross abuse of power, then we must understand that democracy doesn’t have to be taken away; it can also be given away.