Opinion | I Want Trump to Face Justice. But the House Shouldn’t Impeach Him.
We will never forget the events of Jan. 6. Our democratic institutions were assaulted. Lives were lost. The very foundations of our nation were shaken ─ but not broken.
All responsible parties, including President Trump, must face justice.
Yet, the manner in which President Trump and others are held accountable is a difficult question that demands more scrutiny.
If our leaders make the wrong decision in how to hold him accountable, it could damage the integrity of our system of justice, further fan the flames of division, and disillusion millions of Americans ─ all while failing to accomplish anything.
Given the tools that lie before Congress, it is clear that pursuing impeachment only days before President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated is not the answer.
Most important, there is inadequate time to reasonably investigate, present and debate articles of impeachment. Rushing through the substantive and procedural requirements for such a monumental action will directly diminish the validity of impeachment. We cannot rush to judgment simply because we want retribution or, worse, because we want to achieve a particular political outcome.
These aren’t minor concerns. A hasty impeachment could raise a host of consequences that could have a striking impact on the long-term stability of our country. The House’s article of impeachment specifies that it is for “Incitement of Insurrection.” But while the president’s words were unwise, intemperate and wrong, they may not qualify as incitement. And an impeachment on the grounds that they do will inevitably erode the norms around what may be considered constitutionally protected speech.
Additionally, a snap impeachment will undoubtedly fuel the divisions between our citizens at a time when the wounds of Jan. 6 are still raw. With the start of a new administration and a new Congress, there is a real opportunity to build bridges and unite the American people around our shared values.
Failing to do so will undermine our efforts to bring people together. It may even provide excuses and delusional incentives for those who would incite further violence. Impeachment will also consume Congress long after Mr. Trump has left office, inhibiting Congress’s ability to tackle the Covid-19 crisis, reignite our economy and other pressing issues.
Finally, a too-quick impeachment will not suddenly change the minds of millions of Americans who still do not recognize the election of President-elect Biden as legitimate. In fact, rushed proceedings will be seen as validating the view that impeachment is part of a multiyear campaign to delegitimize Mr. Trump’s 2016 election.
We cannot give credibility to the belief that Washington chooses to hold people accountable only for mere political advantage, especially to the detriment of the Constitution.
I implore our congressional leaders and Mr. Biden to take a moment to consider what is at stake. Work with us on constitutionally viable alternatives to ensure that no individual is above the law.
Such options include censure, criminal proceedings and actions under the 14th Amendment, after a complete and thorough investigation into the events leading up to the assault on the Capitol. I intend to join with my House colleagues in the introduction of a censure resolution Tuesday to ensure accountability occurs without delay for the events of Jan. 6. We must also look at alternatives that could allow Congress to bar Mr. Trump from holding federal office in the future.
I acknowledged Joe Biden as president-elect on Nov. 7. I spoke out against the Texas lawsuit against other states’ election processes and voted to certify the results of the presidential election. I have supported the president on many issues, but I have no interest in stopping justice from being served.
But make no mistake, our Constitution is the bedrock of our great nation. Impeachment now, days before Mr. Trump’s term ends, would be a grave error, diluting the meaning of that important constitutional provision forever. We cannot and should not support a rushed, divisive action simply because the emotions of the moment demand it. That is not the American way.
Tom Reed (@RepTomReed) is a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New York State.
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