It’s impeachment time.
The House of Representatives now has before it Articles of Impeachment against President Donald Trump. There are two possible results — the articles pass, or they fail.
If they pass, then focus turns to the United States Senate. The Senate — surprisingly to some — has three possible options. They could fail to remove the president from office, or they could remove him. The third option is a bit hidden.
Removing a president from the White House seems simple enough, but there is nuance in that question. If the Senate chose to remove Trump, they would face a follow-up question: Should he be banned from holding office in the future?
That question takes special importance with the press of time. We’re just over seven weeks away from the Iowa caucuses. Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap has begun accepting nomination petitions to place presidential candidates on the ballot. It is entirely possible that Trump will qualify for the ballot in numerous states before any question comes before the Senate.
Maine’s congressional delegation should take heed as they consider their next steps. The worst possible outcome would be the impeachment of the president, removal from office, and the banishment from future elections. In this precarious political environment, such an action would give remarkable credibility to the accusations that the Democrats are pursuing impeachment because they fear their ultimate candidate will be unable to supplant Trump. And I’m not sure what happens if tens of millions of Americans suddenly believe themselves disenfranchised and aggrieved. The last time it happened, we found ourselves in a “great civil war.”
The “lesser” option is impeachment, removal, but allowing him to stand for re-election. If he loses in November, then all that would have been gained is several months of a Mike Pence presidency. If Trump wins, then it would be a Napoleon-esque fall and return. I’m fairly certain Napoleon isn’t an example we should emulate.
That leaves impeachment without removal. But, if that is the outcome, then this entire process is simply partisanship. It may be cathartic for a segment of the population, but it is merely sound and fury, ultimately signifying naught.
The American populace will have their opportunity to weigh in on the ongoing saga. If they accept Trump — fully aware of the accusations and evidence developed over the past several years — then that decision probably should be respected. If they decide to send him on his way, then it achieves the same ultimate result as impeachment.
All in all, it is a bit like the famous lesson from the 1980s movie “WarGames.” In simulating the “game” of thermonuclear war, the computer found “the only winning move is not to play.” The same should hold true with the present impeachment effort.
It is beyond dispute that Russia sought to interfere with the 2016 elections. However, their motive wasn’t because they had specific, articulable policy positions they thought might be advanced by a particular candidate. Rather, they sought to create chaos in the United States and tear the metaphorical fabric of America apart. Pressing forward with partisan, political impeachment proceedings furthers that goal.
If it is widely accepted that Trump will not ultimately be removed from office, then the winning move for the country is to not play. Democrats can take their arguments and evidence directly to the American people. Let voters — not the Senate — serve as the jury and pass whatever judgment they deem just.
Maybe Maine’s congressional delegation can lead the way, and prevail upon their colleagues that restraint is the prudent course of action. Not for Trump, but for the nation.