Pinoys are punny.
When President Joseph “Erap” Estrada was being impeached, the predominantly Catholic Pinoy populace could not resist making a pun of the quintessential Christian greeting, “Peace be with you!”
“Impeach be with you!” was thus added to the glossary of Erap jokes.
That greeting — or rather, that wish — has now been added to the Trump lexicon, along with Trumputin and covfefe.
But there’s nothing funny about the current impeachment trial of President Donald J. Trump. For only the third time in the history of the United States, a president is being threatened with removal from office through the process prescribed by the Constitution.
President Richard Nixon could have made it four. But Nixon avoided impeachment by resigning before the House could vote on it.
The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives passed two Articles of Impeachment against Trump: one for Abuse of Presidential Powers and the second for Obstruction of Congress. The House is the sole entity empowered by the US Constitution to initiate the impeachment of the President. However, it is the Senate that is mandated to conduct an impeachment trial and decide on conviction or acquittal. A two-thirds majority vote is required to convict.
The first to be impeached was 17th US President Andrew Johnson. This was in 1868. But the Senate fell one vote short of the two-thirds majority needed for his removal from office. President Bill Clinton, POTUS 42, was impeached but was acquitted.
This makes Trump the 3rd to be impeached. But it is almost certain that he will be acquitted by a Republican-dominated Senate. The Senators will act as the jurors in the trial and will render the verdict. The Majority Leader, Senator Mitch McConnell has already declared that he has no intentions of conducting an “impartial” trial. So has Senator Lindsey Graham, GOP Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. They both aver that the Democrats in the Senate also have no intentions to vote impartially, thus they are really all being hypocrites about claiming to conduct an impartial trial.
And yet, each Senator took an oath before the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (who will preside over the trial) solemnly swearing that, “in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald John Trump, president of the United States, now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help me God.”
From the outset, that oath is intended to be violated. And Chief Justice John Roberts, as presiding officer, really has no power to do anything about it — unless he outright refuses to be party to a sham. He may not want to go down in history as having presided over a kangaroo court.
But things are not as cut-and-dried as they seem.
The Democrats are insisting that witnesses be allowed to testify at the trial to support the charges in the Articles of Impeachment. The majority of Americans agree, even while about half do not believe that Trump should necessarily be removed from office.
By allowing witnesses to testify, the GOP could at least give the trial a semblance of fairness. But the Republicans would rather not allow the potential witnesses to testify. They are former National Security Adviser John Bolton who has already branded as a “drug deal” one of the bases for impeaching Trump. The others, Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and the non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO), have already made public statements that support the accusations against Trump.
On the other hand, the Republicans would still like to avoid the spectacle of a flat-out sham trial for fear of being punished in the elections in November this year. Several GOP Senators, including McConnell, are running for reelection. A kangaroo court could scandalize the American electorate, and the backlash could cause the GOP to lose control of the Senate.
Even assuming that Trump will win a second term, a Senate and House controlled by the Democrats could initiate a new impeachment process that could send Trump to jail.
In fact, when Trump steps down from the presidency there could be charges waiting for him, specifically in the Southern District of New York, that could send him to the slammer.
The Democrats, meanwhile, are hoping that at least four Republican Senators will vote in favor of a resolution to allow witnesses to testify. That would result in a 51-vote majority, enough to overcome any resistance from McConnell.
Observers have bewailed the fact that “only four GOP Senators” appear willing to consider voting for witnesses in the trial out of the many Republicans in the Senate. All the others appear to have been bullied by the Masters of the Party into blindly following orders and protecting Trump.
Of course, the main reason is because they are protecting their own political careers. But if they can give an impression of objectivity, even while supporting Trump, that would be a life-saver for them, thus the possibility of an affirmative vote for witnesses.
Mind you, these are officials who have sworn to do their duty to the country — over and beyond their own political and personal interests.
Indeed, President Manuel Quezon, who was president of the Philippine Commonwealth under the United States, would have shamed them with his immortal words, “My loyalty to my party ends where my loyalty to my country begins.”
Meanwhile there are thousands of young American soldiers deployed in danger zones overseas. These young men and women are under orders to lay down their lives for the United States, should that be required. While the politicians in Washington DC worry about their political interests, these thousands of young Americans, in the prime of their lives, are all expected to echo Alfred Lord Tennysons’ line in the epic poem, “The Charge of the Light Brigade”:
“Ours is not to reason why. Ours is but to do and die.”
What a shame. Impeach be with you!
Greg B. Macabenta is an advertising and communications man shuttling between San Francisco and Manila and providing unique insights on issues from both perspectives.