Joseph Sabino Mistick: The American treasure of impeachment
The impeachment of a president of the United States is serious business, but the fact that it is even an option should make every American proud. It can be gut wrenching, but this ability to call our most powerful leader to task is proof of the even more powerful role of the American people.
As our Constitution says, “The President, Vice President and all Civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
As our nation was being imagined by men who were still stinging from the power of the British king, it was important to protect Americans from leaders who go astray. Alexander Hamilton believed that impeachment would provide necessary protection “from the abuse or violation of some public trust.”
Since then, Presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton have been impeached by the House of Representatives and referred to the Senate for trial, and impeachment has been used more than 60 other times, mostly for federal judges.
Some of President Donald Trump’s supporters have argued that impeachment is unnecessary, since there is a presidential election next year and the people can simply vote him out then if they believe it is warranted. That argument was also made in 1787 at the Constitutional Convention and rejected for a more direct and timely remedy.
Virginia’s George Mason carried the day when he asked, “Shall any man be above justice?” And Massachusetts delegate Elbridge Gerry assured the delegates that Congress was up to the task, saying, “A good magistrate will not fear them. A bad one ought to be kept in fear of them.”
So here we are again, immersed in a solemn spectacle in which Americans are called into the public arena to testify about one of the most powerful leaders on earth. Regardless of your politics, impeachment should inspire awe.
All of the witnesses so far were appointed by Trump and have worked with him. He ordered those who are still with the administration to refuse to testify, and they all knew that he would use his bully pulpit to insult and humiliate them if they showed up anyways. But they honored their oath to uphold the Constitution.
Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman is a perfect example. Appearing in uniform, displaying the Combat Infantry Badge and Purple Heart that he earned fighting for us in Iraq, he showed us the best of America.
Forty years ago, Vindman’s father escaped the religious oppression of the Soviet Union to build a better life for his three sons in America. Alexander and his twin brother went on to join the military, and both ended up working in the White House.
It would have been easier for the young officer to look the other way when he suspected that the president had done something wrong, but he knew that his duty is to the nation and not to the man. He stepped up.
And in his opening statement, he assured his father that everything would be OK, that he knew how to be a good American, telling him, “Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth.”
Joseph Sabino Mistick is a Pittsburgh lawyer. Reach him at [email protected].