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Doug Mills/The New York Times

20 questions for Americans as impeachment moves forward

Just to clarify where we stand

Jeffrey Denny

Coming through the impeachment hearings, 53% of Americans disapprove of President Trump, 57% believe he committed an impeachable offense in the Ukraine matter, and 45.8% think he should be impeached and removed.

Yet only 7% of Republicans think his actions were impeachable and a whopping 79.3% oppose removing him from office. (See FiveThirtyEight polling aggregation.)

Whatever our political leanings or views right now, I thought it might be clarifying to answer some basic questions — yes or no, without quibble, cavil or tu quoque— about the core issues at hand. Try it:

  1. Do you believe what President Trump did in the Ukraine matter was OK?
  2. Is it OK for the President of the United States to withhold duly appropriated public funds to pressure a foreign government to investigate his political rival, advance his reelection and distort our vote?
  3. Would you be OK if President Hillary Clinton did exactly what President Trump has done?
  4. Would you be OK if President Biden invited foreign countries, including our leading adversaries Russia and China, to “hack” our elections to his advantage?
  5. Do you accept that the Founders established Congress as the first branch of government with significant powers to hold the president accountable?
  6. Do you think Congress has the right to investigate the president and impeach him if it finds clear evidence of abuse of power?
  7. Do you believe, as Trump’s lawyers assert, the president has immunity from criminal investigation or prosecution while in office? Or should?
  8. Do you think the president is ever above the law?
  9. Are you OK with that? Even though our Founders made it crystal clear and a key element of the Constitution he is not?
  10. Did you support the Republican Congress when it impeached President Clinton for “high crimes and misdemeanors” in trying to hide an illicit affair?
  11. Were you OK with the long and wide-ranging Republican probe of President Clinton’s alleged abuses including the Whitewater controversy, firing of White House travel agents, and alleged misuse of FBI files — all of which turned up nothing? (How about the GOP’s two-year, $7.8 million Benghazi investigation that found no evidence of wrongdoing by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton?)
  12. Do you think the Republican charges against President Clinton were worse the Democrats’ charges against Trump — abuse of power and bribery, obstruction of Congress and obstruction of justice? Is trying to hide an illicit affair worse than using the power of the presidency and the public purse to pressure a foreign nation to investigate a political rival, and then dissembling and stonewalling?
  13. When the president does everything to block Congress in its oversight role, including ignoring subpoenas, does it seem like he’s completely innocent with nothing to hide?
  14. When anyone refuses to cooperate with the law, does it seem like that person is completely innocent with nothing to hide? How about if your accountant absconded with your bank accounts?
  15. Do you think investigation of the Trump Ukraine matter is a partisan “witch hunt”? Are you completely satisfied with not knowing all the facts and support Trump’s defiance of the law and due process?
  16. Special Counsel Robert Mueller stated in his report, “If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.” Asked under oath, “Did you actually totally exonerate the president?” Mueller replied, “No.” Do you still believe the Mueller investigation totally exonerated the president?
  17. Would you accept your spouse’s claim of “total exoneration” if, given the evidence, you weren’t confident he or she didn’t cheat?
  18. Do you hate liberals, Democrats, the mainstream media, college liberal arts professors and student safe-space snowflakes, coastal urban elites and others who criticize Trump?
  19. Do you get most of your news and views from Fox and other right-wing Trump-supporting media, including alt-right internet and dark web “sources,” believing they are more honest, objective and truth-telling than the mainstream media? (If yes, did you believe the mainstream media when it broke the stories about Hillary’s emails, Whitewater, Vince Foster, Clinton Foundation, Wall Street speaking fees, Benghazi, etc.?)
  20. Do you believe Trump is so great for America you don’t care about his behavior — the bald-faced lying, ad hominem personal attacks and insults, childish tantrums, chaotic White House, dividing of the country, succoring of racist white supremacists and inciting “enemy of the people” “lock her up” and “send her back” mob rally chants — no matter how bad?

Be it far from me to judge any answers as right or wrong.

My answers — “no” to all but questions 5 and 6— reflect not only my military and public service and patriotism, but also the three unforgettable and solemn occasions as a presidential appointee when I was asked to raise my right hand to take the Oath of Office, swearing to support and defend the Constitution.

Even with a presidential appointment, you’re not asked to swear allegiance to the president — only to that yellowed parchment displayed in the main lobby under the rotunda of the National Archives Building in downtown DC.

It’s stunning to me how, 232 years hence, we’re still ruled by an old piece of paper—ruled by laws, not people, and certainly not the president — and how many folks don’t know or get how that’s our saving grace.

So I worry that answering “yes” to many or most of these 20 questions suggests more loyalty to the current president and party than to the Constitution and country. Let’s hope this impeachment process is a teaching moment. I think our Founders would have.

Jeffrey Denny is a Washington writer.

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