Investigation into the possible impeachment of President Donald Trump moved into the open this week as House committees begin taking testimony in public. The spin will move into overdrive. The founding fathers expected the process of holding officeholders to account to be used and to be taken seriously. Present-day Americans should do the same and not get distracted.
Those who see this inquiry as an obligation of their office—so far only Democrats—believe there is enough evidence of presidential malfeasance to take this significant step. At the same time, defenders of the president are trying to convince people that the inquiry is purely political and not a serious constitutional exercise of responsibility.
It is easy to be convinced that the whole thing is just too complicated to understand. That assumption detaches people from a critical exercise of the unique balance of power in America’s democracy. At worst, it leaves them vulnerable to falsehoods created to distract from the facts.
Realize that all of it boils down to a single issue – abuse of power. Did the president of the United States abuse the power of his office to pursue his own personal benefit or to cover up that abuse?
Phrases like “quid pro quo” are distractions. So are demands that the whistleblower come forward, arguments that everyone does it so get over it and the promotion of accusations with no factual evidence.
None of it goes to the heart of the matter. Abuse of power does, as it did in the impeachment inquiry we know as Watergate.
Watergate has been seen by Republican partisans as illegitimate. The fact that President Nixon was never tried and convicted in the Senate plays into that narrative, a narrative that is wrong and doesn’t serve the nation.
The question of whether Donald Trump abused his presidential power or violated his oath of office has not been resolved at this point, despite the insistence of partisans on both sides. Nancy Pelosi, in her role as speaker of the House, only thought the possibility was evident enough for her to do what the founders envisioned.
Now that the process is moving forward with public testimony, people should pay attention and not get distracted by all the bright shiny objects. If nothing else, doing so will cut down significantly on how much time they spend thinking about it.