John McFerrin: It's time to impeach Trump (Opinion)

It’s time to officially impeach President Donald Trump.

To some, it may seem a waste of time. If the United States House of Representatives votes to impeach him, he would not automatically be removed from office. He would have to be tried and convicted in the Senate. To avoid conviction, all he has to do is hold onto the support of most of the Republicans.

I can’t look into their hearts to know if the Senate Republicans actually like him. But they fear him; in politics that is just as useful. Consider what would happen to Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., if she voted to convict President Trump and he retaliated by backing a primary opponent. Voting to convict him could end her career. Were President Trump ever to be impeached and tried in the Senate he could cobble together a big enough coalition of those who like him and those who fear him to avoid conviction.

Impeachment also feels undemocratic. There’s an election next year. If he is such a bad president, why not just vote him out? If the people want a president who thinks it is acceptable to use the weight of his office to press other countries to do things that benefit only him, not the country, then they can re-elect him. If not, they can vote him out.

It is also not in the Democrats’ best interest to impeach him. It is a military truism that a good general picks the ground he fights on. Donald Trump loves a fight. He would love to run for re-election besieged by the Washington establishment, the fighter for the people set upon by the hounds of the “deep state.”

Such a strategy might not be effective for the country as a whole, but it would charge up his core voters. It would be a repeat of 2016. Elections are not won by convincing a majority of the country. Elections are won by a hard-core minority that will show up at the polls while the people who “just don’t know about Hillary” either stay home or vote for a third party.

So why do it? If there is an election coming anyway, the Republicans in the Senate would stick together to keep him in office, and impeachment might make it more likely that he is reelected, why do it?

The House of Representatives needs to do it because there comes a time when you just have to do what is right. When a president abuses his power, undermining our system of government, those with the power to do something have an obligation to do something. The House of Representatives has the power to impeach.

All Mr. Trump needs to do to win the 2020 election is hold onto his hard-core Trump voters (check) and give the majority of the country a reason to say that they “just don’t know about Joe” (with the investigation he asked for from Ukraine, also check). To achieve this goal, President Trump sold out our country. He asked a foreign country to investigate Mr. Biden, giving him the campaign issue he needed. When he did that, he was no longer advancing the interests of the United States. He was advancing the interests of Donald Trump.

Is asking for election help any different from saying, “You can have the military aid but I need you to drop off a suitcase full of hundred dollars bills first?” The only difference is the type of favor he asks for. He is a rich guy; he doesn’t need another suitcase full of hundred dollar bills. He needs help getting re-elected.

It is true, of course, that there is such a thing as diplomacy and that governments routinely try to persuade other countries to do something. That is legitimate. If, for example, President Trump wants to persuade Germany to spend more on defense, he could do that. Since the United States has a mutual defense treaty with Germany, he is doing something that might serve the interest of the United States. President Carter convinced Egypt to make peace with Israel. Egypt got something out of the deal. It is entirely legitimate to try to persuade other countries to do something that benefits the United States and to offer something in return.

With Ukraine, he is not doing that. He is asking Ukraine for a personal favor, an investigation of his political rival. He is using his office to get something that does not benefit the United States but benefits only Donald Trump. His office gives him enormous power. He may not use that enormous power to benefit Donald Trump while ignoring the interests of the country.

We can’t just let this go. President Trump has always been an “all about me” kind of guy. In some contexts, he is free to act any way he likes, making every situation about him. If he wants to open cabinet meetings by demanding that his subordinates praise him, he can do that. It makes him look small and insecure but it doesn’t hurt the country.

The situation with Ukraine is different. No president can make the country all about him, using the power of his office to squeeze favors from another country that only benefit him personally. Somebody has to do something.

Your move, House of Representatives.

John McFerrin, a Beckley lawyer, is a contributing Gazette-Mail columnist.

Funerals for Friday, November 15, 2019

Flint Jr., William - 1 p.m., Graceland Memorial Par, South Charleston.

Geiger Jr., Berley - Noon, Metropolitan Baptist Church, Charleston.

Hines, Kathy - 1 p.m., Weirwood Community Church, Weirwood.

Jeffers, Neal - 2 p.m., Good Shepherd Mortuary, South Charleston.

Jeffrey, Harold - 11 a.m., Evans Funeral Home, Chapmanville.

Kearns, Pamela - 1 p.m., Foglesong-Casto Funeral Home, Mason.

Loftis, Anthony - Noon, Richmond Cemetery, Spurlockville.

McFarland, William - 1 p.m., Preston Funeral Home, Charleston.

Neal, Betty - 1 p.m., Smathers Funeral Chapel, Rainelle.

Pennington, Jack - 1 p.m., Rock Branch Independent Church.

Richards, Jimmy - 11 a.m., Stump Funeral Home & Cremation Inc., Grantsville.

Terry Sr., Watson - 1 p.m., Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church of Carbondale.

Welch, Brenda - 11 a.m., Fidler & Frame Funeral Home, Belle.

Wise, Barry - 6 p.m., Roush Funeral Home, Ravenswood.