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Impeach or wait? It’s an oath-of-office question

We the People
U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
Constitution of the United States

Impeach or wait?

It’s no longer a partisan question. It becomes clearer every day. It’s not a strategic question. It’s no longer a question of how much more, or when is enough enough. It’s a constitutional question. It’s an oath-of-office question, the oath taken by every member of Congress under the U.S. Constitution, which states:

The Senators and Representatives … and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution …

— U.S. Constitution, Article VI, clause 3.

Here is the form of the oath of office that members of Congress have taken since 1966, as prescribed in the U.S. Code:

I, __, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

Assaults on the Constitution

With every passing day, some who have taken the oath of office sidestep the duties of their offices by “purpose of evasion” in the face of the growing constitutional crisis. It is no longer a question of which side of the aisle you are on. Supporting and defending the U.S. Constitution means, at very least, upholding the constitutional checks and balances among executive, congressional, and judicial branches designed to protect a democratic republic from its implosion. Assaults and circumventions around that division of powers are assaults on the Constitution and the rule of law it protects.

Purpose of evasion

EVASION. A subtle device to set aside the truth, or escape the punishment of the law; as if a man should tempt another to strike him first, in order that he might have an opportunity of returning the blow with impunity. He is nevertheless punishable, because he becomes himself the aggressor in such a case. Wishard, 1 H. P. C. 81 Hawk. P. C. c. 31, Sec. 24, 25; Bac. Ab. Fraud, A.

Rev. Gordon C. Stewart
Rev. Gordon C. Stewart
The British idea of “loyal opposition” — loyalty to the nation and to the oath to “support and defend” the Constitution — is a longstanding tradition. The loyalty is to the Constitution. Faithfulness is to one’s oath of office, not loyalty to a person. Loyal opposition holds the party in power accountable. Loyal opposition infers loyalty to the Constitution by members of whatever party is the majority.

Partisan stonewalling against the constitutional duty of constitutional oversight — whether by a president, the House of Representatives, or the U.S. Senate — constitutes violation of the oath of office by “purpose of evasion.”

No time to blink

Some argue that an impeachment inquiry by the House of Representatives, regardless of its findings, is destined to fail because the majority party in the Senate will exonerate the president of the majority party.

We would do well to remember the wisdom of an earlier American president:

Democracy … while it lasts is more bloody than either aristocracy or monarchy. Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There is never a democracy that did not commit suicide.

John Adams

Some things cannot wait. Some things have time limits. Constitutions, the rule of law, and democratic republics can disappear in the twinkling of an eye.

This is no time to blink.

Gordon C. Stewart, the retired pastor of Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church in Chaska, is a social commentator, writer and radio commentator. He is the author of “Be Still: Departure from Collective Madness.”

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Comments (12)

  1. Submitted by David Markle on 05/30/2019 - 11:07 am.

    Good ideals, but no point in wasting time and energy on impeachment if there’s no possibility of the Senate convicting.

    • Submitted by Mark Snyder on 05/30/2019 - 12:02 pm.

      Is it worth pursuing if it helps make the case for why we need a new Senate after they fail to act? There will be 33 seats up for election in 2020, 22 of which are currently held by Republicans.

    • Submitted by Gordon Stewart on 05/30/2019 - 12:15 pm.

      Thanks for the comment. Whether there is a possibility of the Senate convicting is a dour question that exposes the underlying ethical issue: fulfilling the oath of office to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States” – not self-interest, vested interests, or partisan power. My intention in this piece is to suggest a shift to the common (shared) ground on which every Representative and Senator has sworn to stand: the oath of office to which all of them are bound (Article VI, clause 3).

      The widespread public perception, across all party lines of division, is a thoroughgoing evasion of integrity in high places. The distrust is toxic. But the distrust is produced by un-trustworthiness of elected representatives and presidents, i.e, their cunning maneuvers that make a sham of the oath of office.

      It is, as you say, a question of good ideals. When the difference between good ideals, e.g.fulfilling the oath of office, and daily reality becomes too great, reality itself is unmoored for aspirations that make it worth preserving.

      Thanks, David, for taking the time to share your comment.

  2. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 05/30/2019 - 11:57 am.

    The constitution is not a policy document. The fact is, we are a nation who more or less, elected a crook as president. The constitution provided one safeguard against this kind of contingency, the electoral college but the electors failed us. Another remedy is impeachment, but the fact is we elected senators who will not impeach the president.

    We must never forget, ours is a government of men and women, not laws.

  3. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 05/30/2019 - 12:13 pm.

    I strongly disagree with Markle’s conclusion that because the Republican Senate won’t vote to impeach, the House of Representatives can’t mount an impeachment inquiry that states, for history, that there are Americans who put the Constitution above politics.

    Who cares what Mitch McConnell does in the Senate? To have the House openly investigate–open is the operative word, for the public–and come to submit formal Articles of Impeachment would mark Donald J. Trump for history as the unlawful and dishonest president he is.

    That would be a solid reprimand, and Boy! this guy really needs to be reprimanded–“checked” or stopped in his tracks–by somebody. Remember: Bill Clinton wasn’t impeached by the Senate, either. But you all remember that he lied about his liaison with Monica Lewinsky and the House wrote up impeachment articles, right? An d the public hearings on Niixon were so powerfully revealing that Nixon caved, and resigned, before any formal action. The hearings were vital.

    Trump openly welcomed Russian help in his 2016 election drive, and then he tried multiple times to thwart or cancel the investigation into his Russian contacts and aid. That, plus Trump’s now-total refusal to obey lawful subpoenas from Congress or permit anyone on his staff to obey them, is sufficient reason to put political fears aside and preserve and protect the Constitution and the rule of law that is the foundation of our democracy.

  4. Submitted by Pat Terry on 05/30/2019 - 02:57 pm.

    The Republican Senate does not care what he’s guilty of. His supporters have no interest in the facts. Their minds cannot be changed.

    Based on the Mueller report, there is a valid basis to begin impeachment proceedings. It would be far more legit than the Clinton impeachment.

    The only question is whether impeachment will help or hurt in defeating Trump in 2020. Winning that election is the only way the republic and the constitution can be saved. Any other consideration about doing the right thing, constitutional obligation, etc. is just irrelevant.

    • Submitted by LK WOODRUFF on 05/30/2019 - 06:39 pm.

      Ultimately:

      The People Rule! Let us never forget that.
      Those in positions of power and authority are there to serve us.

      Should they abdicate, or break our Rule of Law, or ignore our Constitution:
      They are quickly replaceable and/or may well suffer legal ramifications, too.

      STOP sitting on this, America! Take ACTION!!!!

      • Submitted by LK WOODRUFF on 05/31/2019 - 11:51 am.

        In the words of Abraham Lincoln:

        “We the People are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.”

        and

        “Public sentiment is everything.”

  5. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 05/30/2019 - 03:35 pm.

    Anybody waiting for our “engaged ad informed” electorate to vote Trump out of office in 2020, instead of trying impeachment now in the House, is relying on the same tremendously informed and rational populace who elected Trump ion the first place. Thinking one of the kazillion Democrats running for the presidential nomination is going to beat Trump is riskier than beginning impeachment proceedings now. Politically.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 05/30/2019 - 04:37 pm.

      Impeachment is not an alternative to beating Trump in the 2020 election. There is a zero percent chance impeachment results in Trump being removed from office. The only question is whether impeachment proceedings will help or hurt in the election.

  6. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 05/31/2019 - 11:11 am.

    So He’s taking over from Moses?

  7. Submitted by Steve Rose on 06/01/2019 - 05:16 pm.

    No, Obama was the last President.

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