The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Impeachment begins. What happens next?

President Trump speaks to journalists on the South Lawn at the White House on July 17.
President Trump speaks to journalists on the South Lawn at the White House on July 17. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

E.J. Dionne Jr.’s observation that receiving information and hearing from witnesses are “part of Congress’s normal and constitutionally sanctioned work of keeping an eye on the executive branch” in his Sept. 23 op-ed, “Why Trump gets away with everything,” understated the point. Many of this nation’s founders had an intense distrust of accumulating power in any individual institution. As a result, they built into the Constitution a system of checks and balances to assure no branch of government could ignore the law.

Congress has the right and the responsibility to ensure that laws are faithfully executed. Should the president ignore subpoenas for documents associated with the whistleblower, those subpoenas will be enforced in our courts. The courts then must ensure the oversight function is carried out. To hide behind the defense that a court cannot enforce a subpoena because it is a political question would deny any chance that the Constitution will function as intended — with checks and balances to enable each branch of government to hold the others accountable.

Even the strict constructionists on our courts should recognize this.

Edward B. Cohen, Washington

President Trump gets away with everything because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his cronies are willing to put the United States’ national security at risk, willing to plunge our country into debt, willing to trash the environment by rolling back regulations and willing to let Mr. Trump embarrass us on the national stage. And I am just getting started.

I can’t figure out why. Is it the personal tax cuts for the wealthy? Is it stacking the courts with conservatives who do not care about minorities? Is it a reelection issue? Please, anyone, help me understand why the Republican Party is willing to bow down to one ordinary man who is trashing our democracy every single day.

Cindy Frank, Silver Spring

Regarding Catherine Rampell’s Sept. 24 op-ed, “The death of democracy: A whodunit”:

We’re no longer a functioning democracy, not as long as President Trump remains in office. Mr. Trump’s unremitting defiance of Congress, an equal branch of the government, has in effect turned our country into a nation ruled by an out-of-control dictator. Shame on Congress for dithering.

Perhaps this latest episode brought to the fore by the inspector general for the intelligence community’s whistleblower report (which alludes to the matter being “urgent”) will change the trajectory of this national tragedy. If not, we may be doomed to become a failed state along with other democratic nations in the dustbin of history.

Andrew Rosenzweig, White Plains, N.Y.

The seven members of Congress who jointly penned the Sept. 25 op-ed “A threat to everything we have sworn to protect” had it right. Although “politics” seems inseparable these days from governance, we must stop conflating the two in response to the ongoing abuses of power by the president and members of his administration, aided and abetted by the willful silence of the Republican majority in the Senate.

It is long past time for all of them, including Vice President Pence, to be reminded that their fealty is owed to the Constitution of the United States — not to their “base,” not to their donors, not to “protecting” President Trump.

Bob Kline, Charlotte

Without massive popular support for impeachment, Republican members of Congress will not dare support the effort. Any bill of impeachment passing the House would do so on party lines. The Senate would not convict. Congressional Democrats would look ridiculous and impotently spiteful.

The whole thing would be a disaster for the Democrats and a gift to President Trump and the Republicans going into the 2020 elections.

And suppose I’m wrong about all the above? Suppose the Senate did convict? Then we’d have President Pence, a true conservative, respected within his party, who would be far more effective in eliminating publicly funded health care and gutting environmental regulations, civil rights, and labor and consumer protections. And a landslide for the Republicans in 2020.

Stowell W. Davison, College Park

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