Rep. Al Green: Trump Doesn't Need To Commit A Crime To Be Impeached, 218 Members Of House Decide


As fallout from President Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen’s plea deal and former campaign manager Paul Manafort’s guilty verdict continues to grow, could President Trump be next? We speak about the possibility of impeachment with Democratic Congressmember Al Green, who introduced articles of impeachment against Trump last year, and Ron Fein, legal director at Free Speech for People. He is the co-author of the book “The Constitution Demands It: The Case for the Impeachment of Donald Trump.”

REP. AL GREEN: Well, thank you for allowing me to be on the program.

This is a very sad time in the history of our country. This is not something that I enjoy talking about, nor is it something that I would like to do. But I think it’s becoming increasingly clear that the president will have two options: One, he can resign from office, or, two, he can face impeachment.

Impeachment is something that the Framers of the Constitution provided for a time such as this and a president such as Trump. The president does not have to commit a crime to be impeached. In fact, the president is not likely to be indicted, which means he’s not likely to be found guilty of a crime while he’s sitting, which means that if this comes before the House, it won’t come before the House as a president who has been found guilty, but rather as a president who is alleged to have committed certain offenses that are onerous to the Constitution and that harm society. And what this president is doing is harming society.

More specifically, what Mr. Cohen stated in court—he had a lawyer. He is a lawyer. He says that he and the president of the United States conspired. He didn’t use that exact word, but that’s what it means when you say the president directed you, and you followed through. So they conspired to commit an offense. The president may never be found guilty of it, but he can be impeached for it.

It’s my opinion that the Judiciary Committee is not doing its job. This whole impeachment investigation is being outsourced. The Framers of the Constitution intended for the Judiciary Committee to do this—gather information, make decisions, move forward. If the Judiciary Committee doesn’t move forward, then I think it’s incumbent upon the 435 members, each of whom have the opportunity to bring articles of impeachment, to consider doing so. I will surely consider doing so.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Representative Green, as you’re aware, many of your Democratic colleagues in Congress are saying that the crucial thing to do now is allow Robert Mueller to go ahead with the investigation. And I’d like to turn to one of those senators, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, being questioned about why many Democrats remain hesitant to talk about impeachment proceedings. CNN anchor John Berman questioned her on Wednesday.

JOHN BERMAN: And what I’m hearing from you, Senator, and what I’ve heard from you in your interviews over the last few months—and you’re not alone among Democrats here—is a reluctance to talk about the I-word directly. Why? Why would you be nervous to say, “Hey, I think the House Judiciary Committee should hold hearings and look at this as an impeachable offense”?

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN: I’m not nervous; I just want to be effective. And the way that any of us are effective is to say, “Let’s get all of the evidence. Let’s get all of the pieces out there. Protect Robert Mueller. Let him finish his investigation. Let him make a full and fair report to all of the American people.” And when we’ve got that, then we can make a decision on what the appropriate next step is.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: So, Representative Green, your response to what Senator Warren said? Is the key thing now to let Mueller go ahead—to protect him and allow him to go ahead with the investigation?

REP. AL GREEN: One of the pre-eminent reasons for my being a Democrat is because within the Democratic Party there is not a belief that you must have unanimity of thought. We are allowed to be thinkers. We are allowed to have our own ideas. And I respect the ideas of all of my colleagues. And I believe that while their ideas should be respected, I, too, have ideas that must be respected.

It’s my opinion that you cannot allow an unfit president to continue to cause harm to society. Let’s take just a few examples quickly. When those persons in Charlottesville were saying “blood and soil,” “Jews will not replace us,” many of them worked in places that probably serve Jews and minority persons. One can only imagine what would happen to the food of a person who is of African ancestry who is being served by one of those bigots, one of those racists. Let’s take the example of what happened at the border with those babies that were being separated from their mothers by virtue of a policy instituted by this president. That was a form of bigotry that is intolerable. We don’t have to allow the president to continue to harm our society.

The Framers of the Constitution contemplated that there would be a president who would do things even more horrible than this, but also things as horrible as this, such that that president could be removed from office. And the Framers concluded that no person should be above the law and that the president should not be beyond justice. It is justice that we seek for the people of this country, and the president should be impeached. He doesn’t have to commit a crime, only has to have his case brought before the House of Representatives, and 218 people decide that he has committed an impeachable act.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to a recently—

REP. AL GREEN: If the Judiciary Committee doesn’t act, I will.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressman Green, I wanted to turn to a recently resurfaced clip of Trump ally Senator Lindsey Graham. This is back almost a decade ago, in 1999—actually, 20 years ago. Then-Congressman Graham argued for the impeachment of President Bill Clinton for seeking to hide evidence of his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. This was recently highlighted on MSNBC.

REP. LINDSEY GRAHAM: You don’t even have to be convicted of a crime to lose your job in this constitutional republic, if this body determines that your conduct as a public official is clearly out of bounds in your role. … Because impeachment is not about punishment. Impeachment is about cleansing the office. Impeachment is about restoring honor and integrity to the office.

AMY GOODMAN: Senator-now Lindsey Graham is not exactly speaking in the same way.

In addition to congressmember—in addition to Congressmember Al Green, we’re joined by Ron Fein, legal director at Free Speech for People. He’s the co-author of a book that is just out right now. The book is called The Constitution Demands It: The Case for the Impeachment of Donald Trump.

You’re not in Congress, Ron, you’re outside Congress. You’re part of a movement around the country calling for the impeachment of President Trump. You’ve been doing that for quite some time now. Did yesterday, the day of the guilty pleas and verdicts, change your demands? And what—if you can lay them out?

RON FEIN: Yeah, I think yesterday was a very big day. And I want to commend Representative Green, as well as some other brave members of Congress, who have been calling for impeachment before this point. But what happened yesterday with Michael Cohen, the personal lawyer to the president of the United States stating in open court that Donald Trump directed him to commit crimes, is a game changer. And it’s going to have repercussions that will be felt over the coming weeks. But what’s important to know, as Representative Green said, this is not the only basis for impeachment hearings. And the Judiciary Committee is long overdue for impeachment proceedings on a whole other range of grounds about Donald Trump.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Representative Green, you said earlier that Trump’s case should be brought before the House of Representatives to a vote about whether Trump should be impeached. But do you think there would be sufficient support for that vote? And also, you said that if it’s not brought to the House, you will act. What exactly do you intend to do?

REP. AL GREEN: Well, Dr. King reminds us that the time is always right to do that which is right. And we cannot allow political expediency to trump the moral imperative to save our country from the harm that this president perpetrates. I have no desire to be first. But if the Judiciary Committee doesn’t act—and it has a duty and a responsibility to do so—I’m going to get back to Congress. I’ll wait to see what the Judiciary Committee will do. And if it does not act judiciously, then it is incumbent upon me and other members to take this to the floor of the House. That’s the bar of justice for the president. It won’t be found anyplace else as long as he’s president. And we have our responsibility. I will live up to my duties, my responsibilities and my obligation. By the way, whether we like it or not, whether we won it or not, or whether we oppose it, impeachment is going to be on the ballot in November.

AMY GOODMAN: And what about that issue? Some people say, “Why impeachment? Let people vote.” And they voted for President Trump, even if millions more did not vote for President Trump. “But let the election decide who will be president.” Why is impeachment such an important tool for you, Congressmember?

REP. AL GREEN: First, let me acknowledge the author that is on with us. I think he was very kind, but his advice is quite clear that impeachment is an option.

And here is why we should move forward with impeachment. Because of the harm the president is currently doing to our society. You cannot allow this harm to continue. At some point, the harm can become irreparable in certain circumstances. We don’t want our country to become a country wherein persons of color who are arrested by the police may be harmed because the president has said, before police officers, “When you arrest a person, when you get them in custody, you need not be nice.” That’s encouraging persons to violate the Constitution. We don’t want the persons who were in Charlottesville to think that they now have cover for their dastardly deeds and their ugly protestations.

We want this country to be what it’s said to be—a place where one can receive liberty and all can receive justice. That’s what America is about. That’s what I’m about, not about my career. It’s about character. Do we have the character, the courage and the belief that we have to stand on the Constitution? I do believe we should.

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