While the leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have made it clear that they don’t want to pursue an impeachment inquiry against the current president, one of the newest members of the body, Rashida Tlaib, has been a strong voice for accountability, drawing up a resolution to start the process by having the Judiciary Committee begin an investigation.
Three main arguments have been made against Representative Tlaib’s call. The first is made most often by the Democratic leadership in the House, who say that the country’s judicial system is the best place for fights over things like the president’s taxes to take place. The main problem with this, besides how long it usually takes, is that the final destination for many of these cases, the Supreme Court, now appears to be under the complete control of right wingers, two of them put there by the current occupant of the White House.
The second argument is that while the inquir process is the sole domain of the Democrat controlled House, the actual trial after the investigation would take place in the Republican controlled Senate, where the president would almost surely win. The fear is that impeachment would enrage and energize his base in the lead up to 2020, perhaps making a second term more likely.
The third is based more on caution: if the U.S. president were to win in 2020, the inquiry process would remain in the toolbox, perhaps with a less friendly Senate that might follow through with impeachment.
While each of these arguments have their strengths, Tlaib, a lawyer with deep constitutional knowledge, has remained undeterred. Someone who doesn’t seem content to take no for an answer, the congresswoman for Michigan’s 13th district, along with co-sponsor Al Green of Texas, created H. Res. 257 and made it public on March 27th..
The main body of the resolution, which is as to the point as its presumed author, reads as follows:
“(1) the Committee on the Judiciary shall inquire whether the House of Representatives should impeach Donald John Trump, President of the United States of America;
(2) the Committee on the Judiciary or any subcommittee or task force designated by the Committee may, in connection with the inquiry under this resolution, take affidavits and depositions by a member, counsel, or consultant of the Committee, pursuant to notice or subpoena; and
(3) there shall be paid out of the applicable accounts of the House of Representatives such sums as may be necessary to assist the Committee on the Judiciary in conducting the inquiry under this resolution, any of which may be used for the procurement of staff or consultant services.”
Aside from the inevitable criticisms that will come from the American right about the money that may need to be spent (never made during endless hearings over Benghazi), considering the behavior of this president, including a demand that his former White House counsel not appear before the Judiciary Committee on Tuesday and multiple cases of possible obstruction of justice detailed in the Mueller report, Tlaib’s case is gaining traction.
As of this week, she’s even found a possible ally in Justin Amash, another Michigan Congressman, but a deeply conservative, Republican one, who tweeted that he thinks that, “Mueller’s report identifies multiple examples of conduct satisfying all the elements of obstruction of justice, and undoubtedly any person who is not the president of the United States would be indicted based on such evidence.”
While the current occupant of the White House often pretends to be a tough guy, if he’s as intelligent as he always assures us he is, he probably shouldn’t play chicken on impeachment as he seems to be doing at present. Rather than bolstering his support, continual airing of his dirty laundry, including allegations of money laundering, on the national stage in the lead up to 2020 is more likely to energize the Democratic base and even sway some fence sitters over to the eventual Democratic nominee than it is to effect his own base of support either way.
Considering that Tlaib is Palestinian-American, it was probably only a matter of time before she’d be smeared by the right, including the president, all of whom have been pretty busy misinterpreting the words of her colleague, Representative Ilhan Omar, for months. Still, one has to wonder if her calls for impeachment have put the Michigan congresswoman more firmly in their cross-hairs.
The most vicious attacks so far came after she was on Yahoo News’ Skullduggery podcast and was asked about the Holocaust, responding in a thoughtful and moving way, which it’s important to quote at length, “There’s kind of a calming feeling I always tell folks when I think of the Holocaust, and the tragedy of the Holocaust, and the fact that it was my ancestors, Palestinians, who lost their land and some lost their lives, their livelihood, their human dignity, their existence in many ways has been wiped out…”
“I mean, just all of it was in the name of trying to create a safe haven for Jews, post-the Holocaust, post-the tragedy and the horrific persecution of Jews across the world at that time, and I love the fact that it was my ancestors that provided that, right, in many ways. But they did it in a way that took their human dignity away, right, and it was forced on them.”
“But they did it in a way that took their human dignity away, right, and it was forced on them. And so when I think about a one-state, I think about the fact that: Why couldn’t we do it in a better way?”
This candid statement was quickly weaponized by the likes of Liz Cheney, who took it completely out of context, saying that Tlaib was made calm by the thought of the Holocaust, and ignoring the fact that she called it, and persecution of Jewish people generally at that time, “horrible”.
The U.S. Commander in Chief soon got into the act, posting to Twitter, “Democrat Rep. Tlaib is being slammed for her horrible and highly insensitive statement on the Holocaust. She obviously has tremendous hatred of Israel and the Jewish people. Can you imagine what would happen if I ever said what she said, and says?”
Perhaps most odd is that most of these attacks against the congresswoman come from non-Jews, usually conservatives who identify as Christian.
As Rabbi Alana Alpert, a constituent in Michigan’s 13th District told the web-site In These Times, “The GOP doesn’t care about Jews—if they did they would fight the real threat we are facing: the rise of white nationalism which their President is certainly enabling. It’s an incredibly cynical move, twisting the Congresswoman’s words. My family, and every Jew I know in her district, are proud to be her constituents. We are grateful to have someone in Washington fighting for us and our neighbors on health, environment and economy.”
Unlike the case of Ilhan Omar, where most of her House colleagues either remained silent or chose to criticize her, Tlaib has had more defenders in regards to these unhinged attacks.
As one of these, Representative Mark Pocan of Missouri, who co-chairs both the Progressive and LGBT Equality Caucuses, recently explained,“[The President’s tweet] crosses a line, it jumps over that line back and forth several times, and then it starts to redraw the line. It’s time that the Republican leadership stop trying to scare the crap out of their base with our Muslim women.”
The increasing use of anti-Semitism as a blunt instrument on the right, both in the U.S. and the UK, is shameful on many levels. Two attacks on American synagogues have occurred in the last nine months and both were the acts of white nationalists that people like the U.S. president constantly signal to, whether intentionally or not. As a result of the smears being made against them and the normalization of white nationalism over the last few years, Tlaib and Omar have both received increasing numbers of death threats.
Although they are always at the ready to metaphorically clutch their pearls over issues of ‘civility’, the right generally like to play the bully and historically this has worked on their neoliberal opposition.
If they think that they can do this with Representative Tlaib and not receive pushback from the plainspoken member of the Democratic Socialists of America and her many progressive allies, they are mistaken, as she wrote, “Policing my words, twisting & turning them to ignite vile attacks on me will not work. All of you who are trying to silence me will fail miserably. I will never allow you to take my words out of context to push your racist and hateful agenda. The truth will always win.”