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In Our View: Herrera Beutler puts party ahead of country

The Columbian
Published: November 3, 2019, 6:03am

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler’s characterization of impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump as a “farce” is shamefully partisan hyperbole that ignores her oath of office.

In joining all House Republicans by voting against rules for a formal impeachment hearing, the Battle Ground Republican has chosen party over country and obfuscation over transparency. With Democrats holding a majority in the House of Representatives, the measure passed anyway, setting up the next stage of hearings in the 5-week-old impeachment inquiry.

Herrera Beutler, in her fifth term in Congress, might be expected to follow party dogma in trying to halt the process. But her explanations on Facebook and Twitter fly in the face of logic and common sense, promoting Republican talking points designed to sow discord and doubt among the voting public.

Indeed, impeachment proceedings are inherently divisive. Herrera Beutler correctly notes the gravity of the situation and the weighty duty carried by all members of Congress. Talking about impeaching an American president and perhaps removing him from office — which would be up to the Senate — is not something to be taken lightly.

But it is there that we refer the congresswoman to her oath of office: “I, (name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution … and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

There is credible evidence that President Trump withheld congressionally approved aid to Ukraine while seeking an investigation of a political rival. If true, that represents an effort to undermine an American election and to co-opt government for personal gain. Such evidence must be investigated; to suggest otherwise is to abdicate one’s duty to defend the Constitution.

During the initial impeachment inquiry, Republican lawmakers often have complained about a lack of transparency in the closed-door meetings, falsely giving the impression that they were not allowed to attend or to ask questions. Herrera Beutler joined many in her party by calling for open hearings, but when House Democrats took steps in that direction on Thursday, Republicans grasped a new canard to cloud the issue.

Herrera Beutler echoed claims that the procedures being voted upon are far different from the process for impeachment hearings in 1974 and 1998, and she said the president would not be allowed due process. In truth, the rules are similar to those of the past, and Trump’s lawyers will have an opportunity to mount a defense when the process moves to the Judiciary Committee.

It is telling that Herrera Beutler criticizes a provision allowing the chairman of the Judiciary Committee to remove cross-examination rights from the president’s counsel if Trump refuses to cooperate, but she has been silent regarding efforts to undermine subpoenas and breach the co-equal power of Congress. Throughout the proceedings, Trump has urged witnesses not to appear; demanding respect for the process from the Executive Branch is a reasonable expectation.

Rather than standing on ever-shrinking platforms to defend President Trump, Herrera Beutler should heed the words of Michigan Congressman Justin Amash, who left the Republican Party earlier this year: “This president will be in power for only a short time, but excusing his misbehavior will forever tarnish your name … History will not look kindly on disingenuous, frivolous, and false defenses of this man.”

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