By the time you read this, the House might have voted to impeach President Trump for high crimes and misdemeanors – only the third time that has ever happened but the second time in 21 years – setting up a trial in the Senate.
Local reaction pretty much fell along party lines, with Republicans/conservatives calling the entire process a “complete sham” and “mind-boggling.” Democrats/liberals, meanwhile, said it “must be done” and “he’s guilty.”
The Gazette asked 17 people their thoughts on the process, the actual articles the House voted on and what would happen as a result; 14 responded. Of the three that didn’t, two didn’t return calls; and Assemblywoman Christy Smith, who’s running for the vacant House seat, declined comment through a campaign spokesman.
Highlights of what they said follow.
Local Republicans/conservatives, like their counterparts in Washington, believe the Democrats are trying to undo the 2016 election by any means necessary. Many also think that Trump has committed no crime, has been denied due process (even though the House impeachment inquiry is more like a grand jury) and is a victim of a poorly run process.
“It’s a sad day when we start impeachment on a president because we don’t like him,” conservative talk-show host Joe Messina said. He also told a conservative/religious television show in November that the Democrats should take the energy and money behind impeachment and use it toward defeating Trump in November.
Local conservative and veteran Bill Reynolds called the process “a complete sham” and found Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff and Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler guilty of hypocrisy because they blasted Republicans for impeaching Bill Clinton. Indeed, Pelosi had accused Republicans of impeaching with “vengeance” and being “paralyzed with hatred.” Schiff used impeachment to defeat his opponent, who was one of the House managers charged with prosecuting Clinton’s trial. Nadler said impeachment must be bipartisan or it would have no credibility.
“Clinton was caught lying,” Reynolds said. “What Trump was trying to do, he didn’t want to give money to a corrupt nation.”
Community activist Alan Ferdman said watching the televised hearings was “embarrassing.” “It’s the same thing over and over and over,” he added.
Betty Arenson, a member of two local women’s Republican clubs, found House members’ somber tones so phony, it’s “more fake than the (Steele) dossier. … It’s mind-boggling.”
Eric Early, who’s running against Schiff, took aim at his opponent.
“Adam Schiff and his comrades are being played by the far-left squad members,” Early said. “Schiff has outrageously lowered the bar and set a massively harmful precedent for high crimes and misdemeanors that will lead to a future where no president will ever be immune from impeachment again, no matter how outrageously low the allegations are. Schiff has done outrageous harm to our nation.”
Former congressional candidate Mark Cripe said the Democrats’ credibility is diminished because of the lack of decorum and professionalism that took place during the hearings. “Incompetent is the word,” Cripe said.
Former Rep. Steve Knight said the reason the House Republicans did so much screaming and interrupting was because the Democrats didn’t let them speak. “At some point, you have to do something to let your voice be heard,” Knight said.
Libertarian Matt Denny, a local CPA, said Trump’s style plays a role here. “He’s brusque. He’s used to ordering people around in a gruff and impulsive manner,” Denny said. “He does not say things diplomatically.”
Democrats, however, feel a sense of urgency and duty in impeaching Trump.
“It must be done. This is the most blatant disregard of the Constitution America has ever seen,” said Stacy Fortner, state party executive board member. “(Trump) has completely ignored and tried to end-around the Constitutional obligation of oversight and checks and balances.”
Congressional candidate Cenk Uygur called Trump “a lifelong criminal” and in a statement called impeachment “a great day in America. That means we will have stood up for the rule of law.”
Congressional candidate Christopher Smith was a bit more measured when he said impeachment was “an unfortunate but necessary process we have to go through. The president needs to be held to the highest standard, and he failed to meet that standard.”
One Democrat, podcaster Stephen Daniels, bemoaned the increased partisanship. “It’s sad that people are putting party over Constitution,” he said. “It’s very clear that Trump broke his oath to the Constitution. We’re so divided that nobody’s arguing what happened, they’re arguing procedure.”
The House passed two articles of impeachment. The first alleges that Trump abused power by pressuring Ukraine to interfere with the 2020 election by investigating Joe Biden and Ukraine’s – not Russia’s – involvement in meddling with the 2016 election, and withholding $391 million in military aid to Ukraine until it announced these investigations.
The second alleges Trump obstructed Congress by directing various agencies, offices and persons to defy subpoenas and not testify. The article names nine people, including Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.
Local Republicans and conservatives found the articles too vague. Democrats applauded them, although some felt they didn’t go far enough.
“Abuse of power is not defined in the Constitution,” said Trish Lester, president of Santa Clarita Republican Women Federated. “It’s not a crime.”
Arenson said she thought the abuse of power article stemmed from Trump saying in a July speech, referring to the Constitution, “I have Article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president.” She said she found it unfair to take that one-time quote and make it “a blanket statement.”
Denny said “abuse of power” is so vague, “you can drive a Mack truck through it.” Knight criticized the Democrats for throwing around the word “bribery” and then not including it in the impeachment articles.
Daniels said the second article is incontrovertible and the reason he changed his mind about impeachment. “You can’t say that didn’t happen,” he said. “That’s an impeachable act in and of itself.”
Many Democrats said they wanted to see additional articles against Trump. They suggested using the Mueller Report, in which Mueller found 10 examples of possible obstruction of justice but left it to lawmakers to ultimately decide. It’s a point Cripe, a Republican, said would have been the Democrats’ best chance for a conviction.
In addition to the Mueller Report, Uygur said he would have included articles pertaining to campaign finance violations stemming from Trump’s call to the Ukrainian president and paying hush money to a porn star. Smith and Fortner would have liked to see an article about Trump allegedly violating the Emoluments Clause, which prevents the president from receiving gifts from foreign governments without Congress’ consent. Smith also suggested an article stemming from accusations of sexual misconduct but reconsidered since these happened before Trump became president.
Nobody predicted the Senate would convict Trump. Uygur said the only way it would be possible is if poll numbers indicate to the 23 Senate Republicans up for re-election next year that they need to vote to convict.
Republicans and conservatives expressed confidence the entire ordeal will boomerang against Democrats, leading to Trump’s re-election. Democrats, such as David Barlavi, think impeachment won’t affect Trump’s re-election chances because “everybody knows what kind of person Trump is.” Rather, the Senate could swing one way or another. Barlavi criticized Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY.) for saying his mind is made up, even though an impeachment trial requires senators to take a new oath promising to be impartial.
Both sides also leveled criticism for impeachment getting in the way of doing the people’s business. The Republicans blamed the Democrats in the House; the Democrats blamed the Republican-controlled Senate for not taking up bills the House passed.
“They made a calculation that if you impeach him, you make the base happy and you get moderates to swing over,” Denny said. “I think it will have the opposite effect. They’re spending all their time dwelling on trivia and not passing laws.”
“While the extreme liberals in Washington hold hostage the Congressional agenda so they can push their socialist policies, America seeks to move forward; forward to a more prosperous economy and safer nation,” congressional candidate Mike Garcia said in a statement. “Winners look toward the next race and not the last. We need to let the voters decide in November 2020.”
Regardless of the outcome, Denny was unconcerned. “We survived eight years of Bush. We survived eight years of Clinton. We survived eight years of Obama. We’ll survive eight years of Trump, if that’s what happens,” he said.
Daniels said he’s grown quite cynical. “I used to be a real idealist and believe in the American system,” he said. “If the Republicans are going to put party over politics, over what’s right, I’ve lost all hope for this system. It doesn’t matter anymore. People no longer want facts. They want the narrative they want to believe, and they accept the narrative they want to believe.”