U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper: Why I support the impeachment process | Opinion

Sep 25, 2019
Press Release
This op-ed appeared in the Tennessean on September 25, 2019

I’m known for being calm and reasonable. There is so much partisanship and noise in Washington, D.C. these days, and we don’t need more of that. What we need is to get America back on track.

My decision to support the impeachment process for President Trump is a very serious one. I’ve held my tongue and counted to 10 many times when Trump hurt our nation internationally by courting foreign dictators and harming our allies. He has refused to staff his own government by leaving numerous key positions vacant, appointed incompetents to fill some vacancies, and even selected strong critics to lead the very agencies they are supposed to supervise.  

There is no shortage of outrages, and they are too numerous to mention here. But the standard for impeachment is “high crimes and misdemeanors,” not anything less. The standard is not whether I disagree with the President. Only the most serious misconduct qualifies, and there must be solid evidence to support it.

The Mueller Report was carefully done but mainly persuasive on the obstruction of justice issues, not the underlying crimes. We now know that the day after the Mueller Report was released the President redoubled his past efforts to undermine our elections by demanding interference by a foreign power, Ukraine. This past week, the President admitted this, which is the smoking gun I have been looking for.

The U.S. Senate voted unanimously, 100-0, to force the release of the whistleblower complaint against the President. The administration has stonewalled almost every previous request for information, every subpoena, and many witness requests. I am hopeful that this unanimous message from the Republican-majority Senate will persuade the President to allow Congress to conduct its Constitutional responsibilities. This is the first sign that Democrats and Republicans alike are realizing the grave nature of the President’s misconduct.

It was remarkable to see Monday's op-ed by seven Democratic freshmen members – all veterans of our military or intelligence community – indicate that they would prefer to lose their seats than to countenance breaches of national security. Most won in districts where the President is very popular.  They know the political risks, but they were also convinced that inaction would mean no check on presidential overreach.

Now, with the recent passage of the impeachment inquiry, congressional committees will redouble their efforts to find the facts underlying the President’s misconduct. Our best guide here is what Tennessee Republican Senator Howard Baker continually asked of the Nixon Administration: “What did the President know, and when did he know it?” Similar, honest questions need to be asked now so that Congress and the American people can get all the facts.

Depending on the outcome of these investigations, the House may or may not have the votes to formally accuse the President of wrongdoing by voting to impeach him. If the votes support it, that, in and of itself, does nothing to the President but accuse him of wrongdoing, much like an indictment. Then the U.S. Senate must conduct a trial to determine whether to convict him or not.

The outcome of that trial today in a majority-Republican Senate seems like exoneration for the President. But no one knows what the investigations will find. President Nixon looked safe until the existence of the White House tapes was revealed. They contradicted many of the transcripts that Congress had been given.

Regardless of the ultimate outcome of the process, the House of Representatives has begun the solemn process of holding the most powerful man in America to account. This will prove, once again, that America is a nation of laws, not just of billionaires. No one is above the law.

Congressman Jim Cooper, D-Nashville, represents Tennessee's District 5 in the U.S. House of Representatives.