The Kansas Republican Party held a news conference and a rally Wednesday near one of Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids’ local offices. It was aimed at convincing her to oppose the impeachment of President Donald Trump.
On Thursday, activists plan to rally outside of Republican Rep. Sam Graves’ office north of the river, urging him to support impeachment. “It is time for Sam Graves to stand up and do the right thing,” the invitation said.
Neither stunt is likely to affect the thinking of either representative. Nor should it.
Trump’s behavior on a phone call with the president of Ukraine was inarguably appalling. He asked for information about an opponent from a government that’s dependent on U.S. assistance.
But appalling behavior is not necessarily impeachable behavior. Congress should be engaged in a sober, fact-based effort to decide whether the president’s actions warrant impeachment and removal from office.
Instead, Trump’s supporters and opponents are too often immersed in mindless cable news blather and stunts designed to distract from the facts. Tuesday’s letter from the White House, declining to respond to the House impeachment inquiry, was particularly egregious.
“Your contrived process … lacks the necessary authorization for a valid impeachment proceeding,” a White House lawyer wrote House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
In fact, the Constitution gives the House wide authority to design its impeachment proceedings, as it should. In impeachment cases, the House acts much like a grand jury, which considers evidence and then decides whether or not to indict a criminal suspect.
Grand jurors should never be swayed by boisterous, extraneous claims of guilt or innocence, or public attacks on the process. Press conferences and political rallies should have no place in the courtroom — or in impeachment cases — in the U.S. House.
Kansans should expect Davids to make an impeachment decision based on evidence and facts. Missourians should expect the same from Graves.
If the House refers impeachment articles to the Senate, voters should demand a similar approach from Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran in Kansas, as well as Sens. Roy Blunt and Josh Hawley in Missouri.
Blunt, Moran and Roberts have some experience with this. As a member of the House, Blunt voted for four articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton. Moran supported three.
As a senator, Roberts voted to convict Clinton on the two counts that made it to the floor.
Their willingness to impeach Clinton should be remembered as the process against Trump moves forward.
Partisans on both sides are launching million-dollar ad campaigns urging members of Congress to support or oppose Trump’s impeachment. The volume will only grow in the weeks ahead.
It’s a mistake. Impeachment will further erode faith in American democracy if it’s perceived as a partisan exercise instead of a reaction to the truth.
Deciding whether to impeach and remove a president is the most consequential question Congress will ever consider. It must be done seriously, without the distraction of protests and news conferences on the sidewalk.