Politics set aside for impeachment discussion


JASPER — About 50 people gathered at the Vincennes University Jasper Campus auditorium on Thursday night for a free gathering hosted by the Dubois County Democrats that dug into and contextualized the ongoing inquiry of President Donald Trump.

Charles Geyh, a professor at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law who has served as an expert witness in a Senate impeachment trial of a federal district judge, kicked off the event with a presentation about the finer details of the history and process of impeachment in the United States.

The three Democrats and one Republican who comprised the panel then shared their opinions and fielded questions from the crowd. The conversation at the two-hour event steered clear of derogatory names and inflammatory language, and instead focused on constructively discussing and contextualizing the polarizing issue.

“To be clear, I do not feel passionate about whether the president is removed or not,” Geyh told the crowd near the end of his presentation. “I am on record in some article someplace as having said that I support the inquiry because the conduct is within the zone of impeachable conduct. But I’m not on the record as having said whether I favor impeachment or not, precisely because I think we need to look at the evidence.”

Geyh kicked off his talk by telling attendees that if they were there for “a partisan harangue on this issue, you’re in the wrong place.” He laid out the what the U.S. Constitution says about impeachment, shared what historical practice tells us about the impeachment process, and eventually gave the quote above about the Trump impeachment inquiry.

The U.S. Constitution says the president, vice president and all civil officers of the United States shall be removed from office on impeachment for and conviction of treason, bribery or other high crimes or misdemeanors.

“That is kind of the money clause when it comes to impeachment,” Geyh explained.

The U.S. House of Representatives has the sole power of impeachment, and the U.S. Senate has the sole power to try all impeachments. Following an inquiry and the passage of articles of impeachment, a majority is needed to impeach in the House. A two-thirds majority is then required to convict in a Senate trial. Geyh said the framers of the constitution did this to prevent a single partisan brouhaha from ousting a sitting leader.

While former U.S. presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton have been impeached by the House, no president has been removed from office by a Senate trial. Richard Nixon resigned from the post before the House could vote on the impeachment articles he faced.

The ongoing inquiry of Trump surfaced following a whistleblower complaint in August that claimed “the President of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election.”

As the inquiry continues, Geyh encouraged attendees to think for themselves, and not let popular political pundits think for them.

“Look at the transcripts, look at the hearings, reach your own conclusion, and tell your representatives about it,” he urged them.

Panel members fielded questions for about an hour after Geyh’s speech.

Retired attorney Jack Gregg Haught of Columbus, Ohio, praised Geyh for his in-depth explanation of the impeachment process. Haught said he believes impeachments are not good politics and are “divisive by their very nature.”

“But we have to realize, as the professor stated, that even though it may be lousy politics, it’s a mandated duty that’s imposed on members of the House of Representatives and members of the Senate,” Haught said. “That you have an obligation to view this, and you have an obligation to treat it with the respect that it demands.”

Retired attorney Scott Newton said the Constitution has always prevailed in previous impeachment inquiries. Practicing attorney Russell “Russ” Sipes said he believes there is a reasonable basis to hold the ongoing impeachment inquiry, and encouraged attendees to formulate their own opinions.

Dr. Richard Moss, a Jasper otolaryngologist and surgeon who has run for political office as a Republican and served as a panel member Thursday night, questioned the legitimacy of the inquiry.

“I would say that I don’t consider this impeachment legitimate,” Moss said to the crowd. “I believe it is political. I believe it is the 2020 Democrat party campaign, really.”

Mike Kendall, chairman of the Dubois County Democrats, said Thursday’s event was productive because it brought together those who have different beliefs.

“Some people may think it’s a bad idea because they think, ‘Well, there’s no reason to talk about impeachment in Jasper, Indiana, and it’s not an issue that should concern us,’” Kendall told the crowd before Geyh took the stage. “Or it’s too controversial to think about.”

Not long after, he said: “This is actually something that we need to know about, and need to understand.”

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