2 AL reps have front row seats for impeachment

Published 4:30 pm Friday, December 13, 2019

In a brief hearing Friday morning, the House Judiciary Committee approved two articles of impeachment against President Donald J. Trump in a 23-17 vote along party lines, setting the stage for Trump to become only the third U.S. president in history to be impeached.

In its articles of impeachment, the committee has accused Trump of two “high crimes and misdemeanors,” per the constitution’s statute – first, Trump is being accused of abuse of power for allegedly pressuring Ukraine’s president to open investigations into a political rival in exchange for aid money and a White House meeting; second, Trump is being accused of obstructing the congressional investigation into his alleged wrongdoing for directing various members of his administration to defy congressional subpoenas.

The process that found the American public waking up to such news Friday was a long one that began with hearings in the House Intelligence Committee before moving to the Judiciary Committee.

In both of those committees are representatives from Alabama – U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, D-AL, is a member of the House Intelligence Committee and U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, R-AL, is a member of the Judiciary Committee.

As such, both women played an important role in the first impeachment process since former President Bill Clinton’s impeachment in 1998, but varied wildly on how they perceived the process.

Following Friday’s vote by the House Judiciary Committee, Sewell released a statement bemoaning the fact that the vote on the articles of impeachment fell along party lines.

“Today is a somber moment in our nation’s history,” Sewell said. “Given the gravity of the charges and overwhelming facts that came out of the Intelligence Committee and the discussion in the Judiciary Committee, it saddens me it was a party line vote.”

While Sewell has not officially stated a position on impeaching the president, she has roundly criticized Trump for the events surrounding the impeachment inquiry.

“The President, by his own admission, has put Congress in an untenable position,” Sewell said in a statement released in late September. “Yesterday, the President admitted to asking the Ukrainian government to interfere with a political rival and threatened to withhold critical military aid to our ally if their government did not comply with his demand. The events surrounding the whistleblower complaint are the final straw in a series of troubling and disconcerting actions by President Trump and his administration… No one is above the law, including the President of the United States of America.”

Sewell was there when a series of diplomats and other administrative officials were paraded before the House Judiciary Committee and stayed active on social media during the process.

“It cannot be overstated enough – President Trump solicited foreign interference in our elections for his own political interest, not America’s interest,” Sewell tweeted after National Security Council Director for Europe Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman testified.

“Under Secretary Hale told me that President Trump himself requested the hold on Ukrainian military aid,” Sewell tweeted after hearing from Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale. “This aid is critically important not only to Ukrainian national security, but also American security and interests across the globe.”

“Pressuring Ukraine to involve itself in U.S. domestic policy is simply wrong,” Sewell tweeted after hearing from former U.S. Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker. “The witnesses we’ve heard from today have further shone a light on the extent of the President’s abuse of power.”

“Pres. Trump has maligned [Ambassador] Yovanovich’s character, threatened [and] intimidated her,” Sewell tweeted following testimony from former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. “He has tried so hard to discredit this dedicated public servant because she is [and] has always been an anti-corruption advocate, which made her an obstacle to his own political [and] personal interests.”

“Earlier this year, Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani pressed Ukraine to pursue political investigations for his personal gain,” Sewell tweeted after testimony from Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs George Kent. “At the same time, Trump withheld billions in foreign defense aid to Ukraine, endangering US security and betraying his oath to the American people.”

Once the House Intelligence Committee finished with hearings, its findings were passed along to the House Judiciary Committee to consider drafting articles of impeachment – that’s where Roby entered the process.

Roby has long been an avid supporter of Trump and railed against the impeachment process during statements made while the committee was doing its mark-up of the articles earlier in the week.

“The articles of impeachment before us in this Committee do not meet the necessary requirements nor have they followed an exhaustive pursuit to even find all of the facts of the case,” Roby said. “The American people deserve a process that puts politics aside. The American people deserve a process that is led by our promise to protect and defend the Constitution. The American people simply deserve better.”

Roby called the process “woefully incomplete” and blasted the fact that Republicans on the committee were “completely disregarded” during the hearings.

“I have stated time and time again before this committee: process matters,” Roby said. “Without abiding by a framework that adheres to our Constitution, we are charting a course that does not follow our country’s founding principles. Whether you identify as a Republican, Democrat, or Independent, whether you agree or disagree with a president’s policies, whether you like or even dislike a president, the American people should feel cheated by what has taken place here.”

Roby argued that during the impeachment proceedings for Clinton, as well as those that forced the resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974, “the underlying facts of the case were undisputed” while the case against Trump is not so solid.

“For the sake of our country and for the future trajectory of this body, I implore my colleagues to take a hard look at the course of this investigation,” Roby said. “It has severely discounted the tenets of our democratic system.”

Unlike Sewell, Roby had the opportunity to weigh in with a vote Friday morning and voted against impeaching the president.

Sewell’s chance will come when the articles of impeachment are brought before the full U.S. House of Representatives next week, where they are widely expected to be passed by the Democrat-led lower chamber.

Once the articles advance beyond the House, they will go before the Senate – if the city approves the articles, Trump will be removed from office – where they are widely expected to be voted down by the Republican-led upper chamber.