Petition to Impeach Trump


November 6, 2017

November 1, 2017

My Uncle, Alexander Astin sent our family, his friends and colleagues an email declaring that he had signed this petition, which has so far accumulated 1,200,000 signatures. My Uncle Sandy is a brilliant man. His decades of service as a tenured Professor of Higher Education at UCLA, along with over 30 books on the subject, are a legacy of profound intellectual work, research and communication. I revere him.

We have all seen the Trump Impeachment commercials that a certain billionaire with political aspirations has been promoting. I don’t know that much about Tom Steyer and so have been reluctant to add my name to his agenda. I am my own man and I make political decisions, for which I alone am responsible. I seek council from many people and from many places. I have been urgently interested in the subject of impeachment for months. I actually, myself, wrote a petition to impeach the President months ago, but I never tried to circulate it. That said, I trust my uncle with my life. He is in his 80’s now and he remains as current on political and social affairs as he was at the height of his career. On the merits, with his recommendation and after reading Steyer’s petition, I have just followed Uncle Sandy and, even though I don’t agree with every sentence in it, signed the “Stand With Tom’s Petition to Impeach Trump.”

My family is “left.” We are in fact “liberals.” We reject those labels when they are used as epithets, but if you had dinner with us, it’s pretty clear that we come down on what is commonly understood as the “left” side of many, maybe even most issues. That I am a Christian isn’t pertinent to this political conversation, but many of my supporters are too and find it frustrating, even sad that I believe many of the things I do. What I can say is that, we, my family and others of a similar ilk, don’t follow blind ideology. We are all talkers, debaters, arguers and I don’t think it’s boastful to say, conscientious free and critical thinkers. What many people don’t understand about so called “progressives” is that our love for our country is second to none. We are as patriotic and devoted to our country as anybody who waves the flag in an effort to suppress differing viewpoints and shame us into silence by suggesting that we are a lower tier of American if we don’t believe in certain precepts. We believe in Democracy. We understand the Electoral College (most hate it) and the Supreme Court and our system of government and so don’t “take up arms” (metaphor) to protect the U.S. Constitution from elevating, now two Presidents in the modern era, who didn’t win the popular vote. Most of us are, “work from within the system” people. Many of us are pacifists who also, paradoxically, believe in the need for a robust and professional standing Army, even while raging against the immoral and illegal military misadventures we witness. These views are complex and hard to reconcile for people who assume the worst of us or don’t work a little to see things from our point of view. I work very hard to try and see things form other peoples points of view. This is how my father reared me.

This is not about Hillary Clinton. I campaigned in 17 states for Hillary. I put my time and energy and reputation, all in, to promote her candidacy. But, despite winning nearly 3 million more votes than Trump, she conceded defeat to him. She then attended the Inauguration of President Trump in an effort to demonstrate that she supports (while loathing) the Presidency of Trump. I’m sure she, just like millions of her supporters, was convinced that Trump would continue what many considered to be un-Presidential behavior, and would likely commit impeachable offenses. But her bias, the bias of her supporters, my bias against Trump is irrelevant, when evaluating Trumps potentially impeachable actions since assuming the Presidency.

It is very hard to believe that anyone who can have such deeply held feelings, who’ve predicted this occasion, can actually be objective. It goes against our collective understanding of human nature. But, it is a mistake to assume the worst of our fellow citizens…left to right and right to left. It is a mistake to think that we don’t understand our role as citizens or our basic need to support the Commander-In-Chief. Unless. Unless, that person is committing terrible offense against the Constitution. Nixon rightfully resigned for much less than Trump is doing. Clinton lied about a sexual infraction, after a many million dollar coordinated attempt to catch him in a law breaking scheme which bore no other fruit. Nevertheless, he was impeached.

But Hillary has zero to do with this impeachment dynamic. Any discussion of Uranium, or colluding with the Russians, or the Clinton foundation, or her supporting Bill’s sexual offenses or any of the myriad of accusations (and that’s what they are) about crimes she may have committed are distractions from what this petition seeks to address. There is an unAmerican, knee-jerk, “state-media” style (Fox) machine…as there are liberal machines (MSNBC), but they don’t matter either, in regards to this issue. There are trolls, be they domestic or foreign, Russian or from the many so called “deep red or solid blue” places throughout our Nation. Locking Hillary up is it’s own legal pursuit. While there have been countless Benghazi hearings and other actions taken against her, without results, it is perfectly fine for anti-Hillary folks to mount legal attacks against her. The system allows for it. They can make petitions, raise money, support candidates who will press investigations and charges against her. All of that is allowed for in the Constitution and in the criminal justice system. Courts may say there is no standing for certain claims, they may dismiss them or take them up. But, none of that, none of the Hillary stuff has anything to do with this.

I have read the Constitution, every word of it, many many many times. In my childhood, at UCLA studying History and American Literature and Culture, during many civic and political activities (such as serving two Presidential Appointments), on military trips, when visiting Congress and the White House…throughout my writing and advocacy. The Constitution is not very long. It’s well written, which makes the read even quicker. It’s certainly worth your time if you’ve never looked at it closely. You probably could have read it twice in the time it takes to read this.

In my OPINION, Donald Trump has committed impeachable offenses. Obstruction of Justice is the one that I find easiest to perceive. This has not been proven yet. It is simply a point of view. The question before the country is whether or not there is enough evidence to warrant Congress taking it up in open session. The prevailing wisdom is that Congress is making political calculations that sublimate Trumps bad actions to the needs of their own constituents, who wish to have tax cuts, a better healthcare system, stronger immigration, a bigger military, fewer regulations in banking and environmental policy and a host of other items that they have in common with Trump and which are the basis of his and their victories at the polls. That is all fine. Well, what is fine is that the voters have spoken and now they are about the business of governing.

What is not fine, what is at the crux of the whole thing, is that they swore an oath to the Constitution of the United States. There are certain things that they must do, that demand action. If I’m right and he has committed such offenses or is operating in bad faith to an unConstitutional extent, they have to do something. They have to act.

Now, our founding document allows for two legal recourses for removing a President from office. This is critical. One human being is vested with extraordinary power. And we know that all human beings are fallible and all human beings are fragile. So far, despite much evidence, Trumps Cabinet continues to have confidence in his capacity to carry out his duties and therefore he won’t likely be removed by them under the 25th Amendment.

Hating the look of Trump, Hating a great number of his lies, Hating his hypocrisy (golfing), Hating the way he speaks, Hating his tweeting, Hating his clumsiness, his classlessness, Hating his value system…none of these are impeachable offenses (well, maybe some of the lying). 60 million Americans voted for the man, knowing full well who he is, how he behaves, how he bullies people etc… He won. If people don’t like it, they can push back with their voices, work within the system to protest, lobby their representatives. They can do lots, including campaign against his reelection and vote against him.

None of all that has anything to do with why he should be impeached. He should be impeached because he is breaking his oath of office. He is doing everything in his power to subvert the law, which he is not above. Another example, Trump is undermining the free press in an egregious manner. MSM. The mainstream media. Bias. Yes, there is no question that a large segment of the media, meaning journalists point of view, news directors bias, advertising does not like Trump and makes a concerted effort to frame issues in unflattering ways and to reenforce all of his negative qualities. That is their right. Trump and the administration have many ways to combat these stories. If and when they lie (the press), Trump and his team can provide specific refutations, refrain from commenting, by speaking directly to the American people through addresses, speeches and on social media in a manner that helps people understand the story from his perspective in a way that supports the foundation of the free press while detailing specific abuses of the media. But, a wholesale attack on the media, conspiring with FOX news to malign any negative story by labeling it “Fake News” isn’t clever, it isn’t accurate and it isn’t permitted by the Constitution. Occasionally, he will deign to compliment some reporters, but the overwhelming impact of his attacks is having an extremely destructive effect.

This kind of persistent manipulation and calculated undermining of the free-press is dangerous. Many people don’t realize how dangerous it is, but in a crisis, a genuine crisis, not one of the breaking news of the day, cable news manufactured crises, but in a real crisis, not having any faith in the Press can be calamitous. Having to rely on information communicated through social media, which has been and continues to be subject to tampering…places the public at an extreme disadvantage. War. Civil unrest. Natural disasters. Who knows what. The people need to be able to rely on the press. They need it for their safety. Trump works very hard, every day, to tear down the fabric of that trust. He is helped by an angry electorate that he makes even angrier, but he is the President and it’s his job to make sure that the systems of our government are working properly. When it comes to the press, he isn’t just failing, he is flagrantly destroying its foundation.

The advent of Social Media is almost incalculably dominating every aspect of our civic life. Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and others have almost as much power as every corner of our society combined, even the military in a way that we must all get ahold of. The President wields nuclear power, but social media, practically speaking, may be an even greater structural, legal, political, social force than is now understood (and we all feel the weight of it). While Trump is using it, he clearly isn’t interested in understanding it and therefore isn’t working to protect the American Public from its most dangerous features. By dismissing all discussion of Russian meddling to distract from his own potential culpability, or at the least his desire to not have his victory delegitimized or diminished in any way, is an abdication of his most solemn responsibility, protecting the safety of the public.

Watching just a few hours of Senate oversight testimony made clear to me just how unprepared our government is…even how our value system is…to this new technology that has placed unelected business persons in a greater financial and political influence posture than the government, in ways not yet grasped by our leaders, no less the public. The most vacuous word in the American lexicon is discussion…The most hollow phrase is, “we must have a discussion in this country.” Well, social media…not from the users perspective…but from the nuts and bolts mechanics and it’s influence on infrastructure, advocacy…banking…everything…the Government must understand what’s going on so it can create safe lanes of operation. Regulation strangles business, but when things go wrong, it’s “How come Government didn’t anticipate this or plan for this or protect us from this”…well, who leads the discussion? I think it’s a great opportunity for the President. But what is unforgivable, what can’t be allowed, is for the President to actively ignore or abuse this new factor…directly such as in the way he uses twitter in his project to weaken the free press…or indirectly by undermining and failing to purse greater understanding of an act of war committed against us.

To be crystal clear, the Constitution doesn’t give Congress the right to ignore unConstitutional actions. They aren’t allowed to just focus on stuff they agree on. At the very least, in circumstances such as this, when there is so much evidence of wrongdoing that it affects their daily work, at the very least, they must put it to a vote. Every member must go on record as acknowledging the charges.

Impeachment should not be a Partisan issue. If the President is behaving unethically, it is Congress’ OBLIGATION to impeach. The standard is High Crimes and Misdemeanors. As I’ve studied that phrase, it seems to allow for a degree of discretion and interpretation. But, in my opinion, Trump’s behavior is far beyond even the most generous reading of that standard. He has admitted to firing an FBI director who was in charge of an investigation in which he or his associates might be implicated, for the express purpose of stopping such investigation. And so much more.

Because Trump is vindictive, demonstrably vindictive, brazenly attacking anyone who disagrees with him or stands against him in some way, Congress is frozen. Now, none of them would admit in public to having been scared into inaction, but that is exactly what’s going on. Many credible sources have reported that on Capital Hill, Republicans are very worried about the Presidents behavior. They don’t speak out. Their silence is a damning legacy.

Not for nothing, I would much rather see articles of impeachment brought against Trump by his own party so that the country isn’t further torn apart along partisan lines.

Also, a random thought, just because people think that liberals like me might dance in the streets if he was impeached, or at least lord it over our so called “opponents” (all of which would be unpatriotic, an impeachment of a president is a grave and solemn affair)…but the thought or the reality of that glee…isn’t a reason NOT to impeach him. No one wants to be wrong. No one wants to have misplaced their trust. People might totally disagree or even not fully get why it happened. But, this is an issue for Congress to debate and vote on, even if it makes Trump supporters or Republicans feel like they are losers, which of course they aren’t. The only reason not to sign this kind of petition is if you think there is not sufficient information available in the public square to feel that it’s proper for them to do so. The expense of an impeachment trial is great. The distraction from the people’s business is great. But, neither of those reasons are proper to not seek a hearing.

The only Constitutionally appropriate reason to oppose an impeachment trial is if there is no reason to have it. Is there a reason? Have you looked at the arguments and sampled a broad cross section of views? Have you kept an open mind? Have you informed yourself about what impeachment really means and how it works? I have done all of these things and I have reached, obviously, the conclusion that there is an overabundance of credible information and that such a trial is warranted. For the record, I would watch all of it on CSPAN and keep an open mind. I honestly believe that if the proceedings didn’t meet the criteria of “High Crimes and Misdemeanors, (can’t wait to hear all of them try and explain what that means)” I would change my opinion. Hard to believe? It’s true. We must each decide if it’s worth our time to be active in the public sphere. We choose sides on issues and we push for them. But, wisdom and a true commitment to bettering our lot in life is the ability to abandon ones position for a better one when it comes along. It’s smart of voters to say, that candidate doesn’t seem to pick the most useful side of an issue early or often enough. But, this vilifying of principled corrections as “flip-flopping” as a tactic to bludgeon someone is one of many ways that we voters keep shooting ourselves in the foot. We unfairly destroy the reputations of qualified public servants. Again, I digress.

So, if I am right, and there is enough evidence to proceed to an impeachment trial, and the politicians are following the constitution, why aren’t they doing it yet? Simply put, they need political cover. Vice-President Pence is equally allied on all of the substantive issues of the day. They can have confidence that their agenda would move forward. Simply put, they are paralyzed by fear and they need political cover. My sense is that Tom Steyer will likely attempt to bend this effort to his own political fortunes. But, the fact that he may be an arrogant man, I don’t know him, but the logic tracks, shouldn’t impede support for his correct actions. I didn’t think my petition to impeach Trump, while passionately and thoughtfully composed, had the legal credibility (I didn’t seek help from a Constitutional Scholar with Impeachment experience), or the financial heft behind it, would amount to anything, other than stir up a hornets nest of hate from the usual hate crowd and therefore damage my reputation.

But, this petition just might give shape and leadership to an effort that is worthy, Constitutionally protected, peaceful and time sensitive. One million signatures isn’t likely to make a difference, but one hundred and fifty million would make it very hard to ignore in the halls of Congress. I don’t think this Petition is likely to get there, just based on watching third party candidates and similar grass-roots endeavors. But, in my opinion, it’s worth my signature, and now my public reputation, to try.

I think Donald Trump is a bad man. I think Donald Trump is a bad President. But those two facts have nothing to do with his impeachment.

Donald J. Trump should be impeached and removed from office because he is obstructing justice, injuring the freedom of the press, systematically lying about a range of issues that are critical to the well functioning of Government and more.

Regretfully, Sincerely and Passionately Yours,
With Much Love,

Sean Astin