Rahm warns Democrats on impeachment: ‘The process needs to be seen as fair, not just fast’

“Particularly in these early days, our posture needs to be about bringing sunlight to a murky reality, not convincing the public that it should support any given outcome,” former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel writes in a Washington Post op-ed.

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel

Former Mayor Rahm Emanuel

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file photo

Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel warned Democrats in a Washington Post op-ed posted Wednesday to not to overplay their hand as they pursue an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump and act as if the outcome were pre-ordained.

Emanuel also noted Democrats could, if need be, use as an alternative to impeachment censure of the president.

“Pelosi needs to move the process expeditiously — but the process needs to be seen as fair, not just fast,” Emanuel said in his op-ed.

“The charges must be clear, and the evidence needs to prove beyond any doubt that any proposed punishment fits the severity of the crime. Democrats will do themselves no favors if they fail to hold the president accountable; but they should be wary of overstepping as well. Republicans may fear conservative voters will punish them for criticizing Trump. But the GOP could lose everything if their party is seen to be marching in lockstep with a president who violated his oath.

He added, “Because this is an impeachment inquiry — not an actual impeachment — the key for Democrats at this stage will be to focus their efforts on fact-finding, not yet making a case for conviction,” Emanuel said.

“Particularly in these early days, our posture needs to be about bringing sunlight to a murky reality, not convincing the public that it should support any given outcome. Over time, more facts will come out. And when they do, they could lead investigators in any number of directions.”

Emanuel is a former chief of staff to former President Barack Obama and a former House member who served in the Clinton White House. He left before President Bill Clinton was impeached at the end of 1998. He was acquitted after a 1999 Senate trial.

Emanuel praised House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her “initial reluctance’” to move on impeachment and how she has steered House Democrats toward a formal impeachment inquiry only after a whistleblower flagged a July phone call Trump had with the Ukrainian president looking for negative information about former Vice President Joe Biden, his chief 2020 political rival.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would “take up” a Senate trial if the House voted articles of impeachment. Since Republicans control the Senate, McConnell could throw up roadblocks to shortchange a trial. In any case, it is unlikely that there would be the 67 Senate votes needed to convict Trump in a trial.

Emanuel wrote, “If the House impeaches the president and” the McConnellSenate “shuts the proceeding down,” Minority Leader Charles Schumer “should demand a vote to censure the president instead.”

Also,“In the unlikely scenario that this is all smoke and no fire, Congress would be wise to set the matter aside. But if investigators determine that the president should be admonished without being evicted from the White House, the House has a third option at its disposal: The House can sanction and censure the president, as the Senate did President Andrew Jackson nearly 200 years ago.

As for overplaying a hand, Emanuel noted, “Republicans could have taken the censure route in 1998 against President Bill Clinton. Instead, they got greedy, becoming obsessed with political retribution. Their hatred of Clinton twisted their judgment and left them to lose five seats in midterm elections that, by historic patterns, should have been a boon for the GOP. That’s a lesson for everyone: voters have a role here, too. Ignore them at your peril.”

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