"I DO SOLEMNLY SWEAR . . . ."
IT'S TIME FOR THE CONGRESS AND SENATE TO BEHAVE THEMSELVES
The Sneeze, Watercolor, 21" x 29", Richard J Van Wagoner, Circa 2005, Courtesy Van Wagoner Family Trust**
"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God"
Each United States Congressperson swears or affirms this Oath at the beginning of the new Congress after the election. The newly elected or reelected United States Senators swear or affirm the same Oath, also in January.
I understand the argument: Members of each political party believe in their party’s agenda. In order to have any meaningful opportunity to advance that agenda, the parties must have and maintain majority control of the elected branches of government, whether Executive or Legislative. This is, of course, all in the interests of serving the constituents. And, the argument continues, these goals can be achieved while keeping both a straight face and one’s Oath to defend and protect the United States Constitution.
This one feels different. This one falls outside the argument. We are facing the possibility that Trump and those instrumental in assuring his victory compromised bedrock constitutional and democratic principles by means of “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
One cannot keep his Oath to defend and protect the United States Constitution, straight face or no, while changing the subject, averting one’s gaze or pretending otherwise. Nor can one maintain any credibility while compromising independence from the target of the investigation. The potential violations here are so dire and of such consequence, it’s time for members of Congress and the Senate to start behaving themselves, that is, placing their Oath of Office before personal or political agenda in the interests of our democratic, constitutional form of government. That goes for all of them.
Not unlike a grand jury issuing an indictment against a criminal suspect, impeachment is the process of bringing charges against an officer of the United States for “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” Article 2, Section 4, United States Constitution. If the United States House of Representatives approves the articles of impeachment (charges) by a simple majority, the case is referred to the United States Senate which then serves as the trier of fact, not unlike a jury. Conviction occurs upon two-thirds' vote. Removal from office is automatic upon conviction.
In light of these constitutional duties to sit in judgment, our elected representatives must evaluate the evidence and its veracity. They must do so through the exclusive lens of their solemn Oaths of Office.
I recently posted here a Washington Post editorial that was published in a local newspaper. That article was critical of Republican leadership on the House Intelligence Committee for focusing on the messenger rather than the message. I asked:
Are they capable of keeping their oaths of office? Will it take Trump's numbers to dip below 30% before they get religion (because only then it could affect their chances in 2018)? Members of this co-equal branch of government took a solemn Oath to serve as an independent check on the executive. Some are proving why appointment of an independent prosecutor is necessary--so we can have any confidence in the process and result. If the investigation reveals collaboration between the Trumps and Russia leading up to the election, which would be treasonous, those congress people who seek to divert attention and shift to the messenger by focusing on the leaks and not their content will be accessories after the fact to and complicit in the highest and most serious crime against us and democracy in history. If they find the leakers, prosecute them. But trying to shift attention from the content of the leaks is an abdication of their oaths, which is to put the Constitution first.
*My brother the fiction writer and novelist, Robert Hodgson Van Wagoner, deserves considerable credit for offering both substantive and technical suggestions to lastamendment.com
**My daughter Angela Moore, a professional photographer, photographed nearly 500 pieces of my father's work. On behalf of the Van Wagoner Family Trust, she is in the process of compiling a collection of his art work. The photographs of my father's art reproduced in lastamendment.com are hers.