The current impeachment inquiry is necessary to protect our status as a democracy with unfettered free elections. While impeachment is a difficult process that will forever stain our nation’s history, failure to act and to allow Trump’s lawless behavior would establish an even more dangerous precedent by permitting election interference and abuse of powers. There is no defense for congressional inaction given the facts that have come out to date.
President Trump is accused of abusing his powers for personal gain, encouraging a foreign actor (Ukraine) to interfere in the 2020 election (by seeking “dirt” on his potential political rival), using taxpayer money as leverage for his scheme (holding up congressionally approved military aid to Ukraine for reasons undisclosed) and attempting to cover up his actions (through hiding documents in an intelligence code-protected system for the most highly classified information). These are all very serious charges, warranting investigation to prove or disprove, and impossible to ignore.
None of this is to say that Trump is guilty of any misdoing; the point of an impeachment “inquiry” is to better ascertain the truth of what happened. Charges were made by an unidentified whistleblower, and the charges were subsequently deemed “credible” and “urgent” by a Trump-appointed inspector general. Failure to investigate such serious charges would be to accept the accused behavior as OK.
Unfortunately, our own representative in Washington, Congressman Lee Zeldin, ignores the need to protect our laws and election process — instead viewing the developments only through the lens of presidential defender. Rather than address the charges, he attacks the lead investigator, Congressman Adam Schiff, and the scheme’s potential victim, former vice president Joe Biden. This is the same Trump-partisan Lee Zeldin who appeared on TV lobbying to award a Nobel Peace Prize to Trump for an illusory denuclearization of North Korea, and who is frequently the sole New York Republican in the House to ignore local needs to support Trump’s agenda. His blind allegiance to this president over the Constitution should be no surprise.
A “neutral” defense of the president would seek to explain why military aid to Ukraine was held back, why the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, was involved with the U.S. State Department and meeting with Ukrainian officials, as sanctioned by Trump (made clear on the released transcript), and why the summary of Trump’s phone call with the Ukrainian leader, and other records, were hidden away. These are legitimate questions — and the answers might clear Trump of wrongdoing.
But Zeldin instead is trying to obfuscate the facts and attack the investigators and the investigation. We deserve better representation than one who call impeachment a “socialist” ploy in order to raise campaign funds. At least Zeldin doesn’t parrot Trump’s accusations of “treason” by Schiff or suggestions that impeachment would lead to “civil war.”
Zeldin runs for office as a moderate, touting supposed bipartisanship, but he governs as a partisan attack dog. In the past few days, he has displayed little more than sycophantic authoritarian behavior, more interested in praising Trump than performing his constitutional duty as a check on executive power.
I do not treat an inquiry into the president lightly — in fact, I believe it should be the last-case scenario, reserved only for when the executive branch puts our democratic system under threat. In this case, the president of the United States may have used his position to pressure a foreign country into investigating a political opponent, and used U.S. taxpayer dollars as leverage to do it.
Congress has a charge to tackle the real issues that confront us, like reversing the SALT deduction cap, securing affordable health care, reducing prescription drug costs, protecting our environment and improving our water quality. But Congress also has a constitutional duty to protect our laws when the president violates them. Oversight and policy are not mutually exclusive. And regardless of the impeachment inquiry’s outcome, we must all emerge united as Americans; that is the greatness of our nearly 250-year-old democracy.
Mr. Gershon is a Democratic Party candidate for the 1st Congressional District. He lost the 2018 Congressional election against Mr. Zeldin.