When Congressman Steve Cohen heard Donald Trump’s awful response to Nazi violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, he knew he had to act.
“Instead of unequivocally condemning hateful actions by neo-Nazis, white nationalists and Klansmen following a national tragedy,” said the Tennessee Democrat, “the President said ‘there were very fine people on both sides.’ There are no good Nazis. There are no good Klansmen.”
Cohen’s conclusion, as a congressman who has accepted responsibility for oversight of Constitutional concerns, is that “the president must be impeached and removed from office.” He went on:
President Trump has failed the presidential test of moral leadership. No moral president would ever shy away from outright condemning hate, intolerance and bigotry. No moral president would ever question the values of Americans protesting in opposition of such actions, one of whom was murdered by one of the white nationalists. Senator John McCain rightfully tweeted this week that there was ‘no moral equivalency between racists and Americans standing up to defy hate.’
Senator Marco Rubio tweeted, ‘Very important for the nation to hear @potus describe events in #Charlottesville for what they are, a terror attack by #whitesupremacists.’ President Trump has shown time and time again that he lacks the ethical and moral rectitude to be President of the United States. Not only has he potentially obstructed justice and potentially violated the Constitution’s Foreign Emoluments Clause, but he has also shown that he is incapable or unwilling to protect Americans from enemies, foreign and domestic. Neo-Nazis and the KKK are domestic terrorists. If the President can’t recognize the difference between these domestic terrorists and the people who oppose their anti-American attitudes, then he cannot defend us.
Cohen is right to address the threat in a smart and serious way, by turning to the remedy that the founders of the American experiment established for dealing with presidents who fail the test of moral leadership: impeachment.
In his statement outlining his reasons for proposing articles of impeachment, Cohen quoted Martin Niemöller, the Protestant theologian who famously recalled the rise of Adolph Hitler and German fascism with the lines:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
As a Jewish congressman representing a district with a large African-American population, Cohen concluded:
They have come for me, and for the majority of my Congressional constituency. Accordingly, I must speak out today after what happened on (in Charlottesville) and our President’s subsequent response. It is morally and legally incumbent upon me, based on my oath of office, to introduce articles of impeachment.