In 1974, I first ran for Democratic district leader, working to organize community activists and learning how democracy worked at the grassroots level. That was the year of the impeachment inquiry into President Richard Nixon’s crimes, and all that long spring and summer — like everyone else in my district — I followed the testimony on Capitol Hill closely, marveling at the seriousness of purpose of Representatives and Senators of both parties, and their commitment to truth and the rule of law.
Those legislators rose to protect the republic from the damaging actions of a rogue administration. Nixon resigned, and, in the years after Watergate, I pursued a career as a lawmaker understanding fully just how important the role of a legislature really is in protecting the will of the people against a lawless executive.
We are again in the throes of impeachment — and quite frankly cast into the reluctant role of the last bulwark (outside of an election) against another lawless president. As Speaker Pelosi said, under our Democratic leadership, the House voted two articles of impeachment with reluctance and a real sense of sadness. Yet, I cannot deny — as one of the chairmen whose committee has been charged with investigating the Trump Administration — that we also proceeded with a real sense of purpose.
And as I’ve told constituents around my district, in the Bronx and in Westchester, that sense of purpose is two-fold.
First, there is a strong national security imperative. We act to prevent President Trump from further damage to the United States on the international stage — to block him from again abusing the awesome power of his office to attack a political foe using foreign aid, warped and illegal diplomacy, and American goodwill.
Secondly, we impeached the president because of you, the American voter.
Your trust in the ballot you cast — in schools and community centers and firehouses from Riverdale to New Rochelle to Yonkers to Wakefield to Hastings and Rye — still matters, whether it’s for a local council seat or the White House. The public trust that I worked in service of for decades is under direct attack by the web of lies, deceit and treachery emanating from the Trump Administration: A callous disregard for the rule of law that threatens American democracy. Frankly, I would never have imagined that we’d see the day when a President would solicit foreign interference in our elections. Nothing is more sacred to democracy than the integrity of our elections — your vote and mine. That’s why we have a solemn duty to protect them.
Last summer, when I announced my support for impeachment, I was thinking of my constituents throughout the district: Democrats, Republicans, and those without a particular political loyalty. Those who vote for me, against me, or not at all. Every single one of them deserves better.
As I noted then, I’ve pushed to get answers about Trump’s cozy relationship with Vladimir Putin, unconstitutional emoluments the President has received, and the President’s deep conflicts of interest around the world. President Trump’s repeated abuses have brought American democracy to a perilous crossroads. Following the guidance of the Constitution — which I have sworn to uphold — is the only way to achieve justice.
In the months since, the testimony we have all witnessed, the documents we have seen, and the facts of the case against the President only strengthened my resolve to seek this extraordinary constitutional remedy at this historic moment. As one of the senior Chairman, I supported the process. As your Congressman, I voted for both articles on impeachment.
It is easy to forecast the actions of a Republican Senate to ignore the vast treachery of this President. But I strongly believe it’s vital to lay the facts on the table as the Constitution requires.
As I wrote in a statement with my fellow Democratic chairs under Speaker Pelosi’s leadership:
“The evidence is clear that President Trump used the power of his office to pressure Ukraine into announcing investigations into his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, and a debunked conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in the 2016 election. These investigations were designed to benefit his 2020 presidential reelection campaign.”
As we approved formal Articles of Impeachment, I promised to keep the voters of the 16h District firmly in mind as we proceeded with solemnity, sadness and a sense of purpose. I kept that promise.
It is hardly hyperbole to say that the future of this great republic is now at stake.
The writer is the U.S. Representative for New York's 16th congressional district.