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The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School

Theogony

The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School

Theogony

Don Beyer Holds Town Hall at TC

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Alexandria Largely Voices Support of Impeachment at the Event

Nikki Harris

Congressman Don Beyer (D-Va.) held a town hall on the impeachment inquiry on November 21 in the auditorium. The inquiry deals with a July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which Trump asked Zelensky to investigate his political rivals. 

Beyer was joined by a bipartisan panel of three national security and legal experts, including Mieke Eoyang, Vice President of Third Way’s National Security Program and a frequent commentator on MSNBC; Paul Rozenweig, a senior fellow at the R Street Institute and a Department of Homeland Security Consultant; and Scott Anderson, a senior fellow at the National Security Law Program. 

Beyer does not think that the impeachment vote is “predetermined.” “The idea that Democrats have wanted to impeach the President all along, no matter what, is not true,” said Beyer. “Yes, I am sure there are a couple that did, but most of us did not run for office to impeach the President.” Beyer, for example, decided to support an impeachment investigation “after reading all 500 pages of the Mueller Report.”

“In fact, many of the Democrats who came out in favor of an impeachment investigation will probably lose their seats because they did,” he said. “People like Abigail Spanberger and Elaine Luria of Virginia realize that they could be one-term members, but they also believe deeply that they first have an obligation to honor their oath of office.”

“One of the other premises out there is that we are not doing anything except impeachment,” Beyer said. Congress is continuing to work on other legislation, including the cost of prescription drugs and health care, energy tax credits, prevention of gun violence, trade deals, and the prevention of a government shutdown this month, as it also investigates Trump, he said. 

One of Beyer’s main messages at the Town Hall was for people from both sides to be considerate of each other’s views.“There are red hats and blue hats here. So I plead for all of us to treat everyone with respect and tolerance.” 

Mike Webb, a Republican who ran against Beyer in 2018, asked how a quid-pro-quo, a favor done in return for something, allows for impeachment “since a crime is a central component to an impeachment investigation.” One of the inquiry’s critical elements is whether nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine was a condition for Ukraine to investigate the Bidens and the 2016 election. In response, Rozenweig said that 70 percent of impeachments in American history have not involved criminal behavior. 

One woman at the Town Hall said that the country seems to have forgotten that Trump solicited foreign interference in an election, quid-pro-quo or no quid-pro-quo, and that this is an impeachable offense in and of itself. 

Eoyang agreed, saying, “Let me remind everyone that the Governor of Illinois is in jail for far less impeachable offenses [soliciting bribes for political appointments] than what Trump did.”

Another woman asked Beyer for insight into how his Republican colleagues are responding in private to Trump’s actions. Beyer responded, “Let me just say that 40 percent of the Republicans who were in office when Trump was inaugurated will be gone next year.” Republicans face swift consequences when they speak out against Trump, he said, specifically Francis Rooney (R-Fl.), who expressed openness to impeachment and then chose to retire, facing severe backlash from the GOP.

One man asked why Democrats have not used power of contempt, a way in which Congress can respond to a perceived obstruction of the legislative process, to hold the Trump administration accountable for not complying with House subpoenas. 

“Contempt comes in three flavors,” Rozenweig said. “A civil contempt, where the House votes to hold somebody in contempt…criminal contempt, which involves criminal prosecution for violation of a Congressional subpoena to show up. The problem with that is that it goes to the executive branch to get approved…and the third flavor…is sending out the Sergeant at Arms to arrest somebody and bring them in.” The crowd erupted in applause. 

Beyer said in response to the applause, “To be accurate as possible, Speaker Pelosi and the Democratic leadership have been doing our best to make this non-incendiary. Before we had the vote on the impeachment process–which Republicans had been arguing for for weeks–my Democratic friends said, ‘shhh’ because they did not want people applauding or cheering. This is something serious and solemn that we do not celebrate.”

One woman asked why the Bidens have been “off limits” in the investigation. “There is reason to believe that Burisma (the Ukranian gas company Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, served on) and its founder are a valid target for investigation,” Eoyang said in response. “However, neither Burisma nor Hunter Biden has done anything that would be a violation of American law. In this country, we prefer to prosecute Americans in American courts and we do not have foreign countries do it for us.”

“What will the tactics to be to explain the situation Trump has gotten himself into, since I imagine most Americans do not know what the term ‘quid pro quo’ means,” one man asked. Beyer responded, “If the house votes to impeach, there will be a trial in the Senate that will air on television.”

One woman asked how this impeachment is different from Watergate and the impeachment of Bill Clinton. “First, the Twitterverse we live in makes things happen on a 24 hour news cycle, whereas the Nixon investigation took several months.” Rozenweig said in response. “The Clinton investigation was all covered by an independent counsel, so Kenneth Starr was the only witness called by Republicans. It is similar to Watergate in that new facts are coming out every day, like when we found out the Nixon White House had a taping system.”

One man asked if constituents would change his vote. “No, it would not change my vote,” Beyer said. “Although we do track everything, and write down why people are calling.” Beyer’s chief of staff said that 75 percent of his constituents favor impeachment and the other 25 percent oppose it. “If you don’t like how I vote, vote me out,” Beyer said. 

Another man asked how Beyer is ensuring there are bipartisan efforts to get all the potential witnesses in the investigation, including Hunter Biden. Beyer said, “If Hunter somehow becomes a relevant witness, we would love to have him testify, though it is hard to imagine that happening.”

Another man asked how impeachment proceedings will lower the divisiveness of the country. Beyer acknowledged the man who shot Steve Scalise (R-La.) at Simpson Stadium in 2017 for political reasons. “We live in a dangerous world, but we will do everything we can not to use violent language while also protecting the law.”

“Why are Democrats ignoring Republican defenses and repeating lies?” one woman asked, referencing the debunked conspiracy theory propagated by the Russians that the cybersecurity company Crowdstrike concealed a hacked server of the Democratic National Committee to help Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. Eoyang responded, “Today’s witness, Fiona Hill, said that repeating conspiracies founded by Russians (1) benefits the Russians, (2) drives a wedge between the US and Ukraine, and (3) undermines credibility in the presidency itself.” 

“President Obama did not authorize weapons we are now giving Ukraine, which is outrageous to me, but the fact that Trump is now using those weapons for political purpose is more outrageous to me,” one man said. “You can both oppose US policy for promoting war with Russia, but also be outraged that Trump withheld those weapons for political purposes.”

One man asked if impeachment is a good idea given that an election is 11 months away. “Are we going to fulfill our oath of office is a more important question to me,” Beyer said. “Unlike Mitch McConnell, who said in 2009, ‘we will do everything we can to make Obama a failed president,’ we will work with Trump if we can, even when it is a win for him,” citing USMCA, the trade deal Congress is currently on track to pass before 2020. 

“How do you feel impeachment will affect this coming election,” another man asked. “As a politician, I have no idea,” Beyer said. “Bill Clinton’s approval rating hit an all time high the day he was impeached. So we are not doing this to destroy Donald Trump.” Rozenweig said, “On the other hand, Al Gore still blames Clinton for the 3,000 votes he lost in Florida.” (Bush led Florida by 537 votes.)

Beyer said he will have another town hall in January and a telephone town hall in December.

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Don Beyer Holds Town Hall at TC