Impeachment is an inherently political process, as the Framers recognized when they insisted on adding it to the Constitution. It’s not supposed to be only political, however, but questions of law and tradition have been awfully hard to discern as Donald Trump takes the decibel level of his insults and retorts to levels previously unthinkable.

Still, as Americans and as citizens, we ought to try. A good place to start is to look at the responses of Maine’s own elected representatives.

There appears to be no place in the proceedings for a Bill Cohen – the freshman congressman from the 2nd District who, in 1973-74, played a leading role as the House Judiciary Committee approved articles of impeachment against President Richard Nixon. Those were the only congressional votes, since Nixon resigned before the House could act.

Yet in their own ways, Maine’s two representatives – Chellie Pingree, representing the 1st District in her sixth term, and Jared Golden, representing the 2nd District as a freshman – have much to tell us.

Both are Democrats, but their experiences are quite different. The incessant pressures of Washington, especially our out-of-control campaigns, encourage us to think all Ds and all Rs are merely opposite sides of the same coin, fated to eternal combat like the Chinese dragon eating it own tail.

The system can only work, however, if each representative maintains her or his own perspective, and listens to constituents with particular needs and desires. This both Golden and Pingree accomplish.

Pingree has more political experience, serving two terms as state Senate majority leader and running for governor before shifting her sights to the U.S. Senate seat held by Susan Collins in 2002. She was elected to Congress in 2008, and has twice voted for Nancy Pelosi as speaker.

Before that, she was an organic farmer and an innkeeper on North Haven, a single parent who built her own businesses before heading to Augusta. She is a prominent voice on the Agriculture and Appropriations committees, and a possible future committee chair.

Golden is just getting started. A combat veteran, he served two terms in the Maine House, including one as assistant leader, and jumped into a 2018 race against Republican incumbent Bruce Poliquin that few thought he could win. He fulfilled his pledge, made during the campaign, not to vote for Pelosi as speaker.

Pingree said earlier that she would vote to impeach the president. In her formal statement Wednesday, she defended the process: “Although the President and his staff have obstructed the work of Congress at every opportunity, the process . . . has been scrupulously thorough and fair.”

She concluded, “That process has uncovered a mountain of evidence that President Trump has committed serious crimes.”

Pingree said that failure to impeach Trump “will not only embolden him to continue to work with foreign governments to interfere with our political process and the next election, it will provide an invitation for his successors to do the same.”

Golden’s remarks provide a notable contrast. He agrees on the matter of Ukraine, saying it confirms the Framers’ fears of “foreign corruption of our electoral process, and a president willing to leverage the powers of his office to benefit his own reelection.”

Yet he also said he wouldn’t endorse the second article, obstruction of Congress, because “We first ought to exhaust available judicial remedies, or – at the very least – give the courts a chance.” Trump’s orders to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and others not to comply with congressional subpoenas limited the House witnesses, unlike in the Nixon inquiries.

In a perfect world, we would have their testimony voluntarily, but as Maine Sen. Angus King pointed out in an op-ed, if Trump thought his top aides would help clear him, why didn’t he want them to testify?

These are clearly delaying tactics, and – if Congress pursued court action – it would likely extend beyond the November 2020 election. Congressional subpoenas do have the force of law, which is why the second article has a solid legal footing.

Golden also sees the process differently, saying, “The divisiveness of this impeachment inquiry has been terrible for our country,” and “my concerns about our politics and the health of our democracy have only grown.”

The impeachment articles now move to the Senate for trial, with King, an independent, and Collins, a Republican, sure to be closely watched votes. We’ll see some differences between them, too.

In the end, the most important response will be that of the voters. How will they see impeachment, and the decisions of their legislators?

These are historic votes – and history lasts a lot longer than the next election cycle.

Douglas Rooks, a Maine editor, opinion writer and author for 35 years, has published books about George Mitchell, and the Maine Democratic Party. He welcomes comment at [email protected] 

Douglas Rooks, a Maine editor, opinion writer and author for 34 yearshas published books about George Mitchell, and the Maine Democratic Party. He welcomes comment at: [email protected]

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