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House Democrats are reportedly shying away from impeachment, even in light of Michael Cohen’s testimony, which may have implicated President Trump in acts of tax fraud, insurance fraud, and campaign finance violations. The New York times characterized the Dem’s approach to the impeachment inquiry as “a thousand cuts over a swing of the ax;” meaning a drawn out investigation has a greater chance of injuring Trump, by lowering his chance of reelection, than impeachment does, which could energize his base. However, the unwillingness to, at least doggedly, pursue impeachment, begs the question “is there an obligation to impeach?” Constitutional scholars have said no. Akhil Reed Amar wrote in his article On Impeaching Presidents, published in the wake of the Clinton Impeachment, about prosecutorial discretion in administering impeachment:

Article I, Section 2, of the Constitution gives the House the “power” to impeach, but imposes no duty to impeach. The Framers knew how to use the word “duty”–indeed they used it twice in Article II–and so there is no ambiguity here. House impeachment is about power, not duty–about choices, not obligations. Impeachment is never reducible to one question: Is the conduct in question impeachable? Instead it always also implicates a second question: Is it worth it? Just as a grand jury can legitimately decline to indict and a prosecutor may legitimately decline to prosecute as a matter of discretion– fairness concerns, resource constraints, bigger fish to fry, avoidance of undue harm to third parties–so too the new House may decide that the President and, more importantly, the nation have suffered enough. . . . The new House must be free to use this power as it sees fit. It is not a potted plant, and indeed enjoys greater democratic legitimacy than the lame-duck House that voted to impeach, contrary to the spirit of the people’s verdict in the November congressional election.

Regardless, Democrats should consider the value of precedent. Even if harming Trump’s chances of reelection has the same effect as his removal, it fails to set an example for future congressmen.

aeb39ce2-3c72-4653-8f31-900ad2bcbd3f-AP_Trump.jpgEvan Vucci, AP