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AOC, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib Call for an Impeachment Inquiry

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When it was becoming clear that Richard Nixon would need to be held to account for the high crimes and misdemeanors of the Watergate era—including his many obstructions of justice—the youngest and newest members of Congress stepped up. Texas Democrat Barbara Jordan, a voting-rights advocate who had been elected to the House in 1972 at the age of 36, joined the Judiciary Committee and in 1974 challenged her colleagues to recognize that “If the impeachment provision in the Constitution of the United States will not reach the offenses charged here, then perhaps that 18th-century Constitution should be abandoned to a 20th-century paper shredder!”

New York Democrat Elizabeth Holtzman, a 31-year-old advocate for women’s rights who upset a Democratic incumbent in a 1972 primary, joined the same committee and delivered the message (as she later recalled) that “Presidents cannot block, tamper with, and destroy the machinery of justice that is aimed at them. If they do, it is at their peril. They face impeachment, removal from office, even imprisonment.”

While many senior members of the House, encumbered by the learned caution that so frequently weakens the will of the Congress, were slow to recognize the need to act, these newly elected House members refused to compromise their oaths of office. They had sworn to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic” and they intended to “bear true faith and allegiance” to that commitment.

This is one of the many reasons why it matters to refresh the membership of the Congress. Experience is valuable. But so, too, is an exuberant embrace of the duties to check and balance executives who abuse their power.

So it was exciting, and hopeful, when New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar responded boldly to the release of the redacted Mueller report that Brennan Center for Justice president Michael Waldman describes as “basically an impeachment referral to the Congress.”

After reviewing special counsel Robert Mueller’s detailed accounting of obstructions of justice by President Trump—many of which parallel those of Nixon, some of which exceed them—the congresswomen recognized a demand for congressional action.

Mueller and his team explained: “The conclusion that Congress may apply obstruction laws to the President’s corrupt exercise of the powers of office accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law.”

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