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In 1776, Thomas Paine advocated independence from Great Britain and stated, “In a free republic the law is king.” Paine contended “for as in absolute governments the King is law, so in free countries the law ought to be King; and there ought to be no other.”

However, President Donald Trump’s lawyers John Dowd and Jay Sekulow in a 20-page letter (January 2019) to Robert S. Mueller III argued the president has complete power over Department of Justice investigations; the president is omnipotent. That argument and subsequent touting of executive privilege contradicts the fundamental reason the revolutionary patriots fought to depart English rule.

This begs the question: Who should be king in the United States, the president or the law?

Mueller’s 448-page report clearly documented Trump’s pre-election and post-election behavior. Department of Justice legal beagles concurred Trump may have obstructed justice 10 times. Mueller properly left Congress to enforce the law.

Like Presidents Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, Americans want to know: Is Trump guilty or innocent? But the country is divided. Should the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives start impeachment hearings? Should the House not conduct hearings since the Republican-controlled Senate would follow the party line and not vote to convict Trump? Should both the Democrats and Republicans keep silent so as to not interfere with their self-serving 2020 election hopes?

Enter the oath of office. All members of Congress said, with one hand placed on the religious artifact of their choosing: “I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States . . . so help me God.”

Articles I and II of the Constitution grant the House of Representative “the sole power of impeachment” and the Senate “the sole power to try all impeachments.” Moreover, Congress is obligated (key word) to remove the president, vice president and all civil officers from office for conviction of “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” A plethora of Trump’s misdemeanor behavior gleaned from 500 witnesses, 500 search warrants and 230 communication orders have been documented and presented to Congress.

In high school geometry we learned the transitive law whereby if A equals B, and B equals C, therefore A equals C. Logically, since all Republicans and Democrats vowed to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, Constitution Articles I and II are clear in their intent and multiple misdemeanor allegations about Trump are available for judicious review, the House must, not may but must, start impeachment hearings, even if the political repercussions of such action may damage Democrats down the road. And, if the obstruction allegations are forwarded to the Senate, they must, not may but must, be the final jury, again, even if their vote damages the Republican Party.

If hearings are not held, a precedent will be set for subsequent presidents to behave in whatever manner they so desire. Future historians will say, “In 2019, A.D., 535 members of Congress, by remaining silent, determined threats, impediments and obstruction in the due administration of justice were acceptable and America switched from a democracy to a monarchy.”

Dear Congress: You represent American citizens. Settle this once and for all. Is Trump guilty or innocent? Place your constituents and the republic before partisan politics. Honor your oath of office and our Constitution, and get behind the impeachment process or resign from office. To do nothing is a blatant dereliction of duty and a slap in the face to citizens of all political persuasions who support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.

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Steve Corbin is an emeritus professor of marketing at the University of Northern Iowa. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not reflect those of the University of Northern Iowa.

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