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Impeachment inquiry draws mixed local response

By Staff | Dec 12, 2019

On Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee debated articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump before going to a vote on whether to proceed.

Earlier in the week, the House Judiciary Committee presented two articles of impeachment citing President Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

In Southwest Florida, a predominantly Republican region, the support for President Trump has been bountiful.

Local lawmakers and candidates for the upcoming elections gave their varying input on the impeachment proceedings with at least one, perhaps, anomaly in the partisan divide.

Congressman Francis Rooney (R- Naples, District 19) has come under fire from his own party in recent weeks due to his views on the president’s action and related impeachment process.

Rooney released a statement earlier this week outlining how he views the proceedings, and said, “Regardless of my or anyone’s opinion about the President’s treatment of the Ukrainians, Rudy Giuliani or anyone else, impeachment is such a grave matter that it demands that a strong and clear case be made. Personally, I do not believe that the President’s behavior related to Ukraine was proper and feel that he should not undermine the work of our Ambassadors and foreign service officers who spend their careers protecting United States’ interests around the world, often at great hardship, but the issue is whether this is criminal and impeachable or not.”

Rooney took exception to those who have criticized him in recent months, and said he needed to digest all of the facts before taking a stance.

“Surprisingly, I have been criticized by many ardent supporters of the President for saying that I can’t say whether I am for or against his impeachment until I see all the facts and evidence,” Rooney said. “I still feel strongly that we need to develop all possible evidence that could bear on such an important decision. How can such an important decision be made otherwise?”

In his statement, Rooney calls for the testimony of Rudy Giuliani, Amb. John Bolton, Sec. Mike Pompeo, Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and Secretary of Energy Rick Perry.

“There are several important sources of first-hand testimony about what was or was not said by the president that should be heard under oath” Rooney said. “The result of this case plus existing precedents suggest that a compelling basis exists to compel all these individuals to testify. First-hand accounts like these would affirm that the impeachment process is seeking substantive outcomes based on real facts and accurate information, rather than reflecting a more political objective.

“How can we move forward on such an impactful process as impeachment without them, and without any other collateral evidence these witnesses might lead us to, in order show the American people the fairness and thoroughness that this measure merits? Like the legal canon of avoiding “even the appearance of impropriety”, I urge that the leaders of the impeachment process go the extra mile to exemplify impartiality, fairness and objectivity in their deliberations.”

Rooney ended his statement by saying impeachment is not a process to take lightly or to be treated like a routine criminal indictment and all the facts need to be presented to paint a full picture of the happenings that led to where we are currently.

“It is a significant Constitutional procedure that fundamentally impacts our institutions and is inextricably linked to the confidence of the American people in their legislators and government,” Rooney said. “Accordingly, having enough evidence per se is not enough to move forward when much more probative testimony is available to assure that no stone is left unturned.”

Rooney announced earlier this year that he will not be seeking another term in the upcoming election.

Among the candidates who have said they will seek to fill his seat are Dane Eagle (R) and Dr. Cindy Lyn Banyai (D).

Eagle, who currently serves as a State Rep. for the 77th District (Cape Coral) and House Majority Leader, is a staunch Trump supporter and finds the impeachment proceedings to be nothing more than a ploy by the Democratic party.

“The impeachment process has been a complete waste of the taxpayers’ time and money,” Eagle said. “The Democrats are basing their entire case on hearsay and the testimony of partisans working toward their agenda of undermining President Trump.”

Eagle said he finds nothing wrong in Trump’s conversation with Ukraine President, Volodymyr Zelensky.

“The transcripts from the call are clear that no quid pro quo ever happened and confirms that this is nothing more than political theater orchestrated by the desperate Democrats in an attempt to sabotage President Trump’s re-election bid,” Eagle said.

He believes there are higher priorities at hand for those in Washington D.C.

“Congress should be focusing on the real issues facing our country like balancing the budget and securing our borders,” Eagle said. “It’s no wonder their job approval rating is in the single digits.”

Banyai, who is the founder and Principal Consultant of Banyai Evaluation and Consulting, LLC and teaches in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at Florida Gulf Coast University, believes that transparency is paramount in government and that abuse of power by President Trump has taken place.

“We need to be able to trust that our government is acting in the best interest of the people at all times,” Banyai said. “The impeachment proceedings have demonstrated that public and international actions have been taken to serve domestic personal and political purposes. We can not tolerate this type of abuse of power from any part of our government. We need processes such as impeachment to assert truth and the rule of law to help restore trust in our leaders.”

Banyai said she supports Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, in proceeding with articles of impeachment.

“I fully support the Speaker of the House directing that articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump proceed,” Banyai said. “It simply cannot be tolerated that funds legally allocated by Congress be manipulated for domestic political and personal purposes of the president. Such actions are not only improper, but put U.S. national security at risk, which is unacceptable.

“It is clear from the facts presented and testimony of those involved that there was pressure and coercion of a foreign leader to do the bidding of the president at risk of losing congressionally allocated funds. The power of the purse lies with Congress and should not be manipulated by any other branch of government. More Congressional oversight of fund distribution may be necessary.”

Banyai said she believes that impeachment is a political process, “but an important one to ensure the checks and balances of our government.”

“It is imperative for our democracy that we follow both the letter of the law and the rules and procedures set up to make our government work,” she said. “Through the impeachment investigation, again and again the president demonstrated his wanton disregard for our democratic and legal processes. Without these we cannot have the freedom America affords us. This makes the president and his actions a threat to us all.”

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj