By Michael D. Evans
Interested Fresnans gathered in mid-June at the Democratic Party HQ in downtown Fresno for what was billed as a Mueller Report Town Hall. Following an analysis of the report, the attendees weighed in with a variety of concerns about the Trump presidency and its future.
Moderated by Daniel Garst, an author and an instructor in the Fresno State Political Science Department, and Pat Brown, a local attorney and former clerk for a federal court judge, the town hall opened with an excerpt of comments that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) made on the Senate floor taken from an open letter by 600 former federal prosecutors regarding the Mueller Report. Garst called the open letter “a bipartisan indictment of Trump’s behavior.”
Brown briefly summarized the key points of the Mueller Report as 1) Russia interfered in the 2016 election, 2) Trump obstructed justice and 3) Trump cannot be charged because of a Department of Justice rule (not a law).
Brown noted that Volume I of the Mueller Report outlines “evidence of ‘sweeping, multiple systematic efforts’ of Russian hacking into our 2016 election” and that Volume II “lays out 12 obstruction-of-justice violations, four of which meet all three elements of felonies: obstructive act, nexus to an investigation and corrupt intent.”
Garst then moderated a discussion that mostly focused on the pros and cons of moving forward on impeachment of Donald Trump. “The town hall provided a forum for the airing of diverse views about impeachment and other strategies for dealing with President Trump’s abuse of power,” noted Garst.
“I really feel like we are hostages, and Trump is getting away with everything,” said Dorothy “Dottie” Smith. “We have to stick together as a people, as a country. There is something about being fair. There is something about justice. And we have not seen that in this President.”
Myra Coble expressed concern about 2020 and the possibility of the Democratic Party and Congress “spending lots of time, energy and resources on an impeachment that is not going to remove Trump from office.” She reiterated that the primary goal is “to get Trump out of office.”
“It is necessary to impeach,” countered Chris Souza. “Trump has violated so many norms and lowered so many standards. If it were anybody else, he would already have been impeached.”
Souza added that he is “used to Democrats being held to a different standard, but now [Trump] is being held to a lower standard than any other politician.”
Tucker Russell expressed concern of a “pretty scary emerging pattern of lawlessness. The lawlessness seems to have creeped across all three branches of government at the highest levels.”
Addressing that lawlessness effectively is “premised on the health of our democratic institutions and our system of checks and balances.” Yet, Russell that he is “seeing more and more evidence that those institutions and systems are no longer intact.”
“What scares me the most is Republicans have made the decision that we can either have the policies we want or we can have a democracy, but we can’t have both,” said Paul Lake.
Trish Sorensen “is concerned that Democrats are looking weak” and believes that impeachment “would help us get some strength.”
Conversely, Coble fears that if impeachment becomes the focus over the next year and a half “we’re going to lose the election.”
Alternatively, Anna Ray, via online participation, suggested that the better question on impeachment would be “What would the Republicans do?”
Lake expressed concern that “the worst scenario would be [that] we have an impeachment investigation and we don’t win the vote.”
“I feel like we need to use every tool at our disposal, and right now for the Democrats that means impeachment,” concludes Souza. “What makes [Trump] stronger is the division and the dithering and the waiting around and not using the power that we have and letting him continue to get away with things that no other politician would get away with.”
A local political activist stated “that politics should not be a consideration in the impeachment discussion. If we do not move forward with impeachment, we are validating Trump’s behavior.
“Right now, we have a political party that has said it will ignore and abuse the trust that we have in all our institutions. They want absolute power and they are willing to do whatever it takes to get it. It is incumbent on us to stop this aberrant behavior.”
“I am so disillusioned,” says Smith. “What do we do? What do we tell our young people? Whether you like the ‘I’ word or not, I say call him on it.”
“What can we do? What must we do?,” asked Brown. “Former GOP Rep. [David] Jolly from Florida said it best…[House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi ‘must do a prime-time speech making the case for impeachment.’ There is a sense of urgency. We must take back the Senate.”
“I think we need to come together on putting all of our resources behind one Democrat,” states Coble. “I don’t care who it is as long as it’s not Donald Trump.”
“While some participants feared that impeachment could strengthen Trump politically and boost his chances of reelection, the balance of opinion favored impeachment,” summarized Garst. “Those taking the latter position argued failure to initiate impeachment proceedings would weaken this check on presidential power; doing so could also facilitate House efforts to subpoena witnesses and documents in its investigations of the administration.
“Despite these differences, participants were united in their view that Trump is an existential threat to American democracy and the frustration of grassroots party supporters that not enough is being done to contain the President.”
View the entire town hall discussion at https://youtu.be/BzLZTUZa3AU
Michael D. Evans is a political activist, editor and writer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.