While some members of Congress have expressed that they are conflicted or saddened by the formal impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) is not one of them. In fact, Waters was the first member of Congress to call for Trump’s impeachment, contrary to what CNN may think.
“I am elated that it appears that day is upon us,” Waters said after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Sept. 24, 2019, a formal impeachment inquiry of the president.
Indeed, allegations by a whistleblower complaint [read here] that Trump may have abused the power of the presidency, jeopardized national security and other possible misdeeds, have only confirmed for the veteran lawmaker that her longtime, vocal criticism of the 45th president is justified.
And as policy differences have turned personal, Waters and the Commander in Chief have regularly traded insults since his 2016 inauguration. Trump once Tweeted that Waters was “an extraordinarily low IQ person,” while she’s deemed him a “bully” “egotistical maniac” and “liar.”
“As I have stated time and time again, Donald Trump is a dangerous and dishonorable man. He has no respect for our democracy, our Constitution, or the rule of law,” said Waters. “It is past time that Congress fulfills its Constitutional duty to impeach him.”
Waters, Chair of the House Financial Services Committee, is among a dozen or so Congressional Black Caucus members whose committee leadership roles or assignments will place them in the thick of the House impeachment inquiry. Those lawmakers include Committee on Oversight and Reform chairman, Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD) and Judiciary member and CBC Chairwoman, Karen Bass (D-CA), among others.
At issue: whether Trump allegedly pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in an Oval Office phone call to investigate former Vice-President, Joe Biden, now a 2020 Democratic presidential contender, and his son.
Additional allegations involve millions in U.S. security assistance Trump reportedly threatened to withhold from Ukraine, a former part of the Soviet Union now locked in a territorial dispute with Russia over its 2014 military annex of Crimea. Other looming questions involve whether the White House may have allegedly conspired to cover up the call, the role of Trump’s private lawyer, Rudy Guiliani and more.
Trump has vigorously denied any wrongdoing. In a press release, his campaign termed the whistleblower complaint “an even bigger hoax than the Russia delusion.” “Democrats are trying to block the inevitable re-election of President Trump because they know they can’t beat him fair and square at the ballot box,” said National Press Secretary, Kayleigh McEnany.
In a sit-down on Capitol Hill last week before Congress left for its current two-week recess, Waters spoke to ESSENCE about Trump, impeachment, the role of Black women in American democracy and more.
On the current mood and atmosphere in Congress around the impeachment inquiry.
Shock. Disbelief. Can’t believe what they’re hearing and what they’re seeing. And what they think is this president is so brazen and so disrespectful and so dismissive of Constitution and of laws. And of protocol and all of that, that he would dare try to pull this off. Even after we have gone through interference in our electoral system in the previous presidential election. And so a lot of `Do you believe what is unfolding?’ `Can you believe what he’s doing?’
It’s basically playing out along partisan lines except that I had a Republican –on my way back from the [House] Floor—who whispered in my ear, `I understand what you’re doing. Keep doing it. Get him.’
So I don’t know if the facts will make them [Republicans] come out. But I’ve always dismissed the thoughts of the pundits who say `So what if you have impeachment proceedings on the House side? The Senate will never impeach him.’ I don’t believe that. I believe that if our facts are strong, we’ve connected the dots, that we can turn around some minds who can’t afford to go home knowing this dishonorable president has created a danger for our security and for our well being in this country.
On her longtime resistance to Trump’s presidency:
I have been calling for and talking about impeachment of this president since his inauguration. I observed him very closely during the campaign. And I thought that he basically defined himself.
Trump has refused to release his tax returns to the American people. This is a president who came to the presidency owing contractors he’d cheated who had done work on his casinos, and his [Trump] Towers. This is a president who had cheated basically young folks who wanted to become developers at his fake university. This was a president who during the campaign talked about grabbing women by the private parts. This president orchestrated hush-money payments in order to silence his mistresses with the aid of his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, who pled guilty and is serving jail time for these acts, which are potential felony violations of campaign finance laws. This is a president who came into the presidency even lying about the number of people who attended his inauguration.
And of course, none of these individual things perhaps would be considered impeachable but [do] when you couple this with the way that he’s conducted himself, since he’s been the president of the United States.
Trump has just undermined our foreign policy, and he has basically alienated our allies. He came in and he immediately got us out of the Paris Agreement about climate change. He undid the agreement that we had with Iran about [their] nuclear production that could be dangerous for the entire world.
Despite the fact that U.S. intelligence community unequivocally concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, this president has shown brazen support and deference for Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin and has continued to undermine and outright deny the validity of the U.S. intelligence community’s findings.
He and his children have sought out opportunities to enrich themselves during his tenure as president. These and a host of other actions are further evidence of his disgraceful and contemptible actions as the president of the United States. This is a president who has embarrassed us internationally, disrespected the Constitution of the United States of America. All of those things.
On the Financial Services Committee that she chairs and its role in the impeachment inquiry.
Six committees [Judiciary, Intelligence, Oversight and Reform, Foreign Affairs, Financial Services, Ways and Means] have been doing investigations around this president. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s [report] identified at least 10 instances of obstruction of justice by the president of the United States during the 2016 presidential campaign and through the course of the Russia investigation, and he furthered the scope of what we know about collusion and coordination between the Trump campaign.
Trump is under investigation for accepting payments from foreign governments and officials that have stayed at his hotels and golf properties in violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause, which prohibits elected officials from personally profiting from payments from foreign governments and officials that have stayed at his hotels and golf properties.
And much of this information, some of it, we learned about with the Mueller report. But the six committees will come together and we will put on the table all that we have learned about certain aspects of our investigation. And try and determine which of those should go into an impeachment inquiry. `What is the best inquiry we could have?’
And that will be discussed with Nancy Pelosi and all, whenever we finish that. As soon as the six investigative committees finish identifying what should go into an impeachment resolution, it will be given to the Judiciary Committee. And they will take it up and bring forth individuals and allegations in a hearing process as mandated by the Congress of the United States. And they’ll take a vote, that committee and they’ll send it to the House floor. And then they’ll vote on the floor. And then it will be transmitted to the Senate. And they’ll act as a jury.
Editorial note: if the House votes to impeach Trump, the process involves them forwarding articles of impeachment to the U.S. Senate; that body must vote for a president’s removal from office.
On polls which suggest Americans are divided about impeachment.
I’m not comfortable with polling. I remember the polling told us Hillary Clinton was going to win. It did not happen. And so I’m not absolutely influenced by polling. I do know that there are people who say there should not be impeachment, but there are large numbers who say he should be impeached. And I’m willing to let it play out.
On whether other issues the nation is facing will take a back seat during the impeachment inquiry process.
You know that saying `We can walk and chew gum at the same time.’ Our [overall] hearings continue every week. For example debt collection, housing, student loans, we’re working on those issues every day. And the Democrats have at the top of our agenda, the health care concerns of this country. And how we’re going to make sure it’s affordable, including prescription drugs. And we’re doing what we can to try to repair this entire infrastructure. They’re still drinking bottled water in Flint, Michigan. So we’re working. We wish we could get the president focused. But we’re still focused, we’re still working. Working very hard.
On Black women’s influence as a voting bloc impacting matters such as impeachment:
I’m very, very real about what I see happening with Black women. Black women know we have the ability to provide leadership, have influence and be at the table. They need support and resources to do this work. And Black women need to demand what they need and what they wanna see, and the issues they want to see dealt with.