Don't turn impeachment into a political weapon


Eliot Engel, our hometown congressman taking the national stage as one of several in the U.S. House investigating President Trump, has slowed his roll a bit when it comes to introducing impeachment in the lower chamber.

In a conference call to fellow Democrats, as reported by The Hill, Engel — who has twice backed attempts to impeach Trump in the past — is pumping the brakes ever-so-slightly in what’s quickly becoming a political hot potato in light of special investigator Robert Mueller’s report to the Justice Department.

Some Trump opponents have accused Engel of bowing to party leadership, but instead Engel is taking the smart approach. While Mueller might be done with his work, Congress is really just getting started. And any good prosecutor knows that you can’t bring charges to the floor until you’re sure what those charges are, and what evidence you’ll have to back them up.

Although Mueller failed to find enough evidence to demonstrate Trump campaign officials knowingly conspired with Russian government officials to influence the 2016 presidential election, there is plenty of evidence that could support an obstruction of justice charge against Trump, whether any members of his staff actually carried out those orders or not.

Yet, calling for a vote on impeachment right now is premature. The House is going to have just one shot at this — if any — and earning a conviction in a Republican-controlled Senate is going to be difficult enough.

Many opponents have waited some two years for Mueller to finish his investigation, and are demanding action be taken against the president now. But Mueller was never tasked to find ways to remove Trump from the White House. His job was to look for evidence of wrongdoing. If the evidence isn’t there, then the evidence isn’t there.

And Democrats may never gather enough evidence to try Trump in Congress. There certainly is a lot of smoke, but in order to turn this into a conviction, we’re going to need one hell of a fire. Especially to convince Republicans who won’t break from Trump for anything, it seems.

Impeachment was designed by our Founding Fathers to remove people from office who shouldn’t be there. It was not designed to take out people simply because we disagree with them.

Trump may be the most polarizing and provocative president this country has ever had. But impeachment should only be used against him if he’s actually done something wrong, not because we sit on the other side of the aisle.

It de-legitimizes not only the process, but all that this country stands for.