WASHINGTON — Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, heard about President Trump’s latest angry tweet about him on Tuesday morning, as he was headed to a hearing of the House Financial Services Committee.
“Like Al Green, she [Nancy Pelosi] wants to change our voting system,” Trump wrote in a tweet that accused Democrats of seeking to impeach him because they believe he will be reelected in 2020.
One of Green’s staffers called the congressman to discuss the message as he was speaking with Yahoo News, and he promptly reacted to it.
“We absolutely don’t want to change the voting system,” Green said of the president’s claim. “What we would like to do is honor the Constitution, and the Constitution clearly requires that, when a president commits impeachable actions, the House has to act.”
This wasn’t the first time Trump has attacked Green on Twitter. The congressman became the first Democrat to call for the president to be impeached on the House floor, in May 2017, just shy of four months after Trump took office. Since then, Green has formally introduced articles of impeachment against Trump three different times. The president has responded with tweets about Green, including two that purported to quote the lawmaker as saying he wanted to see Trump impeached out of a concern the president would be reelected. In one of those posts, Trump inaccurately quoted Green. The other took Green’s words out of context.
On Tuesday morning, Green told Yahoo News that his efforts to oust Trump aren’t motivated by electoral concerns. Instead, Green argues that the country’s founding document requires members of the House of Representatives to push for the chief executive’s removal if they believe the president has engaged in impeachable offenses.
“We must honor the Constitution,” Green explained. “If we fail to honor the Constitution, there will be no guardrails and this president will take advantage of this. ... Only God knows what he [Trump] will do when he believes that he has no one to answer to. Right now, he knows that we are there, but if we don’t do our duty, the president will do unthinkable things.”
Well before Trump pushed to have the leader of Ukraine investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, and a debunked conspiracy theory alleging Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election, Green had concluded that the president had committed impeachable offenses. But it took a whistleblower complaint about the Ukrainian effort to convince House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to formally launch an impeachment inquiry in September. Green said he’s “honored” that Pelosi has come onboard.
“Speaker Pelosi has been a person who — not aggressively, I would say — moved into this area of impeachment,” Green said. “But she is there now because she understands that the president’s behavior necessitates that we be in this ... area of impeachment.”
Green is certainly concerned about Trump’s conduct with respect to Ukraine. Military aid to that country was withheld as Trump pushed for a Biden investigation. The president’s July 25 phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart was reportedly moved to a classified server after concerns were raised about that conversation. In the three days of public impeachment hearings, which began last Wednesday, multiple officials have testified that they were troubled by the campaign to procure the Ukrainian investigations.
“What he was doing in Ukraine was corruption,” Green said of Trump. “I regret that we have to now clean it up, but ... after the attempt to corrupt, there’s now the cover-up, and we have to deal with the corruption and the cover-up.”
Trump has insisted his phone calls with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky were “perfect” and suggested he was interested in investigating business dealings Biden’s son had in the country as part of an effort to root out corruption there.
Green, a bearded former lawyer and former president of the NAACP’s Houston branch, is adamant that the questions surrounding Ukraine are not “the only reason we should impeach this president.”
“It’s not just about what he’s doing in Ukraine. It’s about what he’s doing to our country and how he is corrupting our society,” said Green.
Indeed, Green suggested the fact that the Democratic leadership had launched formal hearings was “vindication for all of the many [people] who called for the president’s impeachment.” When Green first suggested on the House floor that Trump should be impeached, former FBI Director James Comey had just been fired and the congressman portrayed his dismissal as an attempt to obstruct justice, particularly regarding the investigation into whether the Trump campaign cooperated with Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. At that time, only a small number of Democrats supported impeachment. Green went ahead anyway, introducing a trio of articles of impeachment based on the idea the president was responsible for what Green called an “infusion of bigotry into policy.” Each time Green brought up articles, the number of Democrats who joined him grew.
“The president is a person who is harming our society in this way and it’s impeachable. He is reinvigorating the notion that, first, might makes right, and then he compounds that with white makes might,” Green said.
As examples of this, Green cited comments Trump reportedly made last year about migrants coming from “s***hole countries,” along with the president’s efforts to curb immigration from Africa, Latin America and Muslim nations. Green also pointed to Trump’s comment that there were “very fine people on both sides” of the 2017 white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Va. While these remarks might not have violated the law, Green argued, they are clearly impeachable.
“We tend to focus on something that’s criminal when we ought to be focusing on the harm that this president is according society, which is criminal in and of itself,” said Green. “Most people don’t take the time to define the word ‘criminal.’ If you do, you will find that it also means a wrongdoing, not necessarily something that is inculcated into statutory law. And most people don’t take the time to look up the word ‘misdemeanor,’ which also means a misdeed.”
Green points to, among other things, Alexander Hamilton’s 65th essay in the Federalist Papers and the 1868 impeachment of President Andrew Johnson to support his argument that impeachment doesn’t require the commission of a crime. The congressman has links to both of these documents in the dedicated “Impeachment” section of his official website, and he said he’d be willing to “debate any constitutional lawyer” who believes otherwise.
“The framers of the Constitution were brilliant,” Green said. “They gave us phraseology that allowed us to remove a president who was harming the country just as the board of directors can remove a CEO that is harming a corporation. There’s not a corporation in this country that would tolerate this president’s behavior if he were the head of that corporation.”
Green’s outspoken and early push for impeachment has made him a lightning rod for criticism from Trump and other Republicans who have suggested it’s proof the Democrats have wanted the president ousted since the moment he took office. But Green argues his efforts to remove Trump have “always been rooted in evidence.” He also said it isn’t personal.
“By the way, I want you to know this: I love the president. My religion requires that I love everybody. I just don’t like his behavior as it relates to the harm he’s doing to our country. There must be guardrails for everybody in society, including the president,” Green said, adding, “The guardrails for the president emanate from what we have in the Constitution.”
Along with attacks from Trump and his allies, according to the congressman, he has “received many threats” that have obliged him to seek protection from an armed guard.
“When you walk into my office, the first thing you see is a person with a gun. I never had to do this before. The threat level is exceedingly high,” he said.
Still, Green says he won’t be deterred.
“I am committed to making sure that this president is not above the law,” he said, adding, “That’s why my mission is to have him removed from office, because of the harm he’s committing with reference to society.”
And Green insists he has no regrets.
“I think that this was a good thing to do,” he said. “And if I could live my life over a thousand times, I’d do it a thousand times.”
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