Elijah Cummings embraced country over party. Throughout the impeachment process, Congress must do the same.

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD | October 31, 2019

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For many of us in Baltimore, Representative Elijah Cummings was a hero. Cummings, who’d lived in a West Baltimore row home for over three decades, was a tireless fighter for civil rights. During the Uprising, he walked among protesters and police, calling for peace. He advocated for the state to pool more resources into treating drug addicts in our city. Most recently, he spoke out against U.S. President Donald Trump after he called Baltimore a “rat and rodent infested mess.” 

Last Friday, amid an impending impeachment inquiry against Trump, thousands of mourners attended Cummings’ funeral in Baltimore. Many of them were community members. There were also prominent politicians — not only Democrats like Senator Elizabeth Warren and former U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama — but also Republicans like Governor Larry Hogan and Representatives Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows. The latter two have been staunch Trump supporters. 

Cummings, a prominent figure in the impeachment inquiry, was a passionate critic of many Republicans. He was also, however, unique in his ability to form friendships with those same politicians. Cummings, who had the power to bridge political divides, passed at a time of great political polarity. The inquiry against Trump is in full swing, and the animosity between Democrats and Republicans continues to escalate. 

Over 80 percent of Democrats currently support impeachment. On the right, however, the number has not risen above 15.2 percent, and no Republicans in the House support impeachment. 

The inquiry began after a whistleblower alleged that Trump, in a phone call to the Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky, attempted to pressure the country to investigate the son of former Vice President and 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden. Cummings, as Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, was a leading figure in the House of Representatives’ investigation.

Trump has repeatedly denied the allegations. He has called the impeachment inquiry a “witch hunt,” a “fraud” and even a “lynching.” The evidence against him, however, is damning. 

White House officials have corroborated most of the whistleblower’s testimony. The Constitution says that a president may be impeached for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” By colluding with a foreign leader to secure his presidency, Trump has certainly abused his presidential powers. He deserves to be and should be impeached. 

Democrats, who dominate the House of Representatives, initiated the inquiry. As Americans, however, both Democrats and Republicans have a civic responsibility to set their differences aside and hold Trump accountable. Impeachment must be a non-partisan endeavor.

For Democrats, impeachment comes with inherent risks. Since the inquiry began, every major media outlet in the U.S. has focused its attention on Trump. The president seems to thrive on bad press. After all, he did win the presidency in 2016 after months of it, and just weeks after the public release of the infamous Access Hollywood Tape

Moreover, the impeachment inquiry has generated a buzz that could potentially draw attention away from the platforms of Democratic candidates. If our senators do not vote to remove Trump, the impeachment inquiry will only rally his base of supporters. Democrats may lose their credibility. 

Despite this risk, Democrats have a responsibility to continue their inquiry. An impeachment inquiry is the most tenable way of holding him accountable. If Trump cannot responsibly handle his powers, then he is not fit for office and should be removed.

Republicans too have much to fear from this inquiry. Among them are Trump’s strongest allies, and even his less avid Republican supporters may fear retribution for siding with Democrats. They must learn, however, to put their fear aside. They must learn to put their country over their party. 

What the U.S. needs right now is truth and trust. In the wake of Cummings’ death, it is clear that the country must come together and reestablish these values. The Congressman was known for his friendships across the aisle. He never let partisan attacks distract him. 

On Friday, politicians from both parties showed that they could set their differences aside and come together. Honoring Cummings’ legacy, however, does not end with his funeral. To properly honor him, these politicians must come together in pursuit of the truth. They must continue their inquiry against a president who has repeatedly broken the trust of his people. They must remember who they are fighting for: the people of the United States.

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