Dec. 11, 2019 by David Silverberg
Updated at 10:00 pm with clarification of quote.
With an impeachment vote looming, the members of Southwest Florida’s congressional delegation are preparing for a day of reckoning when they must vote whether or not to impeach the president. The magnitude of the issue has made for increased scrutiny of their statements and criticism of their reactions.
Rep. Rooney’s reasoning
Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) has not retreated from his earlier statements that he is open to considering the evidence but that a strong case needs to be made if impeachment is to occur.
“Surprisingly, I have been criticized by many ardent supporters of the President for saying that I can’t say whether I am for or against his impeachment until I see all the facts and evidence,” he stated in a Dec. 9 statement. “I still feel strongly that we need to develop all possible evidence that could bear on such an important decision. How can such an important decision be made otherwise?”
Nonetheless, he stated that “I do not believe that the President’s behavior related to Ukraine was proper” and the work of US diplomats should not be undermined.
He also complained that top officials and individuals like Rudy Giuliani, John Bolton, former national security adviser, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had not testified. “How can we move forward on such an impactful process as impeachment without them…?” he asked.
He argued that the impeachment process should not proceed until “no stone is left unturned.” However, the statement did not rule out his voting for impeachment should it come up for a vote in the House.
(Rep. Rooney’s full statement follows at the conclusion of this article.)
Rep. Greg Steube and Barry Berke.
Rep. Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.), whose district includes Port Charlotte and Venice, has been vocal in criticizing the impeachment process and Democrats.
The impeachment process “is nothing but an attempt to subvert the will of nearly 63 million voters,” Steube said in an Oct. 31 statement following the House vote establishing the procedures for the impeachment process. Nothing he has said since has indicated any change in that position.
Steube sits on the House Judiciary Committee where he has been an ardent defender of the president.
It was while questioning witnesses on Monday, Dec. 9 that Steube’s remarks sparked widespread online criticism for what many observers regarded as an anti-Semitic slur.
Steube read a prepared statement condemning Barry Berke, the lawyer who presented the Democratic case for impeachment. As special counsel to the Committee, Berke served as the architect of the Democratic case and laid out the facts in testimony before the committee.
“Mr. Berke is an unelected, New York lawyer, specifically brought in by the Democrats to give his opinion,” said Steube when it was his turn to speak. “[He is] a politically biased consultant who has given hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal elections to the likes of Act Blue, Hillary Clinton, Obama and Biden.”
Steube kept hammering at Berke’s New York connections. “Mr. Berke is a white collar criminal defense lawyer who brags on his website of getting New York financial brokers deferred prosecution for tax fraud, and fund managers off insider trading charges.”
Steube repeatedly charged that Berke had “lied”—without giving evidence. “This is who was sitting at the top of the dais, next to the chairman, acting like a member of this committee; a partisan New York lawyer with a written bias against President Trump who gave thousands to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.”
The term “New York lawyer” has widely regarded by many observers as an anti-Semitic dog whistle for “Jewish.”
Rep. Ted Deutch (D-22-Fla.), also a member of the committee, tried to ask Steube what he meant by “New York lawyer” but Rep. Jerold Nadler (D-10-NY), chairman of the committee, would not allow the question in order to keep the proceedings moving forward.
“Rep. Greg Steube just described Barry Berke as a ‘New York lawyer.’ Multiple times,” tweeted a Jewish activist group called Bend the Arc. “Let’s be clear: that’s coded language for ‘Jew.’ Again and again, Trump & his enablers invoke antisemitism to distract from impeachment & promote bigotry. Leave our Jewish community alone.”
Steube dismissed the controversy. “It’s ridiculous to think my comments were anything but aimed at liberal Democrats who will stop at nothing to impeach this President,” he said after the hearing.
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.), whose district stretches from Golden Gate to Hialeah on the east coast of Florida, has remained remarkably silent on his position regarding impeachment.
In the past, Diaz-Balart has been a faithful party soldier, voting with the president 91 percent of the time over the course of his career, according to the website FiveThirtyEight.com.
The Paradise Progressive reached out to Diaz-Balart’s office for comment and clarification of his impeachment position. If an answer is received, this article will be updated.
Full statement of Rep. Francis Rooney on impeachment:
Regardless of my or anyone’s opinion about the President’s treatment of the Ukrainians, Rudy Giuliani or anyone else, impeachment is such a grave matter that it demands that a strong and clear case be made. Personally, I do not believe that the President’s behavior related to Ukraine was proper and feel that he should not undermine the work of our Ambassadors and foreign service officers who spend their careers protecting United States’ interests around the world, often at great hardship, but the issue is whether this is criminal and impeachable or not.
Surprisingly, I have been criticized by many ardent supporters of the President for saying that I can’t say whether I am for or against his impeachment until I see all the facts and evidence. I still feel strongly that we need to develop all possible evidence that could bear on such an important decision. How can such an important decision be made otherwise?
There are several important sources of first-hand testimony about what was or was not said by the president that should be heard under oath, namely Giuliani, Amb. Bolton, Sec. Pompeo, Chief of Staff Mulvaney and the former Secretary of Energy Perry. We will soon know the outcome of the challenge to former White House Counsel Don McGahn’s claim of executive privilege. The result of this case plus existing precedents suggest that a compelling basis exists to compel all these individuals to testify. First-hand accounts like these would affirm that the impeachment process is seeking substantive outcomes based on real facts and accurate information, rather than reflecting a more political objective.
How can we move forward on such an impactful process as impeachment without them, and without any other collateral evidence these witnesses might lead us to, in order show the American people the fairness and thoroughness that this measure merits? Like the legal canon of avoiding “even the appearance of impropriety”, I urge that the leaders of the impeachment process go the extra mile to exemplify impartiality, fairness and objectivity in their deliberations.
This consideration of broadening the inquiry is a different one from whether the facts known at this time justify impeachment. Impeachment is not like a routine criminal indictment that may or may not be based on all possible facts if the legal case has been made. It is a significant Constitutional procedure that fundamentally impacts our institutions and is inextricably linked to the confidence of the American people in their legislators and government. Accordingly, having enough evidence per se is not enough to move forward when much more probative testimony is available to assure that no stone is left unturned.
Liberty lives in light
© 2019 by David Silverberg