Following the completion of three intense days of public testimony in the U.S. House Intelligence committee’s investigation into the possible impeachment of President Trump, Falls Church’s U.S. Rep. Donald S. Beyer Jr., and Virginia U.S. Senator Mark Warner led heavily-attended public events in this area last Thursday and Friday where they both affirmed the gravity and importance of what has and continues to transpire.
Speaking before a large audience of mostly retired foreign service and other government employees at the Goodwin House in the Bailey’s Crossroads section of Greater Falls Church Friday, Sen. Warner said, “I wish we weren’t here [pursuing the impeachment prospect –ed.], but if what’s come out is true, I don’t know how you can turn your back to it. I simply can’t ignore the manipulation of U.S. foreign policy for personal gain. If what has been alleged becomes normalized, the American public is going to lose faith that our system can work.”
Before an even larger crowd the night before packed into the auditorium of the T.C. Williams High School on Route 7 in Alexandria, just beyond the reach of Greater Falls Church, Beyer lined up three experts in the law and history of presidential impeachments to join him on stage, and almost the entire two-hour session was taken up responding to questions from the audience that ran the gamut from asserting Trump’s so-called “deep state” exists to asking why the House Intelligence Committee isn’t deploying the sergeant-at-arms to arrest White House staff who’ve ignored subpoenas to appear.
Clearly, however, the vast majority in the audience of over 300 were solidly in support of Beyer and the Democrats leading the investigation in the House.
Beyer said that protecting the rule of law is the most important element of the impeachment process. “We cannot as public officials ignore our oaths,” he said. “If democracy goes away, then lawlessness goes up.”
This is the defining issue in this process, he said. Going ahead with the impeachment “is not a question of a good or bad idea, but one of are we going to fulfill our oath of office.”
He said no amount of public opinion will change his vote on a matter like this. “This is not a poll, but a process driven by political leadership. I will vote my conscience.”
Nonetheless, he reported that emails have come into his office about 3-to-1 in favor of impeachment.
While the current impeachment process has advanced at “warp speed” compared to earlier cases, and as facts pertinent to the case continue to come out, “We are keeping up and staying on track with our other duties and legislative priorities,” he said. “Nothing else has stopped.”
He stressed the importance of Congress’ role in the “checks and balances” set up in the Constitution, especially in light of the fact that the judicial branch, as represented by current Attorney General William Barr, “has become partisan and by virtue of that, completely out of bounds.”
Beyer said “I don’t understand the personality change that Barr has gone through,” adding, “But it is much bigger than just him.”
Beyer was asked why so many Republicans are spouting the pro-Moscow line on the 2016 election interference in the U.S. (blaming it on the Ukraine, not the Kremlin), in the face of how clearly U.S. foreign service expert on Russia, Fiona Hill, who made a major impression during the public hearings last week, stipulated seriousness of that error.
He said that it has to do with the Republicans’ difficulties breaking with or defying Trump. The GOP’s main reality, Beyer quipped, is that 40 percent of their representatives in Congress are leaving before next year’s election. “Trump’s hard core base is very loyal and demands severe consequences for any Republican that isn’t. Massive social media reaction, protests and hate mail have exploded against a GOP member who expressed even the slightest concern about the impeachment charges against Trump, he noted. Most Republicans, he said, remain as silent as they can.
Fundamentally, he said, the goal is to make the impeachment inquiry process not an incendiary one, but focused on getting to the truth with the help of witnesses who were actually there.
In a tweet following the end of last week’s public hearing phase, Beyer said, “I do not know how this will end, but whatever comes next I thank my House Intelligence Committee colleagues and their staff for their hard work, and above all Chairman Adam Schiff. His profound leadership and moral clarity will leave a mark on history, and he deserves the thanks of a grateful nation.”
In his comments Friday, Sen. Warner stressed how all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies concurred that the 2016 U.S. election interference came from Russia and not Ukraine, and said he was gravely upset at Trump’s disrespect for the U.S. intelligence community. Warner serves as the vice-chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee where he and Republican chair Richard Burr have worked closely together.
There is grave concern, he said, for the fact that, despite the fact the U.S. spends $750 billion annually on defense compared to $70 billion by Russia and $250 billion by China, that the U.S. remains trapped in 20th century technology and methods compared to the focus on cyber methods by its adversaries.
In this context, he said, it is astonishing that in the U.S., the issue of election security has become a partisan issue, with 11 states still lacking any paper ballot backups for their electoral systems.
In addition to the U.S. intelligence assessment that the Russians are planning another major interference in the 2020 presidential election next year, China has entered onto the cyber warfare scene in a big way, as well.
The Chinese, he noted, have developed an “Orwellian” surveillance system against its own population, where the top priority for everyone is now loyalty to the Communist Party of China.
He said as the global Internet systems shift from 4G to 5G, China has stolen a great amount of cyber intelligence, and of the 365,000 foreign exchange students now in the U.S., fully a third are from China and increasingly, not like before, are not being allowed to remain here.
For the first time since Sputnik in the late 1950s, someone besides the U.S. is “setting the rules” for technological advance, he said, and they’re not based on “U.S. values seeking the protection and advancement of democratic values.”
In this context, he said, the U.S. electoral system, with the Supreme Court’s disastrous ‘Citizens United’ decision, “is about as screwed up as it can possibly be.”
But he said it is critical that the majority U.S. electorate “stick it out and don’t turn off” and added that he’s always held that citizens should vote for “good people of both parties if they show courage.”