BLOOMINGTON — The leaders of McLean County Republican and Democratic parties agree on one thing: Going forward with the impeachment of President Donald Trump will have political costs.
Neither Connie Beard, McLean County Republican chair, nor Erik Rankin, McLean County Democrats chair, were surprised by Thursday's announcement by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that articles of impeachment will be drafted.
But while Beard said she was not surprised that the process is moving toward a vote to impeach, “I think it's a mistake on different levels.”
She said, “Politically, it's a mistake for the Democrats” that will tie up some Democratic presidential candidates because they will have to stay in Washington during the process.
“On a higher level, I don't feel the evidence warranted such action,” said Beard. “It will be a mistake for the Democrats and all of us.”
Rankin disagrees with Beard about the evidence and thinks it does show Trump committed impeachable offenses that “rise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors.”
However, he agrees that the timing of the impeachment trial happening in January is “terrible for Democrats because of the impact on the election process.”
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Calling it a matter of “unintended consequences,” Rankin noted that two Democratic presidential candidates, Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, will be off the campaign trail “just as campaigns are ramping up in Iowa and New Hampshire.”
On the other hand, Rankin said, there are political risks for Republicans, too, by looking at “actions that are clearly troubling and shrugging them off as no big thing.”
Beard said a trial in the Senate will allow Trump to cross-examine witnesses and reveal how weak the evidence is.
She has no doubt that Trump will prevail but she is concerned with precedents that have been set, such as beginning the process behind closed doors. She also said the process has been dragged out with “testimony of people who have no direct knowledge” of what took place.
Rankin said every impeachment sets precedents and “traditionally impeachment is known as a political process. … It was messy and very divisive when (Bill) Clinton was impeached.”
Rankin said, “I still maintain that the ballot box is the more logical place” to address Trump's conduct, considering it would take the votes of 20 Republicans joining the 47 Democrats in the Senate to obtain the two-thirds super majority needed to remove him from office.
Beard said, “I think people are getting tired of it and tuning out. … It's time to get this over with and move on. Let's get to something new.”
PHOTOS: The Trump impeachment hearings
Contact Lenore Sobota at (309) 820-3240. Follow her on Twitter: @Pg_Sobota