• Reilly Neill

America: Holding Leaders Accountable Since 1787

Updated: Jan 23, 2020

In the aftermath of the Watergate crisis in 1974, the Senate Judiciary Committee produced a report on the historical origins of impeachment of the president. The report examined the intentions of the framers of the United States Constitution when they first hammered out the concept in 1787.

As noted in the 1974 report, “The debates on impeachment at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia focused principally on its applicability to the President,” and the maxim that no commander in chief would ever be “above the law.”

The framers intended impeachment to be “a constitutional safeguard of the public trust,” when aptly envisioning a future where citizens might avoid or ignore civic responsibility.

In the America of 2019, many are more concerned with the emotions of internet and television dramas or upgrading to the latest iPhone than maintaining a healthy democracy. Tuning out offers an escape from heavy headlines and combative politics but the impeachment of our 45th President is more than passing news. This historical moment in our democracy offers us a glimpse of our shared potential future in America.

While some people still independently investigate news stories, plenty of Montanans take what is said on television, particularly Fox news, as fact without any further investigation. Many get their news from Facebook without knowing “the news” might be a paid ad created to manipulate their perspective, like a laundry detergent commercial or product placement in a movie designed to make theater patrons thirsty for soda, Much of today's newsworthy content is just a form of advertising disguised as traditional news.

Fossil fuel and other extractive and chemical industries want people to think what the industrial companies need to do environmentally to spur the economy is okay in order to show healthy profits.

Montanans deserve more than propaganda in our news streams. We should be respected as fellow citizens by media organizations. We are not data for advertising agencies hired to convince us to buy their ideologies at the cost of our environment, natural resources and social peace. There are better ways forward.

Here in Montana, we stand up for the constitutional laws and bylaws essential to a functioning democratic society. We fight for our freedom to have a fair and just governmental process and hope to inspire others to do the same.

At this moment, the Executive Branch of the Federal government has been hijacked by brilliant advertising masquerading as news. No one in the Trump administration seems willing to admit the possibility of illegal activity or corruption and the ad copy is the same in every defending headline.

The President has without a doubt misled the American people. Some estimates of the number of his fact-checked lies numbers in the 10,000’s. There is an astonishing Wikipedia entry detailing many of his larger deceptions. It's truly appalling and without excuse.

We must have the will to seek truth for ourselves, beyond partisan lines and biased sources. The founding fathers believed in us and left us a rich and dynamic legacy in the Constitution of the United States but we must actively work to keep democracy alive and hold all of our representatives accountable to governing with integrity and upholding the Constitution, even ones who may be in our own party.

In the last three years, the safeguards put in place by founding laws in this country have been weakened and are now strained.

When the constitutional impeachment process was debated with James Madison, Benjamin Franklin and others in Philadelphia over 200 years ago, the founders of the U.S. Constitution were concerned a future “Chief Magistrate” would attempt to subvert the very document they were composing. They had reason to worry.

A brief scan of history confirms the cliché, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely,” and many leaders around the world have become tyrant or dictator when unchecked by the laws and restrictions of the populace. It's written in the U.S. Constitution that such a leader will be unable to serve a full term in office and must answer to us, the American people, when we call them to task.

As the impeachment inquiry moves forward, we must be able to examine fairly the possibility of high crimes and misdemeanors: profiting financially from high office, asking foreign nations to interfere with our elections, lying to the Special Council and the American people, misleading the nation, using our tax dollars for personal campaigning, colluding with foreign governments against the interest of the U.S., imprisoning children, spying on citizens, failing to respond with aid in a national emergency, obstruction of criminal investigations and other alleged improper and illegal acts. There is clear, non-partisan evidence for many of these crimes. We must all work now to hold our President responsible for his actions.

Over two hundred years ago, states held ratifying conventions to approve the Constitution and in North Carolina, James Iredell argued a case that is as valid today as then, that a president: “Must certainly be punishable for giving false information to the Senate. He is to regulate all intercourse with foreign powers, and it is his duty to impart to the Senate every material intelligence he receives.

“If it should appear that he has not given them full information, but has concealed important intelligence which he ought to have communicated, and by that means induced them to enter into measures injurious to their country, and which they would not have consented to had the true state of things been disclosed to them,” it's a clear offense against the government and against the American people.

The fact that we are in this country still free enough to criticize our leader is proof our democracy is intact. But we must take action now.

The case of Donald Trump needs to be examined. Trump must come before the Senate to be questioned about his use and abuse of power as President. Some may argue that other members of the Trump administration are more to blame for the crimes committed or that the media is unfair to any of them but the President took an oath of office and there is now solid evidence that he has not upheld his oath. We the people must become the fail-safe the founders of this country intended us to be.

All American citizens should be involved with the preservation of our democracy. We must come together in our communities and hold our elected representatives in Washington responsible for protecting the articles of our Constitution so debated by our forefathers and examined by the lessons of history in order to preserve our democracy.

—Reilly Neill

—The document that outlines the rights necessary to live free in a democracy—

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