Editor’s note: It was Susan Ohanian’s advisory motion to impeach Donald Trump that prompted the Selectboard’s letter to Rep. Peter Welch last month. The basis for the motion was Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the U.S. Constitution, which says “No person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.” The letter argued President Trump has received foreign emoluments through his international business holdings and, therefore, should be impeached.
Susan Ohanian, Charlotte
In Rep. Peter Welch’s letter to Selectboard Chair Lane Morrison, I see a distressing refusal to consider principle over pragmatism. The townspeople of Charlotte who voted for the impeachment resolution are quite aware that the numbers are against us and that as a matter of pragmatic politics it is not possible to impeach Donald Trump at this time. We do not need Peter Welch to lecture us on the arithmetic.
At issue is the conflict between Donald Trump’s wide-ranging business interests and his constitutional duty. Historically, Town Meeting is where local citizens gather to vote on town matters, ranging from school taxes to septic systems. But as Henry David Thoreau pointed out, sometimes citizens gather in “some obscure country town … to express their opinion on some subject which is vexing the land; that I think is the true Congress, and the most respectable one that is ever assembled in the United States.”
Silence gives consent, and in consenting to President Trump’s transgressions, Representative Welch becomes a fellow traveler of the Trump organization. I would remind Representative Welch that Senators Rand Paul and Tim Kane ignored pragmatic arithmetic when they spoke out loudly against Trump’s trampling on the Constitution by not consulting Congress about his recent acts of war in Syria. As Kane said, “The Constitution we all pledge an oath to is very plain.” The Constitution to which Representative Welch pledged his oath is also very plain in its Emoluments Clause. He should speak out for the Constitution even when the numbers are against him.
And in choosing to address Lane Morrison personally, Rep. Welch pointedly ignored the Town of Charlotte—ignored the clear message we sent to him and to the president, asking them to heed the Constitution.