Casten calls for 'shared sense of truth' on impeachment
Packed house at town hall favors Trump probe
By Ted Cox
DOWNERS GROVE — A freshman congressman called for an impeachment probe as the best way to arrive at “some shared sense of truth” essential to democracy in a packed-house town-hall meeting on the matter Wednesday night in Downers Grove.
“I think the future of our democracy is at stake,” said U.S. Rep. Sean Casten in a session with about 200 residents at the Downers Grove Village Hall.
Casten, who was elected last fall, said he’s held more than a dozen town halls. “There are few better forums to hear from you all,” he said.
“I’m not particularly happy about this one,” Casten added. “It’s not a topic I campaigned on.”
Casten nonetheless defended his call for a formal congressional impeachment inquiry into the actions of President Trump. He did so by establishing the need for “some shared sense of truth” and a foundation based on facts, especially with the president lying relentlessly and Republicans and conservative media outlets repeating those lies. “Put the truth first and let that lead us,” he said.
An overwhelming majority of the local residents who spoke at Wednesday’s town hall appeared to share that opinion and favored opening a formal congressional impeachment inquiry.
Casten said afterward that, over a dozen town halls, he’d found that residents in his district had recently seized on two issues: gun control and impeachment.
“There are a lot more people concerned about the president and especially impeachment than there were last November,” he said. “What’s changed in the water? More gun control and more concern about the fitness of the president for office.”
But Wednesday’s town hall was almost exclusively devoted to the latter subject, and Casten laid out the case for a formal impeachment inquiry to establish agreed-upon facts.
He cited countries like Zimbabwe and Russia as democracies in name only, and he quoted from a 1944 speech by federal judge Learned Hand in saying, “Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women,” that a democratic constitution has to be defended by citizens in order to function.
“This idea the founders had was so crazy,” Casten said. “It survived for 243 years, but that doesn’t mean we should take it for granted.” He said the lesson of the U.S. Constitution is “the rule of law matters,” and that no one is above the law, not even the president. He added that issue cut to the core of American democracy, saying, “I think the future of our democracy is at stake.”
“A congressional subpoena is a frigging congressional subpoena. You don’t get to decide whether to go before Congress or not.”
U.S. Rep. Sean Casten (One Illinois/Ted Cox)
Casten cited the acknowledged facts from the report issued by Special Counsel Robert Mueller: that Russia tried to hack the 2016 U.S. presidential election in a bid to undermine U.S. democratic institutions, that it reached out to the Trump campaign and the campaign welcomed that aid — as in the infamous email from Donald Trump Jr. that “I love it” when Russian contacts offered dirt on Hillary Clinton — and that Mueller had identified four separate incidents finding “substantial” evidence that President Trump tried to obstruct the ensuing investigation into the 2016 Russian hacking, and four other incidents where he found “significant” evidence of obstruction.
Casten said that evidence must be pursued or “we risk losing this whole beautiful experiment” in self-government.
“There’s a lot of false narrative going on” in the face of that evidence, Casten said, adding, “I’m not here to persuade. I’m here to establish a shared set of truths.” He urged the pursuit of “a shared truth without prejudging the outcome.”
According to Casten, a formal congressional impeachment probe would “accelerate” the process of finding the facts, but he also warned it could potentially undermine the investigations already underway in Congress. Trump has blocked congressional subpoenas and prevented staffers, like White House Counsel Don McGahn, from testifying under oath before Congress, and Casten said that can’t be established as a precedent so that impeachment is the only way for Congress to get action.
“A congressional subpoena is a frigging congressional subpoena,” he said. “You don’t get to decide whether to go before Congress or not.”
Almost to a person, the people who spoke at Wednesday’s town hall were receptive toward a congressional impeachment inquiry. One, Vaseem Iftekhar of Hawthorn Woods, identified himself as a Muslim and said defiantly, “I’m not ‘going home.’ I’m staying here,” to loud applause from the audience.
One man, who identified himself as “Jake, I’m a Russian bot,” asked Casten to be specific on the evidence against Trump, which he said he’d never seen.
Casten pointed again to the Mueller report, especially the last eight pages of the second volume on obstruction. “The evidence that is there is overwhelming,” he said. “You’ve got to get away from Fox News.”
Casten placed a strong belief in the ability of the U.S. people to follow the process in what amounts to a constitutional crisis, saying, “My hope is we’re going to look back on this as an anomaly, that our institutions rose to the occasion and took preventive measures.”