Rep. Abigail Spanberger

The Spanberger Rule for Impeachment

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has spoken. Yes, there was evidence that President Trump obstructed justice. No, it wasn’t my job to prosecute that because Justice Department guidelines don’t allow it. A non-judicial proceeding should do that.

The non-judicial proceeding, of course, is impeachment. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has been driving progressives crazy by not backing impeachment, particularly in the face of such blatant evidence. Earlier today (May 29), House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) tiptoed up to the line of impeachment, but didn’t cross it.

To understand why they are so reticent, you have to understand what I call The Spanberger Rule. Named after freshman Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), the rule simply states that no impeachment will move ahead unless and until representatives like Spanberger get on board.

As much as Pelosi would like to see Trump held accountable, she has a bigger goal in mind — maintaining the Democratic majority in the House. That bigger picture won’t be possible without Representatives like Spanberger, a former CIA case officer who flipped a very red seat in the suburbs of Richmond, VA. That district had been represented by former Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who was ousted by former Rep. David Brat because Cantor wasn’t sufficiently right wing. Tea Partier Brat was then beaten by Spanberger, who ran and won on a classically bipartisan campaign. She even pledged not to back Pelosi for Speaker, and didn’t.

Coincidentally, the Washington Post started a series focusing on her and the delicate balancing act of being a “moderate” in a party seemingly dominated by representatives like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Her constituents want to build the wall, while Spanberger, as the story says, has to “fight the leftward tug of progressives who want universal health care, impeachment of President Trump and a Green New Deal.” (Those lefties have horrible goals, don’t they?) She favors an incremental approach to reforming health care, rather than a Medicare for all plan.

She has tended to her district needs, working with Republicans on a bill to increase rural penetration of broadband and other tech issues, help retirement security and doing town halls.

As a former CIA officer, she should have some sense of how dangerous breaking the law can be, but as a sitting member of Congress, she’s reluctant to express it.

At one such meeting in April, she was asked about the Mueller report, and answered it was her “Constitutional duty to make the best and most well-informed decision that I can possibly make.” She also told the reporter that that details of how Russia hacked the 2016 election as described in the Mueller report were “more important than partisan politics.”

And yet, she said this: ““I generally reject the notion that districts like mine don’t believe in the rule of law and constitutional values.”

She told Van Jones Congress has a “Constitutional responsibility for oversight.” She has also had to defend herself against being called a “socialist.”

Even with her middle-of-the-road record, Republican voters don’t trust her, particularly in a district that hasn’t elected a Democrat in 50 years or so. Expecting her to back impeachment will be a very hard sell.

But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. The people who have to do it are her Democratic constituents and those who believe in the rule of law, people she says exist. The local newspapers have to read the Mueller report and back its conclusions. Henrico County residents have to start writing to the Times-Dispatch and use other local media to make the case for the rule of law. There have been some recently, but they were generic to the House and not to Spanberger specifically.

Spanberger and the other seat-flippers in red districts have to be made aware they face as much of a challenge next year if they don’t back even in inquiry into the Obstructor-in-Chief. Unless and until they get on board, impeachment isn’t happening.

Then and only then will anything meaningful take place to hold the Lawbreaker-in-Chief accountable.

Communications consultant, recovering journalist

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