Impeachment: Then and Now

Former congressman says debate on rules was done privately

Tom Puckett
December 20, 2019 - 4:00 am
President Donald Trump

AP Photo


Buffalo, NY (WBEN) It's been 21 years since a sitting president has been impeached, but a congressman who served WNY in 1998 says there are significant difference between the Clinton impeachment and the Trump impeachment.

Former Democrat Congressman John LaFalce says one big difference is transgressions. "The transgressions of President Clinton were primarily personal in nature. They did not affect the safety and security of the United States of America. The transgressions of President Trump tremendously affect the safety and security of the United States of America," says LaFalce. He says Trump's alleged withholding of military Congress-appropriate aid to Ukraine posed a danger to Ukraine and the future safety of the US. 

LaFalce says another big difference is the rules for the Clinton trial were set rather quickly. "The Senate's majority leader Trent Lott and minority leader Tom Daschle were able to get together and determine what the rules should be and vote for those rules by 100 members of the Senate. If we could get 100 members of the Senate in agreement today, we could say we have a fair trial," says LaFalce. He says House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer are entitled to know what the rules are, especially with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell saying he could not be impartial. LaFalce says in 1998, Lott and Daschle met privately to go over the rules. "They did not engage in public debate, they did not engage in posturing. They worked quietly to come up with a fair process. Lott and Daschle were able to go to their respective caucuses and say we have a fair deal," says LaFalce. Today, he says the leaders are debating in public, and he says it's difficult to resolve those matters quietly. 

LaFalce says the nation was not as polarizing in 1998 than it is now. He blames that on the rise of cable news networks like MSNBC and Fox News. "Fox is on the far right and MSNBC is on the far left. So many individuals watch only one channel and they are solidified in their viewpoints," explains LaFalce.


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