Amherst Town Meeting has not shied away from taking a stand on national issues, and when the body of 254 citizens assembles on April 26, it will consider a resolution to investigate grounds for the impeachment of President Donald J. Trump.
Amherst lawyer John C. Bonifaz, who is instrumental in an effort to have cities and towns across the nation adopt such resolutions, said the public needs “to assure that the President is not beholden to foreign governments.” The Cambridge City Council passed a similar resolution, 7 to 1, on Monday night, and Bonifaz said such measures are being contemplated in Newton, Pelham and Leverett. In California, impeachment investigation resolutions have passed in Berkeley, Richmond, and Alameda, and one is pending in Los Angeles, Bonifaz said. Charlotte, VT, will also ask its congressional representative to investigate grounds for Trump’s impeachment.
The Spectator of Amherst is awaiting comment from the office of U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern, (D-Worcester) who would be officially asked to sponsor and vote for an investigation if the Amherst measure passes.
The proposed resolution states that “from the moment he took office” Trump was in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s clause which prohibits officeholders from accepting gifts, profits, salaries or fees, known as “emoluments” from royalty or leaders of foreign nations.
“Many, many people from all levels of our population are mad, angry, and upset that Donald Trump was elected president,” said Mary L. Wentworth yesterday, a longtime Amherst Town Meeting member. Wentworth said there has been debate about whether national or international matters are truly Town Meeting’s concern. Such articles are always discussed last, Wentworth said, and people who believe the issue isn’t relevant leave early. These items can wind up being debated by a smaller group, prompting questions about whether a quorum is present.
Wentworth expressed doubts that Trump’s alleged offenses are truly worse than those of some prior presidents, whose questionable military activities yielded many civilian deaths, and said she is undecided about the resolution. “I will have to decide in a few weeks which button I am going to push,” Wentworth said.
Amherst Town Meeting has taken an aggressive stand on national issues in the past, including adoption of a stringent nuclear-free zone bylaw in the 1980s. Historically, Amherst and Cambridge have at times adopted similar stands on major issues.
Bonifaz gave a brief presentation at a Town Meeting Coordinating Committee and League of Women Voters event on Tuesday in Amherst, where 42 measures up for votes were reviewed. There was little comment on the impeachment article. It was presented after 9 p.m., when many of the 60-plus people present two hours earlier had left. The entire Town Meeting warrant can be viewed here. https://www.amherstma.gov/DocumentCenter/View/38436
If the resolution passes, Town Meeting would ask McGovern to sponsor and vote for a resolution authorizing the House Committee on the Judiciary to investigate whether sufficient grounds exist for Trump’s impeachment.
Bonifaz is the co -founder of Free Speech for People, https://freespeechforpeople.org, and is co-leading the national campaign with the organization Roots Action. The joint effort is explained at the web site www.impeachdonaldtrumpnow.org. That organization’s legal advisory board includes law professor Lawrence Lessig of Harvard University.
Under the Constitution, grounds for impeachment are “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” Bonifaz and others involved claim that Trump’s failure to divest from his business interests has put him in direct violation of the foreign emoluments clause. Trump, according to the group, is also on a “collision course” with a domestic gifts and profits clause, and the federal STOCK (Stop Trading On Congressional Knowledge) Act, which prohibits government employees from using non-public information for private profit.
Free Speech For People and RootsAction.org delivered a petition with over 860,000 signatures to the U.S. House of Representatives in February, urging Congress to initiate an investigation into “President Trump’s corrupt business dealings.”
Free Speech For People is a national non-profit, focused on renewing democracy and the Constitution “for the people, not big money and corporate interests.” RootsAction is an online initiative for economic fairness, equal rights, civil liberties, and environmental protection.
In a separate matter, Town Meeting will also vote on a “Sanctuary Community” bylaw which would prohibit the town from aiding in deportation activities based solely on immigration status. U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey Sessions has threatened to withdraw federal funds from communities with such by-laws, although legal scholars have said the move would be unconstitutional. Amherst, which receives about $1.5 million in federal funds for a variety of programs, was recently among several New England towns labeled “uncooperative” by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement Division. http://news.wgbh.org/2017/03/21/local-news/nine-new-england-communities-labeled-uncooperative-ice
This article will be updated as further information becomes available.