It’s the political skirmish of the century, and the Bainbridge Island City Council decided Tuesday to sit this one out.
With the release last week of Special Counsel Robert Mueller III’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential Election, elected leaders at the national level are in the midst of a debate on whether or not to begin impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. The clash in the capital intensified earlier this week after Trump announced his administration would fight subpoenas from congressional investigators in court and said he would not let current or former White House officials testify before Congress.
At Tuesday’s Bainbridge council meeting, Councilman Joe Deets asked his fellow council members if they would support a council resolution to send to the island’s representatives in Congress, one that would ask they use their full powers granted under the Constitution to investigate the president.
“I think, like all of us, we have been watching the Mueller report issues and I’m sure, like myself, you’ve been reading about this and wondering what we can do as a people and a community,” Deets said to his fellow council members.
He asked if they were interested in passing a council resolution that would ask the island’s representatives in Congress “to pursue a thorough investigation of Trump, with nothing off the table, including the president’s impeachment.”
“I just wanted to see how folks felt,” Deets said during an end-of-the-evening what-say-you.
The idea received a tepid response.
“Personally, I think, to talk national politics for a moment, since you brought it up, the House of Representatives should start impeachment proceedings,” responded Mayor Kol Medina.
“I think the case is there; I think it’s obvious,” said Medina, who is an attorney.
A council resolution was a different question, he added.
“I don’t know. I have mixed feelings about that,” Medina said.
The mayor said he didn’t know if the council should speak for the island on that issue.
Councilman Ron Peltier said Bainbridge politics was noteworthy in that the island is not sharply divided between Democrats and Republicans.
“I have friends who are Republicans,” Peltier offered. “And we respectfully disagree on some things but agree on a lot of things because they are unique to Bainbridge Island.”
“I’m not a fan of Trump,” he said, and added that a number of investigations of the president were already underway.
“Leave it to them to decide if they think it’s a good use of their time to pursue impeachment,” Peltier said of Congress.
There’s hesitation on impeachment with Democrats, he added, because an election year is nearing and there are other priorities they want to pursue instead.
“There are other things they want to do. And that’s going to suck a lot of oxygen out of the legislative process,” he said of impeachment.
“I personally wouldn’t support us jumping into that fray and taking sides on that,” Peltier added. “I don’t see how we are going to affect it. It just looks like we’re kind of getting out of our bailiwick with that.”
From a personal level, Councilwoman Leslie Schneider said she would very much like to see Trump impeached.
“From a council perspective, I think that we are nonpartisan,” Schneider continued. “I guess I would like to leave it that way.”
The choice to impeach should not be political in nature, she said, but center instead on what’s right.
“But there’s no escaping the fact that it ends up being very politically divisive. I would like to see our Congress do the right thing, but I would not like to make a statement about it from council,” Schneider said.
While Deets reminded the council his proposed resolution would not solely call for impeachment, he accepted their positions.
“That’s OK. I sense the trepidation. I can just do this on my own,” Deets said.
Medina said he would join in, but not as a member of the council.