When the House Democrats this morning unveiled two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, there was one unseen presence looming large over the proceedings: Elijah Cummings. The late Congressman from Maryland who died in October played an integral role in laying the foundation to get Democrats to the finish line they crossed Tuesday morning.
The articles of impeachment accused Trump of obstructing the investigation into his admitted quid pro quo in Ukraine and also claimed Trump abused his power by doing so. House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi announced them on the House floor and shouted out many of her colleagues for their work in getting the articles of impeachment in order and ready to be presented. She also said she would be remiss if she didn’t recognize Cummings’ contributions.
“I also want to acknowledge the important work that was done by our dear and departed – may he rest in peace – Elijah Cummings as chair of the Oversight Committee,” Pelosi said while flanked by top Democrats involved in the impeachment process.
The brief mention of Cummings was understated. Immediately after political analysts digested the unexpected news of his death, there was speculation as to who would fill Cummings’ shoes in the impeachment proceedings, especially the inquiry. USA Today remembered Cummings as “one the earliest and most aggressive committee chairmen investigating Trump, sending requests for information while in the minority during the first two years of the president’s term and then calling hearings and demanding documents after Democrats regained control of the House in January.”
Cummings’ death came months after the president attacked the congressman along with his native Baltimore, the latter of which Trump called “a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” in a tweet that many people called racist.
It was announced a little over a year ago following the midterm elections that Cummings planned to lead the powerful House Oversight Committee when his party took leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives in January, putting him in position to spearhead the chamber’s investigation of Trump’s administration.
At the time, Cummings hinted at his plans to investigate Trump aggressively.
“I’m not going to be handing out subpoenas like somebody’s handing out candy on Halloween. If I have to use them, they will be used in a methodical way,” Cummings told host George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week” in November 2018, adding that his focus is on the public interest. “Even in Trump country, they basically are saying that, ‘We want transparency, we want honesty, and we want integrity.’ But they want something else, George. They want accountability with regard to this president, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do if I’m blessed to have that opportunity.”
Cummings’ congressional legacy from more than two decades on Capitol Hill was expected to continue with whoever wins the special election to succeed him. In the meantime, Cummings’ presence will be felt when Trump’s impeachment goes to an expected trial in the Senate. But all of his hard work toward impeachment could be in vain.
While conducting an impeachment trial would be an accomplishment within itself for Democrats, chances are the results of it won’t be. That’s because Senate Republicans, who have stuck with the president through thick and thin while defending his lies, are expected to vote along party lines, which would equal an acquittal.
After all, this is America.