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William Webster: Congress must consider censure, impeachment, removal

William Webster: Congress must consider censure, impeachment, removal

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Former FBI and CIA director William Webster

Former FBI director and CIA director William Webster accompanied by his wife Lynda Webster and Attorney General William Barr, left, speaks during a news conference to address elder financial exploitation in 2019.

(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

I remain a proud son of Missouri even though I have been away for many years. In 1978, I left my position as a federal judge in St. Louis to serve in Washington as the director of the FBI and, nine years later, of the CIA. Washington is where I sit today profoundly saddened and angry.

I’m a lifelong Republican, but I am an American first. Alongside the countless devoted public servants it has been my honor to know, I have spent my life fighting for the sanctity of our Constitution and of the rule of law. The Capitol is a place of reverence for me.

Never in my 96 years did I imagine a sitting president of the United States, abetted by numerous members of Congress, using tools of deception and innuendo to challenge the will of the American people in choosing their leadership. For weeks these elected officials have propagated baseless lies and totally unproven conspiracy theories, cynically raising millions of dollars while doing so.

These people entrusted with public power have refused to heed the findings of our revered U.S. Supreme Court and of dozens of lower courts and state election-certification officials. I am especially enraged that one of those who would continue to support the president’s deceptions, Sen. Josh Hawley, hails from my revered home state. He, the Trump children, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, lawyer Rudy Giuliani, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and others should be ashamed.

The weeks-long display of despicable, narcissistic behavior by our president was reprehensible enough following the election. But President Donald Trump and others incited violence and attacked those things all Americans should hold dear. Their actions threatened the very survival of our democracy. My reaction is a disbelief I cannot adequately put into words. Instead, I submit to you the wisdom of one of my personal heroes, Abraham Lincoln.

First, read his admonition. Then I ask Americans to heed his advice. Following what was a shameful second day of infamy in American history, it is my hope that all Americans will seriously take to heart Lincoln’s great wisdom. Our country’s future and yours depend upon it.

Abraham Lincoln warned us that “America will never be destroyed from the outside if we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”

He also reminded us that the people are the rightful masters of our government, “not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who would pervert the Constitution.”

This leads me to an action I never imagined — to state my support for those who speak of censure, impeachment or removal of the man whose primary job as president of the United States is to protect all Americans, not incite the violence that led to insurrection on our Capitol and death of five in the unprecedented assault on our democracy.

A strong American line in the sand must be drawn. We are a land of laws and our United States president, above all others, is expected to revere and protect them. Through four years in office, Trump has crossed this line multiple times in countless disturbing and tumultuous ways. But this latest insurrection demands that our country, through its elected officials, strongly and unmistakably declare that the man who has offered no apologies and still doesn’t think he did anything wrong must be censured, at the very least.

Most of those who represent the American people cherish our lawful way of life. We deserve to expect that they stand tall and mark this despicable incident in history with a very strong rebuke of the man who fostered it. While there is talk that such actions are politically motivated, I submit that in this instance, a condemnation from both sides of the aisle would be America-motivated. A censure should not divide our country further. Instead, it should unite us behind the laws and values that have kept us together for over two centuries.

Former Defense Secretary William Cohen, a friend, a fellow Republican, and a long-serving leader in elective and appointed office, stated that Congress should stand tall and make a historic statement in support of civility in our society. I strongly support his assertion and pray that every member of Congress will do just that. Americans deserve no less.

William Webster is a retired federal judge, FBI director and director of the CIA.

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