Remembering the Political Courage of a Republican Congressman During the Impeachment of President Nixon

On January 24, 2020, Representative Adam Schiff in his closing argument in the Trump impeachment trial remembered the political courage of a Republican Congressman, Thomas Railsback, during the 1974 impeachment of Republican President Richard Nixon. Here is what Schiff said.[1]

“One of the things that we in this fellowship of officeholders understand that most people don’t is that real political courage doesn’t come from disagreeing with our opponents but from disagreeing with our friends and with our own party because it means having to stare down accusations of disloyalty and betrayal: He’s a Democrat in name only or she’s a Republican in name only.”

“Just this week America lost a hero, Thomas Railsback, who passed away on Monday, the day before this trial began. Some of you may have known or even served with Congressman Thomas Railsback. He was a Republican from Illinois and the second ranking Member on the House Judiciary Committee when that committee was conducting its impeachment inquiry into President Nixon.”

“In July of 1974, as the inquiry was coming to a close, Congressman          Railsback began meeting with a bipartisan group of Members of the                House–three other Republicans and three Democrats. Here in the Senate                they might have called them the Gang of 7.”

“They gathered and they talked and they labored over language and ultimately helped develop the bipartisan support for the articles that led a group of Republican Senators, including Barry Goldwater and Howard Baker, to tell President Nixon that he must resign.”

“Some say that the Nixon impeachment might not have moved forward were it not for those four courageous Republicans led by Congressman Railsback, and it pained the Congressman because he credited Nixon with giving him his seat and with getting him elected. He did it, he said, because `’seeing all the evidence, it was something we had to do because the evidence was there.’ One of his aides, Ray LaHood, eulogized him saying: He felt an obligation to the Constitution to do what is right.”

Conclusion

These words and discovering that Railsback was a fellow alumnus of Grinnell College in Iowa have sparked research confirming these comments by Representative Schiff that will be the subject of a subsequent post.

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[1] 166 Cong. Record at S564-65 (Daily Edition, Jan. 24, 2020); DeBonis, Adam Schiff delivered a detailed, hour-long summary of the Democrats’ impeachment case. Some Republicans dismissed it because of one line, Wash. Post (Jan. 24, 2020).