The impeachment case that won’t go away

Yeah, I know it is dead despite the fact that we have a president so breathtakingly dumb and incompetent that he just cannot admit he made a mistake about Alabama and the hurricane, but some good stuff on the topic recently from Adam Gopnik and Dahlia Lithwick:


The principled case, now and then, is summed up in three words: Trump’s a crook. If the phrase deliberately left open by the Founders to be defined as “high crimes and misdemeanors” does not apply to the evidence of Trump’s conduct over the past three years, then it would seem to have no meaning at all. Any one of half a dozen scandals that would have been the immediate cause of an impeachment inquiry into—and, before that happened, of universal cries for the resignation of—any previous President are still open. His former personal lawyer is serving a three-year prison sentence for crimes including campaign-finance violations that involved paying off two women, reportedly with Trump’s knowledge, to remain silent about their relationships with him; Trump himself continues to profit while and through holding public office. Above all stands his record of open engagement with foreign autocrats against American interests and against democracy itself, and, with it, a record of attempting to obstruct justice to obscure inquiry into any such engagement. Looking at this record, and remembering Bill Clinton’s impeachment for lying about a consensual sexual encounter, or the attacks on Jimmy Carter for supposedly not keeping his peanut warehouse sufficiently sealed off from the Presidency, one can almost despair for the country.

The protection that Trump has is the level and the energy and the somewhat awe-inspiring completeness of his corruption. Not only has there never been anything like it in American history; there has never been anything like it in the modern history of democracies…

The task of holding Trump accountable becomes more urgent for a simple reason: he’s getting worse. Apparently emboldened by what he sees as his acquittal in the Mueller report, he feels free to execute his own vision of the Presidency. His behavior during the past few weeks—from insulting the Prime Minister of Denmark, for her dismissal of his desire to buy Greenland, to cravenly defending Vladimir Putin at the G-7 meeting in Biarritz, and touting one of his own resorts as the site of the next—marks a man out of control, now supported only by dutiful and amoral loyalists. His effort to turn the Department of Justice into his own enforcement agency now seems to be under way, with the ongoing intimidation through investigation of the F.B.I. agents who began the inquiry into his campaign’s contacts with Russians, and a potential indictment of Andrew McCabe, the former deputy F.B.I. director whom Trump has denounced repeatedly, on the horizon. The independence of cops and judges from politicians is all that the phrase “the rule of law” means; Trump, without shame, acts on the basis that cops and judges should pursue and prosecute those whom he perceives as his political enemies.

And I really like the interesting take of Dahlia Lithwick, “Let’s Compare Donald Trump’s Week to the Impeachment Articles Brought Against Nixon, Clinton, and Johnson: Forget what you think “high crimes and misdemeanors” means and consider what we’ve impeached presidents for in the past.”

Larry Tribe of Harvard Law School puts it this way in an email to me:

The case for impeaching and removing Trump to protect our republic from the irreversible injury likely to be inflicted by his ongoing “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” is now so compelling that only the delusional—or those utterly ignorant of our Constitution’s sole mechanism for defending the country from a lawless tyrant—could fail to agree. The only real question is whether attempting to remove Trump by impeachment is so certain to fail, and to backfire by increasing the odds of his remaining in office for a second term, that the effort would be self-defeating. But that excuse for not doing what’s obviously right as a constitutional matter is no longer tenable even if it might once have been: An impeached Trump who escapes conviction in the Senate after the evidence is laid out in public House hearings will be weaker in 2020 than a Trump who can brag that not even a Democratically controlled House could bring itself to impeach him. And GOP Senators who give him a pass will be easier to defeat than ones who’re spared any need to be counted.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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