There is a vocal and growing contingent of the liberal left that is demanding that Donald Trump needs to be impeached now. Today. That anything less would be un-American, and perhaps even bordering on High Crimes and Misdemeanors. There are several justifications for this stance, and I felt I should take a brief moment to address them.
- He’s Guilty.
Let’s start with the elephant in the room (pardon the pun). Regardless of the crime de jure Trump is being accused of, there never seems to be any doubt that he’s guilty as sin and twice as ugly. However, I would like to point out that while impeachment proceedings are not a traditional trial, we do still have a tradition of “innocent until proven guilty” in America, and insisting that someone is guilty of a crime before you have even begun the trial or even gotten an indictment yet (that would be the actual articles of impeachment) looks kind of bad. One might even call it political opportunism or partisanship rather than actually trying to get at the truth. Or hey, we can just skip all that investigation nonsense and impeach the motherfucker.
- Get Votes On the Record.
It’s pretty well accepted at this point that the Senate won’t convict Trump. Not right now, possibly not ever. For those who say “definitely not ever,” I point you toward Richard Nixon. When Watergate was first coming to light, it didn’t look like there was any way the Senate would convict if impeachment went forward for him either. Things change. But that takes time and effort (I’ll get to that). People who want to move forward now are more interested in getting votes on the record, to show who stands for America and who stands for Trump, because they honestly believe you can’t be for both. Regardless of how you might personally feel about Trump, to assume that nobody can in good faith still support him AND support America is a pretty big leap. It’s the sort of leap that the Republican Party took in 1998 with Bill Clinton, and they paid a price for it in the next election. And there are still quite a few Democrats from moderate districts who will likely end up paying that price.
- It’s the Right Thing to Do.
Is it? There are plenty of people who say this isn’t a political decision, it’s a moral one. That’s fine. If you have solid, not indisputable but solid, proof of “Bribery, Treason*, or High Crimes and Misdemeanors,” then by all means it’s the right thing to do. But just because you believe Trump did something doesn’t mean you have proof he did it. There are a lot of conservatives out there who believe that life starts at conception that are making all kinds of laws based on that belief; last I checked those laws were getting challenged in court in large part because they can’t prove that assertion. More to the point impeachment is a legal mechanism, and the law doesn’t care about what you know. All it cares about is what you can prove. Yes, I know there is an argument that it is a political mechanism, but I reject that argument. Impeachment calls for an indictment and a trial; it may be outside of the standard court system, but so is the Uniform Military Code of Justice, and you don’t hear a lot of folks suggesting that a court martial is a “political process”. And no, the Mueller Report doesn’t say that Trump obstructed justice. Mueller said as much himself. There might be enough there to support the charge, but you need to connect the dots yourself and you need to do the heavy lifting on your own.
*Despite what Donald Trump seems to believe, treason against the United States is a very specific crime that “shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.” So yeah. Good luck proving that one seeing as we haven’t had an active war declared in a long time… although maybe you could get two people to testify that Donald Trump gave aid to Poverty. That War’s been going on for decades.
- Going Through the Courts Is the Wrong Strategy
This is the one that confuses me the most. It is often tied to an argument about “not being respected as a coequal branch of government,” but such arguments often come across as “you didn’t do what we want and you stole the election and you stole Merrick Garland’s Supreme Court seat so we’re gonna get you!” Seriously, there’s supposed to be a balance of powers, and to be honest for the last several decades Congress has given away the farm to the Executive branch. That’s nothing new; Trump just happens to be taking particularly ruthless advantage of it, with the assistance of a particularly obnoxious Mitch McConnell. But the truth is this is not out of character for either Republicans or Democrats; it is a matter of style and degree, not the actual substance. The tit-for-tat historical back and forth justifications have been pointed out multiple times, and they are completely irrelevant. What matters is that Congress does have tools at their disposal to rein in the President if they chose to use them. Both the House and the Senate have such powers, and they can be effective.
What’s more important is that going for impeachment and losing is not going to suddenly make Congress more “respected as a coequal branch of government,” either by Trump or the American public. You know what will? Winning. Which is exactly what is happening in the courts. What’s even better is that this is no longer a partisan fight of Democrats vs. Republicans, or Congress vs. the White House. Now it becomes two branches of the government vs. one. Almost as if two coequal branches, neither of which is more powerful than the other, had to go to a neutral arbitrator to settle a dispute rather than letting things get nasty and out of control.
Look, I get it. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “you shouldn’t believe everything you read on the internet.” And yet Donald Trump keeps getting away with making outrage claims on Twitter and making even more outrageous policy. Surely the old ways are gone, the norms have all been destroyed, working within the system is pointless and we have to act NOW to save our democracy while there is still something to save! Or perhaps given time and the efforts of reasonable and well-intentioned people, our system will prove more resilient than the fools who are trying to upend it.
I had thought I was long past the point of being astonished by not only the sheer stupidity by the absolute audacity of the things that can come out of the mouths of politicians. I suppose that’s one thing I can thank Donald Trump and his dream team of lawyers for: they have brought back my sense of wonder. Because I truly wonder if even they, particularly Rudy “Go Ahead and Boo Me” Giuliani, believe the horseshit that comes spewing out of their talk-holes on the regular.
The particular combination of “you have GOT to be kidding me” that got me today was a one-two combination that almost defies description. The first is this tidbit from the Washington Post in which the Post repeats a ridiculous comment from Rudy “Can You Believe I Have a Law Degree?” Giuliani on ABC’s This Week. In regards to President Trump’s ability to pardon himself (or lack thereof), he had this to say: “He has no intention of pardoning himself, but he probably — not to say he can’t.”
Did you catch that? For those of you in the cheap seats, America’s Mayor (Emeritus) just declared that the President of the United States has the power to pardon himself for any federal crime. But in case that isn’t enough to unsettle you, let’s just pile on a little, shall we?
Why, what do we have over here? Oh look, it’s Rudy “Executive Power is the Only Power” Giuliani over on HuffPost. This one’s so outrageous good I just have to block quote it:
“In no case can he be subpoenaed or indicted,” Rudy Giuliani told HuffPost Sunday, claiming a president’s constitutional powers are that broad. “I don’t know how you can indict while he’s in office. No matter what it is.”
Giuliani said impeachment was the initial remedy for a president’s illegal behavior ― even in the extreme hypothetical case of Trump having shot former FBI Director James Comey to end the Russia investigation rather than just firing him.
“If he shot James Comey, he’d be impeached the next day,” Giuliani said. “Impeach him, and then you can do whatever you want to do to him.”
Did you catch that? If the President commits murder in broad daylight, you can’t indict him. You have to impeach him. And of course while you’re busy doing that, he can just pardon himself as previously stated, but them’s just the breaks because – reasons.
Out here in “Not Coo-Coo Bananas Land”, we live under a slightly different set of rules. Whether you believe the ultimate purpose of the justice system is retribution, rehabilitation, deterrence, or some mix of the three, you have to acknowledge the system does not and cannot work if there is a perversion of that system, particularly at the top of the system. Trying to read a loophole into the Constitution big enough to ram Trump Tower through is demeaning to our republic and the people who live under it.
Shame on you, Mr. Giuliani. If you have any shame left.