In a post three weeks ago, I observed the obvious: the President had turned the impeachment debate to his political advantage. Because acquittal in the Senate is plainly predictable, impeachment seemed pointless. I suggested that censure by the House was an alternate remedy to confront the President’s manifest disdain for Congress and the Constitution.
I had agreed with Speaker Pelosi’s comments last spring that the Constitution’s impeachment remedy should be avoided “unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan.” This formulation, however, does not take the sad reality of Republican partisanship and fealty to the President fully into account, and the Republicans have made the Speaker’s comments a talking point. By force of loyalty to party and to the man who now defines it, the votes taken in the House Judiciary Committee on Articles of Impeachment last week divided precisely on party lines.
After I had watched much of the televised testimony in both the Intelligence Committee and the Judiciary Committee, it seemed to me that the most hyperbolic and vitriolic rhetoric came from the Republicans who seemed motivated by the single objective of protecting the President by parroting his words calling the whole process a hoax, a sham and a disgrace.
But it is the Constitution that gives the House the awesome sole power of impeachment, including the authority to decide what constitutes a high crime.
Did the President’s conduct with regard to Ukraine cross a Constitutional line and violate his solemn oath to “preserve, protect and defend” that Constitution?
In 2014, Russia invaded Ukraine. Today, Russia occupies the Ukrainian region of Crimea and continues to wage war against Ukraine to expand its incursion into eastern Ukraine. It is in the national security interest of the United States to support Ukraine in that war.
Instead of pledging unconditional US support for Ukraine, the President put his palm out. He asked Ukraine’s president to launch (or announce) an investigation into whether Joe Biden and his son Hunter engaged in corrupt acts in Ukraine (huh?). He asked President Zelensky also to investigate whether Ukraine interfered in the 2016 US presidential election to help Hillary Clinton (what?).
Having declared its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine is a young democracy with a newly-elected, inexperienced president. Russia continues to threaten Ukraine’s existence as an independent nation. The Ukrainian president is in no position to complain about strong-arm tactics inherent when the US president asks for a favor.
An investigation into the Bidens might help the President politically in the 2020 election, but it would do nothing to help Ukraine in its struggle against the Russian incursion. Likewise, an investigation into whether Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election would not help Ukraine in the war, but it would be a favor to Ukraine’s adversary by blowing smoke around Russia’s interference in that election, suggesting that Russia is blameless while also suggesting that Clinton’s popular vote victory was not legitimate. It is, as Fiona Hill, former senior director for Russia and Europe at the National Security Council, testified “a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services.”
The lack of a bipartisan consensus that the President may have acted contrary to the national interest does not mean that impeachment is pointless; nor is it quixotic for the House to approve articles of impeachment when a dismissal of those articles by the Senate is predictable. The Constitution does not make the power of the executive boundless and does not invite the president to use the office as a tool to advance his own personal interests (or the interests of Russia) above the best interests of the nation.
Yesterday, the House voted to approve two articles of impeachment. Not a single Republican voted in favor of either. Republicans are eager to market the President’s acquittal in the pending Senate trial, owning the President’s abuse of power and endorsing the President’s blatant obstruction of the impeachment inquiry. As if they had no choice.
Some other stuff for later,
- 78Last March, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, speaking of impeachment of Donald Trump, concluded “he’s just not worth it.” I have been thinking about that statement in the wake of two weeks of public testimony in front of the House Intelligence Committee as part of their impeachment “inquiry.” I think she…
- 69Steve Clemons, writing for The Guardian in 2009, hinted that Ted Kennedy may have had the idea that his niece, Caroline Kennedy, would not only succeed him as the family flag-bearer, but would be in a position to succeed Barack Obama in 2016. The same thought occurred to me recently…