Last 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 had it right. Pelosi
opposed impeachment then because of its divisive effect on the country. The use of the Constitution’s impeachment
remedy, she felt, should be avoided “unless there’s something so compelling and
overwhelming and bipartisan.” The
tedious – but riveting – public hearings this month have proved the wisdom of
Of course, much has happened in the meantime since last
March. From my point of view, paying
attention to Trump’s shenanigans day by day, month by month, continues to be a
source of stress and fatigue in my life.
The nation was divided then and it is divided today. Indeed, any divisive effect of the “inquiry” is
difficult to measure.
The hearings have given an airing to outrage for Democrats
and Republicans alike. Democrats are
outraged by the behavior of Donald Trump and his minions. The office of the Presidency has been sullied
and the Constitution has been ravaged.
Likewise, Republicans are outraged by what they believe is a purely
partisan, purely political, spectacle over “not impeachable” conduct.
Being of the Democratic persuasion, for me there is no question that an abuse of presidential power has occurred. There is little room for doubt that Trump and his mouthpiece Rudy attempted to coerce the government of Ukraine by leaning hard on Ukraine’s President Zelensky – new to the office since May – by placing a hold on security assistance that Ukraine desperately needed and still needs and by dangling – but not delivering – an Oval Office visit. Trump, unsubtly, “asked” a favor. He wanted Zelensky to announce publically that the Ukraine government would launch an investigation that would cast doubt on Russian interference in the US election in 2016 and that would also give Trump cover for various lies and aspersions against a political opponent, Joe Biden.
For Republicans, this obvious coercion is not “impeachable”
– it is “nothin’.” Trump himself calls
the impeachment hearings a “witch hunt,” but at the same time he wants a trial in the Senate. Taking their cues from the President, the
House Republican chorus loudly laments that the impeachment inquiry has been
unfair to him, illegitimate, a nefarious Star Chamber process perpetrated by
Democrats, a coup that Democrats are pursuing to overturn the will of the
people in the 2016 election.
Trump has simply turned the impeachment debate to his
political advantage. He knows that there
are enough votes in the House to impeach him, and he looks forward with relish
to a trial in the Senate where loyal Republicans have the power to orchestrate
the proceedings to his advantage, possibly to subpoena political rival Joe
Biden or to “out” the whistle-blower.
If the House votes to impeach, it would take a vote of two-thirds of the senators to convict Trump and remove him from office – but the votes are not there and never have been. The House impeachment hearings, if anything, have cemented Republican Party support for the President despite the evidence of his abuse of power. Trump, true to his brand, has coined a derogatory nickname for any Republican who would dare to admit to any moral unease about Trump’s behavior: “Never-Trumper.” There are no profiles in courage among Republican senators today.
The outcome in the Senate can reasonably be predicted, and one can almost hear already Trump’s gloating about his total exoneration. It will be a vindication of his abuse of power and an approval of his personal-attorney foreign policy, sanctioning rather than censuring presidential conduct that puts a president’s personal benefit before the national interest.
House Democrats should not be goaded into voting for
impeachment as a matter of righteous principle.
The Constitution gives the House the “sole Power of Impeachment” as a
check on the executive, but it does not speak of a “duty” to impeach. Nor must impeachment be seen as the only available
remedy – the House could vote to censure the president for specified findings
of abuse and obstruction. And there is
an election next November.
A prejudiced jury should not be allowed to decide the guilt
or innocence of the accused. The authors
of the Constitution did not account for party loyalties tipping the scales
against conviction for “Treason, Bribery or other high Crimes and
Misdemeanors.” The members of today’s
House should exercise their impeachment power with clear-eyed regard for the
ultimate outcome and with common sense.
If conviction in the Senate is seen as an impossibility it is pointless
Some other stuff for later,
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…
Donald Trump, age 69, is chairman of The Trump Organization, a firm started by his father, a real estate developer. He spent his high school years at the New York Military Academy and later graduated from the Wharton School of Business in 1968 with a bachelor’s degree in economics. Student…
A rally for Donald Trump at the University of Illinois at Chicago was cancelled two weeks ago. At the rally, it has been reported, “hundreds” of protesters showed up at the 9,500-seat arena, and exercised their First Amendment right to freedom of speech as thousands of supporters awaited the candidate’s…