The Case For Impeachment Is Assuredly Clear

For months, a critical mass of Democrats in the House of Representatives anxiously avoided even the slightest mention of impeaching President Donald Trump — right up until the moment when they demanded it.

It made sense why caution ruled the day for so long, especially within the caucus of moderate Democrats who carried the blue wave in 2018. Impeachment is inherently a political process, and the Framers were highly intentional when they designed it in the Constitution. The process was not meant to be a criminal trial, wherein a judge or jury is supposed to base a verdict upon a determination of “beyond a reasonable doubt,” and the Constitution’s standard for impeachment, “high crimes and misdemeanors,” is vague. Crucially, the determination of whether the House of Representatives should impeach a president and the Senate should remove him has always been grounded in a mixture of law, politics and public opinion.

For this reason, I too long thought that Democrats would be making a mistake by advancing articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, even though I believe him to be manifestly unfit for office. Although special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged coordination between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia was essentially a referral for impeachment, as I argued in a column last semester, his report did not convince anyone who was not already convinced of the president’s unfitness, thanks in part to Attorney General William Barr’s duplicitous summary. House Democrats were right at that time that the moment for impeachment had not yet arrived, and so was Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. 

And they are right now for changing their minds. To be sure, the tide has turned, the sea changed, the die cast, the Rubicon crossed — fill in your cliche of choice. In recent days, we learned that Trump pressured the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zalensky, to find compromising information on former Vice-President Joe Biden, Trump’s likeliest presidential opponent. We know that the president withheld $400 million in military aid to Ukraine just days before the phone call — aid that was appropriated by Congress, recertified by the Pentagon as necessary and consistent with U.S. foreign policy goals and badly needed by Ukraine to defend itself against Russian aggression. There is zero credible evidence that Biden did anything wrong.

We also know that a U.S. intelligence official was so alarmed by Trump’s dealings with the president of Ukraine that he or she filed a whistle-blower complaint. We know that the inspector general of the intelligence community found the complaint to be urgent and relevant enough to warrant forwarding to Congress, as required by law. And we know that the administration is blocking this transmittal, in apparent violation of law.

The new allegations against the president are simple and serious enough to be understood even by a public overwhelmed by the constant salvo of charges and counter-charges that has become the norm in today’s Washington. Trump’s refusal to provide Congress with an intelligence official’s whistle-blower complaint as required by law, accompanied by the allegation that he misused congressionally appropriated funds as a bargaining chip to convince a foreign government to damage a political rival, is assuredly a case of presidential wrongdoing. 

In fact, this flagrant abuse of power is nearly identical to the allegations, denied by Trump, that were at the core of the Russia investigation: seeking a foreign government’s help in a U.S. election. The Constitution is clear: a president who uses the levers of government to advance his own interest over those of the country, as Trump appears to have done, commits an impeachable offense. This is the stuff of tin-pot dictatorships, not the United States, and if any fidelity to the Constitution remains in our politics, Congress will not let it stand.

Former Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman, who served on the House Judiciary Committee during Watergate, drew similarities between the allegations against Trump and Nixon’s wrongdoing in a New York Times op-ed on Wednesday. “Multiple reports say that President Trump used his office to press Ukraine’s president to investigate Joe Biden and provide damaging information about him, though there is no evidence of wrongdoing on Mr. Biden’s part,” she wrote. “This was a bid to affect the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, just as the Democratic National Committee headquarters break-in at the Watergate complex aimed to affect the 1972 presidential election … Mr. Trump’s reported actions would amount to a Nixonian misuse of presidential power that threatens our democracy and constitutes a high crime and misdemeanor.”

Republicans must now go on the record explicitly — if they vote to accept such conduct by this and therefore future presidents, the American presidency will be damaged forever. Likewise, Democrats should seize this opportunity to persuade the country that Trump’s presidency needs to end on Jan. 20, 2021. Although it’ll be a cold day in hell when the Republican-controlled Senate votes to remove Trump from office, a formal impeachment inquiry will allow the evidence of Trump’s wrongdoing to see the full light of day. And sunlight is the best disinfectant.

  • Marlowe.38

    The President does perfectly ordinary and lawful things and the Democrats and media present them as somehow unlawful and extraordinary. Hopefully not too many people are ignorant enough to fall for it, but apparently you are.

    • TD

      As the Mueller report stated, if it was not for a ruling by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel that the President could not be charged with the crimes
      outlined in the report, the President would have been charged with
      Obstruction of Justice among other things.
      Let’s see? Fires Ambassador to Ukraine. Withholds hundreds of
      millions of dollars. Cancels visit by Vice President. Eight times asks
      for a “favor” to dig up dirt on Biden. Does not work though State
      Department, but though his private lawyer. Even the AG is terrified
      that his name came up.
      If Obama had done this Fox new would have exploded.

      As a noted conservative wrote recently
      “Checking executive abuse is one of the things that Congress is here to do. If they blow off
      that responsibility because it is politically inconvenient, there is effectively nothing to stop presidents from behaving however they like in between presidential elections. The purpose of checking presidential abuses is not just to hold the current president accountable for what he has done, but to warn future presidents that there are real
      consequences for overreaching and abusing their powers.”What’s in the
      best interest of the country is to hold the person in the office
      accountable regardless of political biases. Currently, there does not
      seem to be sufficient evidence to convict the President on the matter,
      but the American people should remain vigilant and hold their
      representatives accountable regardless of politics.”
      Daniel Larison,
      The American Conservative.

      • Marlowe.38

        “Obstruction of justice” as defined by Muller and his band of partisans.
        What “justice” has been obstructed by anything Trump did?

        Are you aware that a president has the right to fire certain presidential appointees for a good reason, a bad reason or no reason at all?

        “Eight times…” Have you read the transcript?

        Do you not think Biden’s enabling his son to scam is a legitimate concern? Do you think being a candidate provides immunity?

        Do you think it is ok for unauthorized persons to spy on a president’s phone conversations?

        Do you prefer made up dirt on Trump to real dirt on Biden?

        You and Amanda appear to be getting your talking points from MSNBC and NPR. Her articles are devoid of critical analysis, but are probably a hit with her professors.

        • TD

          Seems now he has hidden a call to the Australian head of state. No use of CIA, FBI, State Department or normal channels of government to government communications. We know from the Mueller report how the very senior foreign mister found out about the contact with the Russians, someone from the Trump campaign told him. There is nothing to investigate. First one foreign country helps Trump’s campaign in 2016, now he is pressuring at least two other countries to help him out for 2020.

          No use of normal channels, transcript put on sever for highly classified documents. What is Trump hiding? How many more documents are incorrectly put on the highly classified server?

          • Marlowe.38

            “Seems now he has hidden a call to the Australian head of state. No use of CIA, FBI, State Department or normal channels of government to government communications. ”

            Given their track record, how can you blame him. Their is no obligation for him to tie his hands or announce every call he makes.

            Good idea to secure communications when there are so many leaks.

            The arrogance and boldness of the deep state and the unhinged opposition are unprecedented. Trump is not the kind to sit back and let it happen. He is not as elegant and articulate as might be preferred but, thankfully, he is not intimidated and not concerned that the Peggy Noonan types don’t like him..

          • TD

            Given Trump’s track record of demeaning government officials, preferring Putin to our own intelligence services, inability (or reluctance) to staff senor positions in the government, and his history of promoting senior staff that end up indicted, it is no wonder he does not trust anyone.

            If the people he has surrounding him are “the best” heaven help us.