Tuesday, December 3, 2019

To impeach and remove, Part 1

R.J. Lyman , a senior fellow at the Niskanen Center and senior advisor to Governor Bill Weld, candidate for the 2020 Republican presidential nomination, makes the case for impeachment and removal. Writing at The Bulwark he says: This Is the Single Best Argument For Why Trump Should Be Impeached and Removed. He tried to meddle in the 2020 election. It’s crazy to say that you have to let him participate in the 2020 election in order to render a verdict on his attempt to cheat in it.

It is equally crazy to hear members of “the greatest deliberative body in the world” (as Former President James Buchanan called the Senate) spew Russian disinformation apparently in defense of Trump’s autocratic, impeachable actions.

Let’s start with Crazy #1 and then move on to Crazy #2.

JVL, also in The Bulwark provides a succinct summary of Lyman’s case. (I include the text of Lyman’s article after the break.)

Last week I gave you what I think are the best arguments both in favor of, and against, impeachment.

And if you go just by those, I’d probably lean against impeaching President Trump on prudential grounds. In short:

  • Impeachment is a divisive process.
  • We are 11 months from an election which could become a unifying moment for the country.
  • Impeachment hurts everyone: Trump, the GOP, Democrats. No one comes out ahead.

Basically, you only pursue impeachment if you have no real choice in the matter.

And I purposely left out the argument that makes it clear that we don’t have a real choice in the matter.

R.J. Lyman makes it here. You should read the whole thing. (Scriber: See after the break.)

The nub of it is this: If Trump had withheld foreign aid to Ukraine because he wanted to force them to lease a hotel in Kyiv to him, that would be one thing. It’s just personal enrichment.

At that point, you could say, “Let the next election settle this.”

But Trump was trying to force Ukraine to meddle in the 2020 election.

You cannot say, Let the next election settle whether or not it’s okay for the president to try to cheat in an election.

You see the problem here?

The president was trying to leverage American taxpayer money against a foreign government to extort them into interfering on his behalf in the 2020 election process.

And if Trump is not removed from office for this, there will be no way to know whether or not he does it again between now and next November.

The legitimacy of the 2020 election is at stake.

JVL concludes: You cannot leave a case where the president is accused of trying to meddle with an election to be settled by that election.

Turning now to Crazy #2 …

Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) exposes GOP’s Kennedy, hoping to aid Trump, keeps echoing Russian propaganda.

It’s not enough to simply marvel at the lengths some Republicans will go to in order to shield Donald Trump from accountability. It’s not enough to note that the bogus claims Kennedy has peddled are wrong. It’s not enough to be gobsmacked by a sitting GOP senator’s capacity for willful ignorance.

What’s every bit as important, if not more so, is the fact that John Kennedy – a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee – is helping advance a disinformation campaign, crafted by Russia, for the purpose of undermining American interests. Told that he’s echoing the Kremlin’s false claims, the Senate Republican didn’t seem to care.

Post columnist Jennifer Rubin has more, pondering What to do about the Kremlin’s propagandists. If you’re in a time crunch, let me remind you, in Rubin’s words, about what you already know about the GOPlins in the Senate: "The solution for … reestablishing truth as a principle of self-governance, is at the ballot box in 2020: Vote them all out, every last one of them.

Here’s the longer version.

Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.) once before walked back an assertion that maybe Ukraine was responsible for meddling in the 2016 election. That has not deterred him from repeating the Kremlin’s propaganda. Appearing on “Meet the Press” on Sunday, he was at it again. When moderator Chuck Todd asked him if he was not simply doing Russia’s dirty work, Kennedy responded, “I think both Russia and Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election. I think it’s been well documented in the Financial Times, in Politico, in the Economist, in the Washington Examiner, even on CBS, that the prime minister of Ukraine, the interior minister, the Ukrainian ambassador to the United States, the head of the Ukrainian Anti-Corruption League, all meddled in the election on social media and otherwise.”

This is false, patently false. None of these outlets identified manipulation or interference in our election. Individual Ukrainians have publicly criticized President Trump, but Kennedy prefers to utter the Kremlin propaganda line. He acknowledged that he did not attend a briefing that Fiona Hill referenced “that actually this entire effort to frame Ukraine for the Russian meddling of 2016, of which you, you just made this case that they’ve done it, that actually this is an effort of Russia propaganda, that this is a Russian intelligence propaganda campaign in order to get people like you to say these things about Ukraine,” as Todd put it. …

Here Kennedy claims he “was not briefed” even after Todd revealed that Senators were briefed about the importance of not spreading Russian propaganda (as Kennedy was doing).

At that point Kennedy switched topics — to falsely claim Trump was not allowed to invite witnesses in the House Judiciary Committee’s upcoming impeachment hearings. (An offer is outstanding.)

What to do about a senator who neglects his obligations to attend briefings, who perpetuates propaganda from an adversary of the United States and who deliberately misleads the public by conflating meddling/interference by an adversary and public criticism of a candidate?

Ultimately, it is up to the people of Louisiana to vote him out, but his fellow senators (are there no Republicans willing to stand up for objective reality?) need to condemn him roundly. The media, as Todd tried to do, must clarify that Kennedy is spouting disinformation. (Ideally the media should also disabuse the public of the notion that any individual of another country who criticizes a candidate is engaged in election interference.)

Kennedy is not alone in his obfuscation, but he is one of the most egregious examples. Frankly, it is for this reason — the need to set the public straight and to make a historical record — to proceed with impeachment. We look forward to the House Intelligence Committee’s report, due out for members Monday, which will begin the process of public education.

Unfortunately, we have one political party that would just as soon be used as Kremlin propagandists if it means helping Trump. (They never seem bothered by the realization that Trump’s interests and the Kremlin’s are in lockstep.) The solution for that, and for reestablishing truth as a principle of self-governance, is at the ballot box in 2020: Vote them all out, every last one of them.

The full text of Lyman’s article follows (with block quotes assumed).

Even before formal articles of impeachment are drawn up, the proper result is clear: Donald Trump should be removed from office and disqualified from holding office again in the future. Mere impeachment is not enough.

Trump should be removed and disqualified from office for the precise set of reasons our Constitution’s Framers created this extraordinary process: As he has told us repeatedly, he will seek and use information from foreign governments and agents to pervert our next presidential election to his personal, political, and pecuniary benefit.

The facts—at least the broad outlines and necessary highlights—are already well known, so the question is not: What did the president say and when did he say it?

All but a handful of the president’s most fervent Congressional cheerleaders know the answers. We also know that what he said and did is not okay. And, by the time of the Senate trial, the question will no longer be: Is what he did and said impeachable? That process will by then be done.

Unable to defend his inappropriate conduct or his imperfect conversations, the president’s defenders increasingly argue in the alternative about elections past and future. Trump cannot be removed, they say, as that would constitute a coup overturning the last election. Or Trump cannot be removed because it’s too close to the next election.

For those who assert that impeachment and removal constitute an invalidation of the last election:

  • Donald Trump was elected 36 months ago, with pluralities in 30 states and 2.9 million fewer popular votes than his principal opponent;
  • Richard Nixon left office 21 months after being elected with majorities in 49 states and 18 million more popular votes than his opponent.

Nixon’s then-recent electoral success did not dissuade leading Republicans from recognizing that the president’s high crimes and misdemeanors meant he had to be not only impeached, but also removed from office.

Two days after release of the infamous “smoking gun” tape, the party’s last presidential nominee (Senator Barry Goldwater), joined by the Republican leaders in the House (John Rhodes) and Senate (Hugh Scott), explained to President Nixon in the Oval Office that nearly two-thirds of the 42 Republicans in the Senate (and a similar percentage in the House) now supported impeachment and removal.

Nixon resigned the next day, less than two years after a resounding reelection in which he won the third-highest popular vote and Electoral College percentage victories in U.S. history. If that move didn’t invalidate the 1972 election to force Nixon to resign in 1974, it would not invalidate the 2016 election to proceed against Trump in 2019 and 2020.

Ironically for Trump’s defenders, their argument that this should be decided at the ballot box in the next election reveals precisely why he must be removed from office and disqualified from running again.

When it comes to foreign election interference: Fool America once, shame on Trump and his foreign supporters; fool America twice, shame on America. Russia helped Trump in the last election; he has already pressured Ukraine and asked China for help in the next one.

As so often, the wisdom of our Constitutional Framers is instructive. Spoiler alert: Alexander Hamilton (in Federalist No. 72) knew Trump was coming:

An avaricious man, who might happen to fill the office, looking forward to … yield[ing] up the emoluments he enjoyed … might not scruple to have recourse to the most corrupt expedients.

An ambitious man, too, when … seated on the summit of his country’s honors, … would be … violently tempted to embrace a favorable conjuncture for attempting the prolongation of his power, at every personal hazard.

Put another way, Donald Trump likes how he can line his and his family’s pockets with emoluments—at his D.C. hotel, his far-flung golf resorts, Mar-a-Lago. Now, with the potential of election loss next year, he makes “recourse to the most corrupt expedients.” He is indeed “violently tempted” to every effort to prolong his power.

Our Framers expected, our Constitution allows, and our national ideals demand that Donald Trump be prevented from cheating in the next election. Other than denying him the Republican party nomination, impeachment by the House and removal and disqualification by the Senate is the only remedy.

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