Monday, December 9, 2019

When it comes to articles of impeachment there is a strong case for letting it all hang out

I completely understand the position of making the articles of impeachment narrow, focused, and thus understandable by the public. But doing so would effectively sweep much of Trump’s misbehavior under the political rug. For example, arguing against including his obstruction of justice (evidenced in the Mueller report) would not do justice to Trump’s numerous documented violations of his oath of office and his abuse of power.

In favor of a broader set of charges, Michelle Goldberg, a NY Times opinion columnist, pleads Please, Democrats, Don’t Make the Impeachment Articles Too Narrow. From Russia to Ukraine, the House needs to show the president’s pattern of corruption.

… to make clear the full gravity of what Trump tried to do in Ukraine, Democrats need to demonstrate that it was part of a pattern.

As the Mueller report showed, the Trump campaign welcomed Russian interference in 2016, expecting that “it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts.” Then Trump repeatedly tried to obstruct the federal government’s investigation into what Russia had done. It was only the day after Mueller’s congressional testimony that Trump made his demand of Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky. Part of that demand was that Ukraine help Trump obscure Russia’s role in his election by falsely implicating itself. Once the scheme became public, Trump obstructed Congress’s investigation into his solicitation of foreign election assistance.

Either Mueller’s findings or the Ukraine “drug deal,” as Bolton reportedly called it, would merit impeachment on its own. But the urgency of Democrats’ impeachment process — the subject of much bad-faith caterwauling on the right — is best justified by Trump’s recidivism. Impeachment isn’t just about holding Trump accountable for a discrete scandal. It’s about trying, against the odds, to stop an ongoing campaign to subvert the 2020 election, one that is building on tactics from 2016.

Given America’s political polarization, public opinion on impeachment is unlikely to move much no matter what Democrats do. Nevertheless, they’d be mad to let centrist trepidation stop them from making the strongest possible case for Trump’s removal. Doing that requires a willingness to put Trump’s Ukraine corruption in context.

Democrats have only one chance to impeach the most corrupt and disloyal president in American history. They say they’re rushing through it because it can’t wait. They have a duty to explain not just why Trump betrayed America when he sought to extort election help from Ukraine, but how we know that he’ll nearly certainly try the same thing again.

So what would a broader set of articles of impeachment look like?

David Leonhardt, NY Times columnist, enumerates The Eight Counts of Impeachment That Trump Deserves. The lessons from Nixon and Clinton.

During Watergate, the House Judiciary Committee considered five articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon — and voted down two of them. During the impeachment of Bill Clinton, the House voted on four articles — and rejected two.

That history serves as a reminder that impeachment is not a neat process. It’s a chance for Congress and voters to hear the evidence against a president and decide which rise to the level of an impeachable offense.

My own instincts have leaned toward a targeted, easily understandable case against President Trump, focused on Ukraine. And that may still be the right call. But the House shouldn’t default to it without considering a larger airing of Trump’s crimes against the Constitution. A longer process, with more attention on his misdeeds, seems unlikely to help Trump’s approval rating.

So last week I posed a question to legal experts: If the House were going to forget about political tactics and impeach Trump strictly on the merits, how many articles of impeachment would there be?

I think the answer is eight — eight thematic areas, most of which include more than one violation.

In making the list, I erred on the side of conservatism. I excluded gray areas from the Mueller report, like the Trump campaign’s flirtation with Russian operatives. I also excluded all areas of policy, even the forcible separation of children from their parents, and odious personal behavior, like Trump’s racism, that doesn’t violate the Constitution.

Yet the list is still extensive, which underscores Trump’s thorough unfitness for the presidency. He rejects the basic ideals of American government, and he is damaging the national interest, at home and abroad. Here’s the list:

  1. Obstruction of justice.
  2. Contempt of Congress.
  3. Abuse of power.
  4. Impairing the administration of justice.
  5. Acceptance of emoluments.
  6. Corruption of elections.
  7. Abuse of pardons.
  8. Conduct grossly incompatible with the presidency.

I’ve just listed the titles of each article. See Leonhardt’s excellent opinion piece for details.

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