April 29, 2019

Calls to Impeach Trump

Editor’s note: Annafi sat down with Millennial Politics’ Nathan Rubin yesterday to talk echo chambers, launching The Flip Side, and the 2020 race. Have a listen!

Last week, Democratic Presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris called for the impeachment of President Trump following the release of the Mueller report. AP News

See past issues

From the Left

The left is divided, with some arguing that impeachment doesn’t make sense politically, and others urging Democrats to take a stand.

Those against impeachment note that “even a successful impeachment by the House would come screeching to a halt in the Republican-controlled Senate, where chances of the constitutionally mandated two-thirds vote it would take to convict are virtually zero. The only thing the exercise would accomplish is further inflaming both the president’s political base and the opposition. What’s more, the process would probably take a year or more, during which the country would become not only more deeply divided, but thoroughly preoccupied, as anyone who was sentient during the 1998-99 impeachment saga of President Bill Clinton will recall…

There is another option: Either house, could, with a majority vote, formally censure Trump, something that has not happened to any chief executive since the Senate censured Andrew Jackson in 1834. While this would be dismissed in some quarters as merely a symbolic act, it would be a historic rebuke of the Trump presidency — and would, properly, leave it to the voters to decide whether they have had enough of it.”
Donna F. Edwards, Washington Post

“Placing Trump’s removal in the hands of 67 Senators strikes us as too procedural a remedy… Despite the scandals abroad and at home, whether we like it or can even quite explain it, Trump won the general election. His removal from office is best reserved for a similar expression of popular will in 2020… America’s infrastructure needs repair. Working Americans need better-paying jobs and better prospects for advancement. Schools need improvement, and the graduates of those schools need the promise of a more robust and inclusive economy. House Democrats should spend the coming months focusing on those needs and on making the case for why their candidate should win the White House in 2020.”
Editorial Board, Miami Herald

Those who support beginning impeachment proceedings counter that “Madison and Hamilton didn’t say anything about holding off on impeachment because it would be politically risky. It’s hard to imagine they’d put political convenience on the same footing as the security of the Constitution... The Democrats may succeed in avoiding a tumultuous, divisive fight over impeachment now. But if they choose to ignore clear abuses of the Constitution, they’ll also turn a blind eye to the precedent they’re setting and how feckless they’ll look in history.”
Elizabeth Drew, New York Times

Didn’t Republicans pay a political price for impeaching Bill Clinton in 1998? Not really. Even though Clinton was far more popular then than Trump is now — his job approval numbers held fairly steady in the mid-60s before, during and after the failed effort to oust him — and his transgression, lying under oath about sex, was minor compared to the bill of particulars against Trump, the GOP won the presidency and maintained control of both the House and Senate in the subsequent election…

“Yes, it’s possible the voting public would punish the Democrats for taking a strong stand against all the ways Trump has disregarded and trampled on the law. It’s possible a significant number of voters will say, ‘Sure, there’s massive proof that Trump is a lying, narcissistic con man and aspiring tyrant, and if the Democrats would just let it go, I’d gladly support them.’ [But] I doubt it.”
Eric Zorn, Chicago Tribune

Others note that “[Warren] has provided more detail on Medicare financing than Sanders has. She has also provided more overall policy detail, including on the taxes she would raise, than Joe Biden or Pete Buttigieg. And her Medicare plan comes much, much closer to paying for itself than various Republican tax cuts. I wish the conservatives complaining about her plan applied the same rigor to their own ideas… The biggest weakness of Warren’s approach is that it tries to bulldoze through the sizable public anxiety about radical changes to the health care system. Warren would not let people opt into Medicare, a wildly popular idea. She would force them to join… she needs to come up with a reassuring transition plan soon.”
David Leonhardt, New York Times

“Trump’s defenders will say this evidence is all circumstantial. But circumstantial evidence is not weak evidence: it’s simply evidence based on the circumstances in which an act of wrongdoing is committed — such as the license plate of a car that speeds away from a bank just after that bank is robbed. Criminals are convicted on such evidence all the time. They will also say that there’s no explicit quid pro quo proposal here. But… ‘even when a corrupt deal is struck implicitly, the government can still prosecute extortion on a quid pro quo basis. Circumstantial evidence can be enough to prove a criminal exchange.’…

“In the absence of an explicit quid pro quo over restarting aid, the context and circumstances are what will become the focus of the investigation. There is enough here to support impeachment. Whether it is also enough to convince Republicans and lead to removal is another matter.”
Noah Feldman, Bloomberg

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) “insisted the president couldn’t possibly have done anything wrong because, in the end, Ukraine got its money without committing to any investigations. This point of view has radical implications for America’s system of justice and overcrowded prisons, if Mr. Jordan in fact truly believes that all inmates convicted of attempted crimes are innocent of wrongdoing… Perhaps the most telling remark was offered by a Republican staff lawyer, Stephen Castor, who suggested that while the president’s behavior may have been highly irregular, ‘it’s not as outlandish as it could be.’ Here’s a tip: When ‘not as outlandish as itcould be’ is your strongest defense, it’s time to rethink your position.”
Editorial Board, New York Times

From the Right

The right opposes impeachment, and argues that it would backfire on Democrats.

From the Right

The right opposes impeachment, and argues that it would backfire on Democrats.

“If they try to drag the country through an impeachment process based on allegations that at worst put Trump in a legal gray area, but which most Americans seem to believe amount to iniquity rather than criminality, Democrats almost certainly will feel the stinging whip of a nasty political backlash… The nation’s founders surely did not intend to so destabilize the civic order in cases where guilt is a matter of gray-area interpretation rather than plainly obvious malfeasance.”
Quin Hillyer, Washington Examiner

“For two years, Trump watched as the investigation dragged on, weighing down his presidency. He had to endure being accused of ‘treason’ and crimes of ‘a size and scope probably beyond Watergate.’ He listened as members of the House and Senate intelligence committees, and former intelligence officials, led Americans to believe that they had seen secret evidence showing he had colluded with Russia — evidence he knew did not exist… The lesson of Watergate, we are told, is that the coverup is always worse than the crime. But in Watergate, there was a crime to cover up. We now know that Trump committed no crime…

“Impeachment over anything other than a conspiracy with Russia will backfire with the American people and help ensure Trump’s reelection. First, it will fail, because two-thirds of the Senate will not vote to convict the president. Second, Trump’s supporters will see an impeachment effort as an attempted coup d'état, energizing his base ahead of the 2020 election. And third, it will be seen as partisan and unfair by persuadable voters, who will not appreciate politicians second-guessing the conclusions of an impartial investigation. Want to push Trump’s approval above 50 percent? Try to impeach him.”
Marc Thiessen, Washington Post

“In terms of Donald Trump’s character and habits, there is practically nothing in the Mueller report — or in the public record since 2016 — that voters did not already know when they elected him. And that is really the fundamental argument against impeaching President Trump… a political judgment already has been rendered on Donald Trump’s character — and, if you don’t like how that came out, there’s another chance right around the corner.”
Kevin Williamson, National Review

“There is a reason why the framers of the Constitution envisioned impeachment for ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ and not as a back door to a parliamentary system, and that was to provide for a stable system of government where the voters decide who serves in office… We have an election coming up so soon that [candidates] are already holding campaign events. Why not just convince the voters to remove Donald Trump the same way they normally remove unpopular incumbents — by electing their opponents?”
Ed Morrissey, Hot Air

Contrast the extensive record of specific acts by President Clinton to corruptly influence ongoing legal proceedings in federal court (the Paula Jones case and the independent counsel grand jury proceedings), with the obstruction currently alleged to have been committed by President Trump… There is no legal proceeding against Trump in which he has been alleged to have corruptly acted; there is only an investigation (of collusion with Russia) by Mueller that found nothing prosecutable against the current president.”
Bob Barr, Fox News

“If a dozen drones or missiles can do the kind of damage to the world economy as did those fired on Saturday—shutting down about 6 percent of world oil production—imagine what a U.S.-Iran-Saudi war would do to the world economy. In recent decades, the U.S. has sold the Saudis hundreds of billions of dollars of military equipment. Did our weapons sales carry a guarantee that we will also come and fight alongside the kingdom if it gets into a war with its neighbors?… the nation does not want another war. How we avoid it, however, is becoming difficult to see. John Bolton may be gone from the West Wing, but his soul is marching on.”
Patrick Buchanan, The American Conservative

Others note, “I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be…

“I think Joe Sixpack’s response is going to be a hearty shrug. After all that has emerged about Trump so far, his approval rating is closely tracking Obama’s approval at the same point in his presidency. To get Mr. Sixpack’s attention you are going to have to do better than this.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“After adding in the ultra-millionaire’s tax and factoring in the other capital taxes Warren wants to levy — on financial transactions, on unrealized capital gains, on corporations — we’d be asking every billionaire to hand over more than two-thirds of their total wealth over a 10-year period. If the government actually managed to collect it, their fortunes would rapidly erode — and so would tax collections. The plan might be a good way to smash wealth, but it’s a terrible way to fund the nation’s health-care system…

“If Warren makes it to the White House, and tries to pass a plan, the Congressional Budget Office will eventually attach more reasonable numbers, with more defensible assumptions, sparking an even more spectacular political blowback than the one that greeted Friday’s announcement. Outside of the progressive Twitterati, there isn’t necessarily an enormous constituency for spending $20.5 trillion to herd every American into a national health insurance program; there would be even less support for spending what Warren’s plan would actually cost.”
Megan McArdle, Washington Post

On the bright side...

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