January 12, 2021

Impeachment

“The Democratic-led House of Representatives plans to vote as soon as Wednesday on formal charges of misconduct, known as articles of impeachment, unless Trump resigns or Vice President Mike Pence moves to oust him.” Reuters

Read our prior coverage of the violence at the Capitol. The Flip Side

See past issues

From the Left

The left generally supports impeachment.

“In many ways, it would be easier to let Mr. Trump leave office and attempt to consign the storming of the Capitol to the past. But, ultimately, there can be no republic if leaders foment a violent overthrow of the government if they lose an election… The attack on the Capitol on Wednesday was not a spontaneous eruption of violence. It was the culmination of a campaign waged by the president of the United States and his allies…

“That campaign involved a barrage of lies about the integrity of the voting process… It included farcical legal challenges that were laughed out of court even as they sowed doubt in the minds of a majority of Republicans about whether Joe Biden won fairly. It involved the president and his allies strong-arming state election officials to change the vote count outright…

“When it all failed, the president held a rally on the National Mall and sent the angry crowd to march on the Capitol and stop Congress from declaring Mr. Biden the winner of the presidency… ‘If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.’”
Editorial Board, New York Times

“During the 2016 campaign, candidate Trump excoriated President Obama for supposedly refusing to use the term radical Islamic terrorism. At one of that year’s presidential debates, Trump said: ‘Now, to solve a problem, you have to be able to state what the problem is or at least say the name. [Hillary Clinton] won’t say the name and President Obama won’t say the name. But the name is there. It’s radical Islamic terror.’…

“But now the conservative world has gone all bashful about naming things. The preferred formulas for condemning the violence are vague and general, without reference to who did the violence and why and for whose sake. The vagueness is even more remarkable when you recall that pro-Trump groups had previously invaded the Michigan legislature and tried to seize the governor as a hostage, or that on January 6 armed protesters also menaced the statehouse in Georgia, forced the evacuation of the statehouse in New Mexico, and breached the gates of the governor’s mansion in Washington State…

The pro-Trump groups are not a hopeless fringe group. They mobilized to support the man who heads the government—and they are praised and encouraged by him.”
David Frum, The Atlantic

Besides impeachment, “There is another, little-known constitutional provision… Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, passed in the aftermath of the Civil War, bars Trump from holding another federal office if he is found to have ‘engaged in insurrection or rebellion against’ the Constitution of the United States…

“[This] could be accomplished by a simple majority vote of both houses, in contrast to the requirement in impeachment proceedings that the Senate vote to convict by a two-thirds majority. Congress would simply need to declare that Trump engaged in an act of ‘insurrection or rebellion’ by encouraging the attack on the Capitol. Under the 14th Amendment, Trump could run for the White House again only if he were able to persuade a future Congress to, ‘by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.’…

“Now is the time to take a step back, call a halt to the House’s rush toward a last-minute impeachment — and deploy the constitutional means to the important end of making sure Trump is out of office for good.”
Bruce Ackerman and Gerard Magliocca, Washington Post

Regarding Republicans' calls for unity, many retort, “Don’t worry, America. No need for repercussions! President Trump has already learned his lesson, probably… ‘My personal view is that the president touched the hot stove on Wednesday and is unlikely to touch it again,’ Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said Sunday when asked whether Republican leaders planned to hold Trump responsible for his role in the violent siege of the Capitol. It’s not clear what, precisely, Blunt meant by ‘unlikely.’ Maybe he thinks the chances that Trump will again encourage violent insurrection are, oh, 40 percent; maybe they’re closer to 20 percent. What probability that a sitting president might instigate a civil war is an acceptable level of risk?
Catherine Rampell, Washington Post

“On Monday… Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade said ‘this country is ready to explode,’ which he cited as a reason for Pelosi and other Democratic leaders to ‘bring down the temperature a little, look to turn the page, be inclusive.’… Fox News host Chris Wallace made a similar argument last Friday, saying that for Trump ‘to be removed from office either from within his administration or by Congress would only enrage [his supporters] further.’…

“What comments like those from Kilmeade and Wallace ignore, however, is the leading role Fox News played in misleading Trump supporters into believing the election was stolen — and that the network could play in, as Kilmeade suggested, bringing ‘down the temperature’ by being honest with viewers that the election was not stolen… If Republicans and Republican-adjacent media outlets are serious about healing, a good place to start would be denouncing the election lies that motivate people who are taking up arms on Trump’s behalf.”
Aaron Rupar, Vox

From the Right

The right generally opposes impeachment.

The right generally opposes impeachment.

“The president didn’t commit incitement or any other crime. I should know. As a Washington prosecutor I earned the nickname ‘protester prosecutor’ from the antiwar group CodePink… The president didn’t mention violence on Wednesday, much less provoke or incite it. He said, ‘I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.’…

“When Mr. Trump spoke, there was no ‘public disturbance,’ only a rally. The ‘disturbance’ came later at the Capitol by a small minority who entered the perimeter and broke the law. They should be prosecuted. The president’s critics want him charged for inflaming the emotions of angry Americans. That alone does not satisfy the elements of any criminal offense, and therefore his speech is protected by the Constitution that members of Congress are sworn to support and defend… Inflaming emotions isn’t a crime.”
Jeffrey Scott Shapiro, Wall Street Journal

“[There was] the 1918 prosecution of socialist Eugene Debs, who spoke against the draft in World War One and led figures like Woodrow Wilson to declare him a ‘traitor to his country.’ Debs was arrested and charged with sedition…

“In 1919, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote for a unanimous bench in one of the most infamous decisions to issue from the Supreme Court. It dismissed the free speech rights for Debs and held it was sufficient that his words had the ‘natural tendency and reasonably probable effect’ of deterring people from supporting the international conflict. That decision was a disgrace, but Democrats are now arguing something even more extreme as the basis for impeachment

“Conservatives have pointed to Maxine Waters asking her supporters to confront Republicans in restaurants, while Ayanna Pressley insisted amidst the violent marches last year that ‘there needs to be unrest in the streets,’ and Kamala Harris said ‘protesters should not let up’ even as some of those marches turned violent. They can legitimately argue their rhetoric was not meant to be a call for violence, but this standard is filled with subjectivity. The damage caused by the rioters this week was enormous, however, it will pale in comparison to the damage from a new precedent of a snap impeachment for speech protected under the First Amendment.”
Jonathan Turley, The Hill

“A Trump impeachment and trial aren’t in Mr. Biden’s political interest. They would do nothing to calm partisan divisions and might turn off moderates who voted for Mr. Biden because they want the tumultuous Trump era to be over. It would make the first drama of his Presidency an act of retribution…  

“Mr. Biden can better set the stage for his inaugural by telling the public that he’d prefer if the impeachers stood down. He can say he thinks Mr. Trump’s behavior is impeachable, and that had it taken place earlier he’d support his ouster. But on the eve of the transfer of power and going into a new Presidency, it is needlessly divisive. He could say his goal as President is to move past the politics of polarization and annihilation, not to escalate it for another four years. Most Americans would welcome it.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

Some argue, “The main prudential arguments against impeachment are that it would further inflame an already heated political scene and that Trump is leaving office in days no matter what…

“But the divisiveness of impeachment is overstated. House votes to impeach presidents didn’t have dire consequences in either 1998 or 2019, and the fact that Trump is on his way out should lower such risks further. And even at this late date, impeachment and conviction would strengthen the country’s political norms against future presidential misconduct…

“James Madison specifically mentioned impeachment as the remedy for a presidential abuse that wasn’t a criminal violation… A lot of Republican politicians want to leave Trump in their rearview mirror. Many voters who aren’t die-hard Republicans will feel similarly. Biden doubtless wants to get on with his own legislative agenda. But there’s nothing on that agenda more important than strengthening the country’s safeguards against a future presidency like Trump’s. Impeachment and conviction should be the first order of business for Congress.”
Ramesh Ponnuru, Bloomberg

Others still argue that “If the president were months rather than days from the end of his term, his supporters’ outrage would not be a good reason to refrain from impeaching him. But given that he would already be gone before he could conceivably be tried by the Senate, it would be gratuitous to invite further strife in our deeply divided country

“There are ways other than impeachment for Congress to express righteous condemnation over the president’s role in the atrocious events of last week. Clearly, a full-throated, bipartisan censure is warranted. Nevertheless, contrary to what he seems to believe, our country is bigger than Donald Trump. He is about to be yesterday’s news. We should not hold up today’s essential business on his account.”
Andrew McCarthy, Fox News

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