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Opinion

Column: Six arguments against impeaching Trump — and why they are dead wrong

Activists on Thursday rally at the Capitol building in Washington for the impeachment of President Trump.
Activists on Thursday rally at the Capitol building in Washington for the impeachment of President Trump.
(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

You can get a serious case of intellectual whiplash reading up on the arguments against impeaching President Trump.

Most of them, in my view, insult the notion that we are a nation of laws, that we elect representatives to act on our behalf in Washington, and that Americans can walk and chew gum at the same time.

If you read the partial transcript of Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and come away thinking that Trump did not put the squeeze on a foreign head of state to dig up dirt on his political opponent or that even if he did, it’s no biggie, you can probably stop reading right now and turn on the Fox News Network. I got nothin’ for you.

However, if you, like a growing number of your fellow citizens, believe that Trump has violated his oath of office and deserves the intense scrutiny and discomfort inherent in the impeachment process, read on.

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Allow me to explain why most of the arguments against impeachment are wrong.

What the president has done — whatever the president has done — does not rise to an impeachable offense.

That’s not what impeachment scholars say.

My colleague David Savage spoke with University of North Carolina law professor Michael Gerhardt. “Impeachable misconduct entails a president’s serious abuse of power and a serious abuse of public trust,” Gerhardt said. “President Trump’s call did both of those things. It was an abuse of power because he used his position to benefit himself and not the country. It was a breach of trust because Americans trust their president not to engage in self-dealing, either through steering businesses to line their own pockets or through conspiring with or coordinating with foreign powers to intervene in American elections.”

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Of course, at this point, you might be tempted to channel the Dude: That’s just like, his opinion, man. And you would be correct. An impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House Judiciary Committee says it is. Sort of like obscenity — it’s hard to define it, but you know it when you see it.

The Republican-dominated Senate will never vote to convict him, and, as a result he will not be forced out of office.

So what?

This argument presumes that there is only one possible outcome for a legitimate impeachment: removal.

Not so. The American people deserve answers, regardless of where they lead.

Trump has engaged in what appears to be an abuse of power. Impeachment hearings — witnesses, evidence, testimony — will shine a light on how he may have co-opted his position as the most powerful man in the world for personal gain.

They will also tell us who helped him along the way. Who, for instance, were the White House officials who were “deeply disturbed” by the president’s conduct, according to the whistleblower complaint, but tried to hide it rather than expose it?

Impeachment takes away the people’s right to make their own decision about Trump in November 2020. It’s an elitist move on the part of Democrats who are sending a message to the electorate: You can’t be trusted, so we will usurp your power.

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There is no reason why impeachment hearings cannot coexist with a presidential campaign. I’m kind of surprised I need to explain this, but we elect our representatives to represent us. Impeachment is the most powerful tool our lawmakers have to put the brakes on a corrupt commander-in-chief.

Call me crazy, but I doubt that Democratic House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff’s constituents are angry at him for potentially taking away their right to vote against President Trump in November 2020.

Impeachment proceedings are a pathetic Democratic attempt to relitigate the 2016 presidential election in their favor. They’re still steamed about Hillary Clinton’s loss, about the fizzled Mueller report, about Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns, about Brett Kavanaugh, about the way he treats women, etc.

Yes, of course, many Democrats are still stung by Trump’s victory. Clinton received 3-million-plus more votes than Trump, yet he is president.

But that does not mean they should not pursue an investigation into whether the president has corruptly misused his office for personal gain.

As for the Mueller report, let me remind you that it enumerated 10 — count ’em 10 — instances where Trump may have attempted to obstruct justice by interfering in the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Why was Trump not charged with criminal offenses? Because you can’t indict a sitting president on criminal charges.

Pity, that.

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Impeachment will unleash dark and unpredictable forces on the American political landscape.

Yeah, we already have those. They’re in the White House.

Impeachment will hurt Democrats in the long run. Look what happened to Republicans after President Clinton was impeached.

Not so fast, there.

Yes, Clinton’s popularity remained high, but he wasn’t running for reelection like Trump is. Polls showed that Americans were not as worked up about the idea that a married man would lie about an extramarital affair — even under oath in a deposition — as Republicans were. But let’s not forget who won the next presidential election — George W. Bush — who promised to “restore honor and dignity” to the Oval Office, an appealing message after Clinton’s tawdry behavior in the White House.

In the Atlantic, Ronald Brownstein has written extensively about how the conventional wisdom that the Clinton impeachment badly hurt Republicans is incorrect.

We don’t know what will happen to Democrats in the long run if Trump is impeached.

We don’t know what will happen to Republicans, either.

Anyone who tells you different is just making things up.


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