By Mel Mann
As 2019 comes to a close it seems only fitting to take a look at the last 11-12 months. We seem to be living in an era of absolutes. Employment is clearly up, average income is definitely stagnate, the one percenters make a tremendous amount more than the rest of us and everyone seems to hate everyone else. Nowhere is absolute merged more completely with hatred than in American politics. The current manifestation of all this ire is the ongoing Impeachment effort of President Donald Trump.
Since the election of 2016 there has been an unmistakable hatred between the Democratic leadership and President Trump. I get that. President Trump has not spent a career in politics, instead he is a real-estate developer with a knack for moving more like a tsunami and less like a gently shifting tide. I voted for Trump but totally acknowledge that he oscillates between bombastic and obnoxious. Nevertheless, he is a change from “politics as usual” which may explain why he got 46% of the popular vote and 57% of the Electoral vote carrying 30 states. For historical note: Trump is the fifth person in U.S. history to win by Electoral vote while not winning the popular vote.
Were it not for the extreme partisanship of the current political climate, a man who thrives on saying “you’re fired” could never have gotten elected.
Since the 2016 election there has been a never ending stream of inquiries, investigations and hearing attempting to undermine the President. The latest of these in the ongoing Impeachment effort of the President. At this point a little bit of Civics-101 is warranted to define the process.
Step-1: Impeachment begins in the House of Representatives with an investigation by one or more of its committees to determine if there are perceived grounds for impeachment.
Step-2: The chair of the involved House committee presenting their findings to the body of the house for a vote.
Step-3: If the House votes to impeach, their findings are then presented to the Senate.
Step-4: The Senate’s responsibility is to act on the articles of impeachment much like a trial including offering the accused an opportunity to testify or present a defense.
Step-5: For impeachment to happen, the full Senate must vote to impeach by a “super-majority” (ie: 2/3).
Effectively this means that the House of Representatives investigates and decides if they believe there was an impeachable offense much like a grand jury in the criminal court system. The Senate then conducts a trial in a manner similar to the criminal courts based on the charges recommended by the House.
The House has through its history initiated impeachment proceedings 60+ time, most being Federal Judges. 19 of those impeachments made it out of committee of which only 3 pertained to presidents. Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton’s impeachments made it to the Senate where they were later both acquitted. Nixon resigned while the house was still investigating his actions.
One of the most fluid aspects of impeachment is the nebulous definition of the Constitutional phrase “high Crimes and Misdemeanors”, whereas “Treason” and “Bribery” are fairly straight forward. Clearly, an impeachable offense is not limited to criminal conduct. In general Congress identified three general types of conduct that are grounds for impeachment.
- Improperly exceeding or abusing the powers of the office
- Behavior incompatible with the function and purpose of the office
- Misusing the office for an improper purpose or for personal gain
In 1970, House Minority Leader Gerald Ford said “An impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history.”
There was a draft resolution from seven House Democrats in 1983 to impeach President Reagan. The text read that “ordering the invasion of Grenada in violation of the Constitution” and they felt this met the criteria for a high crime or misdemeanor. There was another failed attempt to impeach Reagan for his perceived role in the Iran-Contra affair. Both efforts never made it out of committee and have faded into history. Most impeachment efforts that make it out of the Judiciary Committee are endorsed by a bipartisan group of Congressmen. Knowing this Nixon resigned before his impeachment went the distance and Clinton decided to make a public apology. This is American and we love to forgive.
The current effort by the House to impeach President Trump is both the same and different with respect to previous impeachments. The current effort is similar in that there is a significant debate on what actions by a president merit impeachment. For an impeachment of a president, the biggest difference this time is the lack of a bipartisan endorsement.
At the heart of all of this is a phone call on July 25, 2019 between President Trump and Ukrainian President Zelensky. Amongst the things discussed in the call, Trump asked Zelensky to look into the actions of former Vice President Joe Biden. Trump’s interest seem to center on Biden’s potential wrongdoing when vice President. He apparently sought the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor who was investigating the Ukrainian natural gas company that was paying Hunter Biden (Joe Biden’s son) a large salary to be on their board.
It is true that financial aid was being withheld from Ukraine at the time, but President Zelensky has openly stated he was not aware of this at the time of the phone call. There are two ways that this could be the ugly “quid pro quo” that is Representative Schiff’s narrative.
Option-1: If President Zelensky was being pressured to do the investigation or else his country would not receive financial aid.
Option-2: If President Trump was using Zelensky to dig up dirt on Joe Biden that could be later used to discredit him as a political rival.
The first option has been discredited by Zelensky though it seems to live on regardless. As to the second option it appears to depend on the side of the isle you stand on. U.S. Presidents have a long history of rooting out corruption or manipulating foreign governments to suite U.S. future interests. If President Trump honestly believed that there was a corrupt arrangement with the Ukraine that favored Hunter Biden, this should be investigated. If it is believed this arrangement was not fully investigated by the Obama administration, this type of request is not corrupt unto itself.
Does this mean that it is corrupt for a president to ask about corruption, regardless of the context or circumstances?
On November 4th a collection of carefully selected Law Professors appeared before the House Judiciary Committee to discuss where Trump’s actions fall within the Constitution and its definition of grounds for impeachment. Professor Feldman seemed to see an impeachable transgression in nearly every act that Trump has done since taking office. Feldman published an editorial a few months ago contending that Trump should be removed from office for exercising his constitutionally authorized power to pardon Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County Arizona. The Sheriff was convicted for contempt of court. Professor Feldman referred to this pardon as “an abuse of power” and “an impeachable offense.” Of course no self-serving interest was ever mentioned by him when then President Bill Clinton pardoned his own brother.
Professor Karlan seemed more interested in cheap shots referencing Trumps son Barron and tying it back to the Constitutional reference for there being not titles of nobility in the United States. If her view is realistic than everyone with a last name of “King” should be banished to the dungeon if you can find one.
Professor Gerhardt may win the award for educational elitism stating “If Congress fails to impeach here, then the impeachment process has lost all meaning.” I suspect that he is looking forward to bragging to his students that Congress needed his guidance to know what to do next.
Professor Turley showed that there is still some common sense left in our universities stating: “I am not a supporter of President Trump,” Turley continued with: “I voted against him in 2016 and I have previously voted for Presidents Clinton and Obama.” Turley went on to say “one can oppose President Trump’s policies or actions but still conclude that the current legal case for impeachment is not just woefully inadequate, but in some respects dangerous as the basis for the impeachment of an American president.”
What Professor Turley understood is that the present case against President Trump is driven by rage and not by reason. If Trumps actions are indicative of an “abuse of power”, is the manner in which this impeachment effort is being performed significantly different.
If President Trump did knowingly ask for an investigation of the Biden family in Ukraine specifically to discredit him as a political rival, that is using the office for personal gain and an impeachable offense. Nevertheless, the facts are not currently there to support this case.
I get it, you hate Trump, but carrying this impeachment forward without bipartisan support and real evidence will only discredit the entire impeachment process. If innuendo, third-party hearsay and loose interpretation is all it takes to impeach a President, every future president is at risk for the least action that a handful of representatives choose to disagree with.
We live in a much divided country. The economic needs and challenges for our biggest metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Baltimore vary greatly from the rest of the country. Pursuing this impeachment would further divide the country and perpetuate the stigma that our government is disconnected and alienated from those it governs.
Please stop all this hearsay driven impeachment and do something useful. If you really want to make a difference in my life: pass a budget, reign in robo-calls, do something to attenuate corporate salary excesses and stop talking about Socialism. Hey, that sounds like a moderate candidate….do those exist anymore?
Mel Mann currently works as a software developer as well as dappling in playing the blue grass banjo.