Thursday, February 06, 2020

Trump Acquitted--Why the Rush to Impeachment?

Trump Acquitted!

Well, of course, there's no reason anyone should have been surprised by that headline.  Surely, everyone--including the House Democrats who voted for impeachment--knew that this was the inevitable outcome if they did not take enough time to build a case that could persuade at least 20 Republican Senators to vote for conviction.

I have reread my post from December 6th--"Why the Rush to Impeachment?  Jonathan Turley's Prudent Warning to the House Judiciary Committee."  And the acquittal of Trump in the Senate certainly seems to confirm the wisdom of Turley's warning.  The House's impeachment of Trump now looks more like the failed impeachment of Andrew Johnson in 1868 than the threat of impeachment that succeeded in forcing Richard Nixon's resignation in 1974.  That is to say, this attempted impeachment looks like a purely partisan political attack on the president that failed to win bipartisan support.

It's hard to understand what the House Democrats thought they were going to accomplish.  It's also hard to understand why the three law professors who argued for a quick impeachment--Noah Feldman, Pamela Karlan, and Michael Gerhardt--did not respond to Turley's warning.

Now there's talk about the possibility that the House Democrats might continue their investigations by seeking the testimony of John Bolton and others.  Why didn't they do that months ago as part of a prolonged investigation to build up the case for impeachment?

1 comment:

Roger Sweeny said...

My somewhat cynical take: the House leadership hadn't really wanted to do an impeachment in the first place but the Party's most active members and supporters really hated Trump and were very annoyed that the Mueller Report hadn't destroyed him politically. The Report strongly hinted that he had done bad and illegal things but there just wasn't enough evidence.

So the impeachment inquiry was a way to assuage those people and hopefully to find more evidence, other evidence, about lots of things. The Nixon hearings are part of Democratic Party folklore, where the brave Congresspeople peel back the layers of the corrupt onion, and finally force the President to resign. Why couldn't that happen here?

But no "smoking guns" came to light. And unlike the Nixon hearings, where things got worse and worse for the President, this one just seemed to go on and on, without anything seeming to make much difference. So the leadership wrapped it up.

Going on and calling new witnesses actually had potential downsides. What if the Republicans made a big stink about calling Hunter Biden? Drugs, cheating on his wife with a stripper, getting a very high paying job for what can be made to seem like cashing in on his relationship to the Party's presidential front-runner. In real life, the Trump forces were fine with saying, "Not proven. Let's move on." But if the inquiry had continued, they might well have counter-attacked.

And what if, say, John Bolton had testified that Trump had told him, "Withhold the aid. We're going to force those Ukraine guys to investigate the Bidens. It'll kill Joe politically"? A number of Trump partisans would then argue, "It'll only destroy him politically if there is corruption. The Ukraine government was famously corrupt. Why should we send aid to people who won't even investigate corruption?" That's a pretty impolite thing to say and traditionally that sort of thing isn't done. But Trump has different manners.

Everybody knows that politicians make decisions based in part on how it will affect them politically. To argue that this was politically motivated won't bother a lot of people, at least if you can convince them that there were also other reasons. Ironically, the fact that it is foreigners being pressured to investigate Americans will make it seem worse to most Americans. Patriotism hurting rather than helping Trump.