To understand just what an insult the House Democrats’ articles of impeachment are to the seriousness of the Constitution’s provision for removal of a president, all one need do is place them alongside the charges that were brought against Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.
Remember, President Donald Trump’s opponents have been eager to impeach him from the onset, and sought to delegitimize his 2016 election even before it took place, even when they thought his defeat of Hillary Clinton was highly unlikely.
Remember too that today’s impeachment effort is based on one mere phone conversation in which Trump, executing the long-standing U.S. policy of backing and applying pressure to bring about anti-corruption efforts in Ukraine, said on July 25 to Ukraine’s president: “I would like you to do us a favor though … Whatever you can do, it’s very important that you do it if that’s possible … There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that, so whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution, so if you can look into it … It sounds horrible to me.”
A smoking gun with water vapor for smoke.
It would, in fact, be impossible to investigate corruption in Ukraine’s recent past without running into energy-illiterate Hunter Biden’s lucrative employ with the Burisma energy firm.
So it’s not surprising the end result is articles of impeachment that, despite solemn language, are remarkable for their underlying frivolity.
The accusation against Nixon, in Article 1, was that he “committed unlawful entry of the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee … for the purpose of securing political intelligence. Subsequent thereto, Richard M. Nixon, using the powers of his high office, engaged personally and through his close subordinates and agents, in a course of conduct or plan designed to delay, impede, and obstruct the investigation of such illegal entry; to cover up, conceal and protect those responsible; and to conceal the existence and scope of other unlawful covert activities.”
There was also “counseling witnesses with respect to the giving of false or misleading statements to lawfully authorized investigative officers,” “approving, condoning, and acquiescing in, the surreptitious payment of substantial sums of money for the purpose of obtaining the silence or influencing the testimony of witnesses, potential witnesses or individuals who participated in such unlawful entry and other illegal activities,” misusing the CIA, and “endeavoring to cause prospective defendants, and individuals duly tried and convicted, to expect favored treatment and consideration in return for their silence or false testimony, or rewarding individuals for their silence or false testimony.”
In Article 2, the charges were that Nixon “endeavored to obtain from the Internal Revenue Service, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, confidential information contained in income tax returns for purposes not authorized by law, and to cause, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, income tax audits or other income tax investigations to be initiated or conducted in a discriminatory manner.”
On top of that, “He misused the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Secret Service, and other executive personnel, in violation or disregard of the constitutional rights of citizens, by directing or authorizing such agencies or personnel to conduct or continue electronic surveillance or other investigations for purposes unrelated to national security, the enforcement of laws, or any other lawful function of his office,” and “authorized and permitted to be maintained a secret investigative unit within the office of the president, financed in part with money derived from campaign contributions, which unlawfully utilized the resources of the Central Intelligence Agency.”
Article 3 was obstruction of the investigation of the offenses in the other two.
Grave crimes all, with plenty of condemnatory evidence, and Nixon resigned the presidency in August 1974 rather than take up the lost cause of winning a Senate trial – doing so before the House even voted on the articles.
Now turn to Clinton being impeached by the House in December 1998 with a Senate trial the next month resulting in the articles failing to get the required two-thirds of senators’ votes to remove the president from office, but one article receiving the votes of half of the senators.
Democrats at the time reveled in claiming the Clinton impeachment was all about sex. It was actually about repeatedly committing perjury to prevent the public from knowing about his philandering, especially with a young White House intern. Article 1 said, “William Jefferson Clinton willfully provided perjurious, false and misleading testimony to the grand jury concerning … the nature and details of his relationship with a subordinate government employee,” plus other false statements and “his corrupt efforts to influence the testimony of witnesses and to impede the discovery of evidence” in the course of legal actions against him.
Of the four articles brought forth, two were passed by the House, including one on obstructing the investigation. The second instance of perjury, in the Paula Jones case, was defeated, as was an abuse of power article.
No one can deny that Clinton lied to the grand jury, and indeed his legal defense in the Senate trial was not to deny it, but that it all boiled down to the question of “Would it put at risk the liberties of the people to retain the president in office?” – in other words, having a perjurer as commander in chief wasn’t going to imperil national security, or our domestic freedoms as Americans.
A Thin Case
Compare all this with the two articles of impeachment House Democrats have brought against Trump. Article 1 says, “Using the powers of his high office, President Trump solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, in the 2020 United States Presidential election.” He did this through “soliciting the government of Ukraine to publicly announce investigations that would benefit his reelection.” He “also sought to pressure the government of Ukraine to take these steps by conditioning official United States government acts of significant value to Ukraine on its public announcement of the investigations.”
Trump’s tools were the suspension of “$391 million of United States taxpayer funds” in military aid and “a head of state meeting at the White House.”
Article 2 on “obstruction of Congress” regards exercises of executive privilege that would never be found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court – refusing to allow senior executive branch officials to testify on matters that would involve how they advised the president, which is a practice virtually every modern administration has been found doing in one form or other.
Nixon’s transgressions are undeniable; Nixon himself defended rather than deny them. And Clinton’s lies were, and are, there for one and all to view on videotape.
In Trump’s case, those who have so loathed him for so long are now engaging in wishful impeaching. It’s not only a case of the offenses not warranting the ultimate penalty of undoing an election, the charges themselves are a massive stretch that would never hold up in any respectable court in the land.
And in conducting such an unserious undertaking, Democrats are impeaching themselves, and damaging a vital mechanism within the Constitution that this country may need if a future occupant of the White House really does pose a threat of corruption of power.
— Written by Thomas McArdle
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