Why would House Democrats put forward articles of impeachment that are laughably weak and have no chance of removing President Donald Trump from office? Most of the speculation has been that the impeachment will nevertheless hurt Trump’s reelection chances. There’s another possibility that’s even more insidious.
Democratic Party leaders can’t possibly be unaware of the fact that their impeachment case has no merit. Despite the endless talk of bribery, extortion, campaign finance violations and other supposed crimes Trump has committed, not one of the articles of impeachment accuses Trump of breaking any of those laws, or any federal law for that matter.
Instead, they accuse Trump of an “abuse of power” and of “obstruction of Congress.” As Sen. Ted Cruz explained this week at a Heritage Foundation event, as weak as the first article is, “the second article is orders of magnitude weaker.”
“They’ve simply said that the mere fact that you assert a privilege is itself impeachable, without their bothering to issue a subpoena or litigating anything.
“If that is impeachable conduct,” Cruz went on, “all 45 presidents we have had in the United States have committed impeachable offenses.”
Mind you, this is in sharp contrast to the articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton, which charged him with committing two felonies – perjury before a federal grand jury and obstruction of justice.
Note, too, that the Republican-controlled House rejected an article of impeachment accusing Clinton of “abuse of power.” Also, note that the two articles that did pass the House attracted five Democratic votes, which means that Clinton’s impeachment had infinitely more bipartisan support than the current circus.
Even so, the Republican-controlled Senate deemed the charges – for which there was plenty of direct evidence – as not worthy of removal from office.
To the extent that anything is certain in life, it is that Trump will not be removed from office based on the incredibly flimsy articles of impeachment the House approved Wednesday.
Democrats also can’t be unaware that impeaching Trump on these grounds won’t do anything to help their chances in 2020. If anything, it might make it harder for them to win the election, since it bolsters Trump’s case that the Deep State will do anything to kick him out of office, despite his successes.
The latest Gallup poll finds that Trump’s approval rating has climbed 6 points since the House opened the impeachment inquiry.
And as we noted in this space recently, support for removing Trump from office has collapsed.
At the end of October, almost half the public said it wanted Trump removed, according to the Real Clear Politics average of polls. Now that number is 47%. And for the first time since the media started regularly polling on this, more say Trump shouldn’t be removed from office – 48% – than say he should.
Worse for Democrats, once the impeachment trial is over, they will have nothing left to talk about. The economy is doing well. The middle class is thriving. Trump is signing trade deals. The border is more secure than it was, even without the wall. The courts are filling up with conservative judges. Trump will be able to honestly say that he’s delivered on more campaign promises in his first term than many, if not most, of his predecessors.
So why bother with impeachment?
The clue is in how Democrats are framing the debate today. They are no longer claiming bribery or quid pro quo, since they had no evidence to prove such charges. They are simply charging that Trump invited a foreign government to interfere in the U.S. election.
Which is exactly what Democrats were claiming before the 2016 election. In early September 2016, when we were still writing for the now-defunct Investor’s Business Daily editorial page, we noticed something Hillary Clinton had told reporters on her campaign plane.
The headline on that editorial was, “Hillary Clinton Pre-Blames Russians For A November Loss.” Here’s what we wrote:
When a reporter aboard Clinton’s campaign plane asked if Putin is using cyberwarfare to help elect Trump, Clinton said … “I often quote a great saying that I learned from living in Arkansas for many years: ‘If you find a turtle on a fence post, it didn’t get there by itself.'” She then added, in case anyone didn’t get her point, that “I think it’s quite intriguing that this activity has happened around the time Trump became the nominee.”
She said that Trump “has generally parroted what is a Putin/Kremlin line.”
Clinton’s VP, Tim Kaine, basically accused Trump of ordering the hack on the DNC. “He has openly encouraged Russia to engage in cyberhacking to try to find more emails or materials, and we know that this cyberattack on the DNC was likely done by Russia,” Kaine said on Sunday. “A president was impeached and had to resign over an attack on the DNC during a presidential election in 1972.”
The Democratic Party has joined in. Sen. Harry Reid last week asked the FBI to investigate whether Russia was trying to “falsify election results” and hand the election to Trump.
We all know what happened next. As soon as Trump won the election, Democrats accused him of colluding with Russia to steal it from Clinton, and then hounded the White House about it for more than two years.
Well, now they are accusing Trump of trying to enlist Ukraine to do the same in 2020.
You can bet that if Trump does win in 2020, Democrats – and the press – will use this argument, or some other claims of foreign interference, to contend that Trump stole his reelection, too. The long-term implications of such a move are terrible to consider. Democrats don’t seem to care.
– Written by the Issues & Insights Editorial Board
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