There are four general reactions to the Articles of Impeachment against President Trump. The first two come from those who favor Trump.
- He’s innocent and did nothing wrong.
- I don’t care if he did anything wrong, he’s still better than the alternative.
On the other side, there are also two reactions.
- Two articles of impeachment focusing on his clear and certain improprieties narrow the focus and get the job done now.
- Two articles of impeachment are grossly inadequate, and the House should investigate everything he’s ever done, take as long as necessary, and impeach him for each and every wrong.
The impeachment hearings before the House committees were largely a show for the benefit of the public, intended to break the logjam of Trump support by offering the testimony of witnesses to both show and tell what happened and why it’s wrong. While the initial revelation of the Zelensky phone call saw a bump in support for impeachment, that support quickly faded back to the numbers that already divided the nation on impeaching Trump.
Some, like Jamelle Bouie, view this two-count approach as capitulation by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rather than a smart tactical effort to narrow the focus to a clearer, and provable, narrative. Bouie would have the House investigate Trump for decades so that no stone is unturned, no outrage goes unmentioned.
The better alternative — the stronger alternative — is to wait. Pursue new investigations to support additional articles of impeachment. Expand them beyond Ukraine: Investigate corruption and wrongdoing throughout the administration and accomplish as much as you can before handing the process over to the Senate.
The argument is that this isn’t a process designed to impeach the president, which won’t happen as long as the Republicans own the Senate, but a process designed to spend day after day presenting evidence of Trump’s awfulness, a national catharsis for the Democrats, the Resistance, those who hate Trump so very much that they will happily spend their days, their years, obsessed with every nuanced gripe against this vulgar, amoral ignoramus.
There’s no reason for Democrats to end things now. They have enough material to keep the pressure through the new year. They can show the country what Trump has done with his power, and why he shouldn’t be allowed to wield it any longer. Close scrutiny will also discourage the president from new attempts to leverage his office for personal gain, and if nothing else, an extended impeachment process will keep the process away from Mitch McConnell.
For lawyers, there should be a familiar ring to Bouie’s call to arms. His view is common to litigants, particularly of the pro se type, who want to include every single, tiny, trivial, provable or not, detail of the things they are outraged about in their lawsuit. Sure, they could achieve, and prove, their case with two causes of action, but there are so many more complaints burning inside them and they must come out, they must be heard.
For the folks who support Trump, this is the constitutional process for addressing complaints against a president. Even if you believe the allegations to be woefully inadequate and false, and take no issue with his hair or rhetorical challenges, this is the process by which a president’s conduct is challenged.
Josh Blackman raises the specter of opening a Pandora’s box of impeaching a president whenever he’s hated and engages in mundane politics while in the otherwise banal execution of presidential prerogatives.
The Senate is heading into uncharted territory. Once articles of impeachment are completely decoupled from any clearly articulated offenses, the burden of charging a president with “abuse of power” is significantly reduced. Moreover, any president who refuses to comply with what he sees as an improper investigation can be charged with “obstruction of Congress.”
Then again, as Orin Kerr argued in response to Josh:
This strikes me as pretty much the core of what the Constitution’s impeachment power is designed to address. And I should add, to the extent it is relevant, that I was against impeaching Trump before the Ukraine story broke. It was the astonishing facts of what happened with Ukraine that changed my mind, moving me from being against impeachment to being in favor of it.
While Josh’s point, that it opens the door to the slippery slope by decoupling the basis for impeachment from any cognizable offense that has discrete elements upon which findings can be made, relying instead on vague generalities, Orin’s point is that what happened here is so clear, flagrant and provable that it’s beyond question grounds for impeachment.
The fear is that if Trump is impeached, as he almost certainly will be when the House votes on these Articles of Impeachment, it could well begin a quadrennial battle between the warring tribes, provided the right split exists in Congress, and particularly when it could prove useful in gaining electoral hegemony.
Have we finally come to grips with Trump’s actions or has the House made a grave mistake? Have we opened up electoral nuclear warfare or can we trust Congress to demonstrate integrity and humility before deciding to drop the bomb? Is there a point to this dog and pony show? Is there any hope that a Republican Senate will put country before party should the trial on impeachment sustain the allegations in the articles?