Impeachment open thread

I don’t have anything interesting to say about this, but commenters might like a space for a discussion, so here it is.

As a peg, let me suggest the very practical question whether House Democrats should pursue a broad or a narrow investigation, within the bounds of “high crimes and misdemeanours” not bad policies as on immigration and trade.

For narrow: the record of the Ukraine phone call conclusively proves abuse of office; no serious defence possible; gets it over with quickly.

For broad: impeachment will in any case not lead to removal; the object is to educate the electorate about the unfitness of not only Trump but most of his Cabinet and his enablers in the Senate, so lay out all the dirt; the open-and-shut Ukraine count will help shake loose evidence on other offences like money laundering for Russian mobsters.

There are nuances within the broad approach. Take violation of the oath of office to “faithfully execute the laws.” Trump and his minions have instead done their worst to sabotage both ACA and the Clean Air Act. Very dirty pool, but I suspect most voters will treat these as policy choices (maybe very bad ones) not potential abuses of power. There is quite enough to go on without taking this risk.

PS: “Perhaps the horse will learn to sing”. McConnell is a thug, but his own thug not Trump’s. There are circumstances – very unlikely but not impossible – in which Mitch would conclude that Trump is a net liability to the Congressional GOP. We may reasonably question if VP Pence has the cojones to stick the knife in if necessary. There is no such doubt about McConnell.

PS2: If any of my fellow-bloggers chimes in with something more substantial, commenters please shift the discussion to that thread.

Author: James Wimberley

James Wimberley (b. 1946, an Englishman raised in the Channel Islands. three adult children) is a former career international bureaucrat with the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. His main achievements there were the Lisbon Convention on recognition of qualifications and the Kosovo law on school education. He retired in 2006 to a little white house in Andalucia, His first wife Patricia Morris died in 2009 after a long illness. He remarried in 2011. to the former Brazilian TV actress Lu Mendonça. The cat overlords are now three. I suppose I've been invited to join real scholars on the list because my skills, acquired in a decade of technical assistance work in eastern Europe, include being able to ask faux-naïf questions like the exotic Persians and Chinese of eighteenth-century philosophical fiction. So I'm quite comfortable in the role of country-cousin blogger with a European perspective. The other specialised skill I learnt was making toasts with a moral in the course of drunken Caucasian banquets. I'm open to expenses-paid offers to retell Noah the great Armenian and Columbus, the orange, and university reform in Georgia. James Wimberley's occasional publications on the web

11 thoughts on “Impeachment open thread”

  1. My opinion could change, but I don’t favor the laundry list approach, which will require a long drawn out investigation that will create a backlash and/or lead to (more) damage from Trump’s scorched-earth defense. I’d say focus on the Ukraine abuse, for which an article of impeachment could almost be drawn up today, plus perhaps a few other major items if they can be pulled together in the next few weeks. The sooner the Republican Senate is put on the spot, the better, unless they show further signs of capitulation in the meantime.

  2. Things are moving incredibly fast. WAPO, via The Guardian, reports that Pelosi has settled on narrow and told House committees to move fast on Ukraine alone.

    I can’t see any double jeopardy rule. Nothing SFIK legally stops the House from voting a single article of impeachment on Ukraine, forcing Mitch to hold the exculpatory vote, and then pursuing the other stuff more slowly. Makes for great TV. What’s this week’s impeachment charge?

    1. I like narrow, but not too narrow. There can easily be three or four focused bases for impeachment. The Ukraine matter leaps to mind first, but the multiple attempts to obstruct the Mueller probe. In fact, the new reports this evening of Trump excusing Russian involvement in the 2016 election tie into both of these threads.

      Finally, there is the Kashoggi murder. I suspect that there are incredibly explosive notes of conversations Trump had with the Saudis. In due course, they could come tumbling out either in “hard copy” format or via descriptions by those who were witnesses to the conversations.

      1. Hiding the phone transcripts on a dedicated secure server will turn out badly for Trump. These things are designed to resist professional hackers, with code access, access logs, duplicated drives, hash functions, and so on, backing the deterrence of US laws against falsifying or destroying records. “Accidental” erasure is not really an option.

  3. One concern I’ve seen expressed is that narrow articles will hurt the Democrats’ case in some of the court proceedings dealing with tax returns and maybe other matters.

    If you claim that you need the subpoenaed material for an impeachment inquiry and the material is irrelevant to the actual articles you’ve defeated yourself, haven’t you?

  4. I have been meaning to comment on the following possibility: The impeachment process could really open up a much wider political and Constitutional crisis if Pence is found to have materially participated in the extortion racket directed toward Ukraine.

    Assume for a moment that an impeachment resolution against Trump can get the votes of 67 senators. I think that, as matters develop, this is not unrealistic or, at least, not as unlikely as most people currently believe. In that regard, new facts are being uncovered almost daily. More significantly, Trump’s mental and physical deterioration is accelerating and becoming more obvious.

    But is the country ready to impeach both Trump and Pence? Certainly, that would provide support to the proposition of the conspiratorial right that this impeachment process is nothing more than an attempt to thwart the will of the voters. I fear that if both Trump and Pence were removed we would be faced with an American equivalent to the “stab in the back” myth popular in Germany post-WWI. That did not lead to a happy result.

    1. I wonder if we’re going to have to amend the 25th amendment. It doesn’t cover what happens when the Prez and Veep are impeached at the same time. Somehow I think Nancy Pelosi taking office as the third in line may be problematic.

      If Pence really is dirty, and there’s already a prima facie case he is, then they could go the Watergate route and impeach Pence first and appoint a new veep broadly acceptable to Dems and Repubs, if such a thing is possible these days. It pains me to say it, but a fella like Romney may be the best we can do. To the extent a better standard-bearer might actually have a chance against the Dem nominee, Romney would be more formidable than Pence. Another plus to a Pence-first strategy is that it could easily be limited to Unkrainia-mania (not a good name, but we should look for something that doesn’t end in -gate).

      As to the bigger question, I don’t know how limited impeachment should be, but it should err on the side of less, not more. Maybe obstruction and Ukraine-ensky. (In honor of the fact that this will be the second impeachment in a row with a key figure with an “insky” in their last name as principal players.) At least some of Trump’s financial corruption could be addressed in legislation — if Dems have 50 senators, a law requiring the disclosure of tax returns will pass in about a week. They could probably also pass a law that puts teeth in the emoluments clauses by simply outlawing a president earning an outside income while president.

      One thing I remember from the aftermath of Watergate is that there was a lot of reform legislation passed after Nixon resigned, but I don’t remember too many specifics. Hopefully the same thing will happen again.

    2. If leaving Pence in place is an option, the Democrats might be wise to do so. For one thing, as things seem to be going, there will be more votes in the Senate to remove Trump and leave Pence in place than to remove both. And once Trump is gone, Pence would be a weak candidate for 2020–he was never very well thought of among Republicans–and he’ll be weaker with his fellow Indianan Buttigieg speaking out in opposition. Granted, Buttigieg is unlikely to be the nominee, but he will certainly be involved on behalf of the eventual nominee.

  5. One of the hand grenades Trump is juggling with is labelled Fox. According to Gabriel Sherman of Vanity Fair, “according to four sources, Fox Corp CEO Lachlan Murdoch is already thinking about how to position the network for a post-Trump future.”
    Since Fox News is Trump’s key link to his base, being dropped by the Murdochs is an existential threat. Their calculations are not the same as Mitch’s, but both are allies of convenience only, not conviction or fealty.

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