Sometimes we can clarify our thinking by examining questions from a different angle.
Those seeking to impeach Donald Trump have produced plausible evidence that he has done something very wrong.
His defenders employ three arguments. They deny that something happened. Then they admit it happened, but deny it was wrong. Finally, they admit it was wrong, but maintain it wasn't wrong enough to warrant impeachment.
Defenders also argue that Democrats have wanted to get rid of Trump from the very beginning of his administration, which is clearly true. But this has no bearing on whether his behavior now justifies doing what they have wanted to do all along.
Instead of looking at it this way, let's do a thought experiment. We'll assume that Mr. Trump has done absolutely nothing wrong. Then let's see if his observable behavior is compatible with this hypothesis.
Trump refuses to release his income tax forms. If he has done nothing wrong, why would he do this? Claims that his returns are being audited might be true of the last year or two, but why won't he release tax forms from previous years? For that matter, why can't returns still being audited be released?
Trump wouldn't let key aides testify to the House committees. If he is totally innocent, what does he fear they would say? Why wouldn't he demand that they be allowed to testify?
Trump also ordered lower officials not to testify. Again, why not let the truth come out if he is totally innocent?
Whenever investigators issue new reports, Trump claims they totally exonerate him, although reading them makes it obvious that they did no such thing. Why does he need to make false claims about total exoneration? How many times does he need to be totally exonerated?
Trump repeatedly proclaims that the investigations are "witch hunts" and "hoaxes" and that Democrats merely seek to overturn the 2016 election. But he and some supporters also claim that impeachment efforts will ensure his re-election. If so, why is he so upset? And if elections should never be "overturned" why did those who wrote our Constitution include the impeachment provisions?
Are these facts about Trump's behavior, observable by us all, compatible with our hypothesis that he has done absolutely nothing wrong?
If he isn't guilty, why has he been acting so guilty?
I was a lifelong Republican until George W. Bush's Iraq war drove me out of the GOP. Truth be told, I am not enthusiastic about either party. I happen to agree strongly with Donald Trump's professed aversion to getting the U.S. into foreign wars. I especially approve the results of his very strange but useful dealings with North Korea.
But Trump's observable behavior is incompatible with our hypothesis that he has done nothing wrong. The rules of science tell us that we must therefore reject that hypothesis.
If Trump has done something terribly wrong, then his observed behavior makes perfect sense.
Impeachment and conviction needn't require proof of exactly which specific misbehavior Trump engaged in behind the scenes. Proof will be difficult as long as he prevents officials from testifying. His obvious strategy will be to run out the clock, appealing lower court decisions requiring testimony by officials to the Supreme Court.
But we don't need that testimony. Whatever his backroom misbehavior was, his public actions alone — obstructing Congress from exercising its constitutional duty to evaluate and, if necessary, remove him —constitute an impeachable offense, and a very serious one.
One article of impeachment will be enough: obstruction of justice. There is no question of fact on this charge, since his obstruction has been observed by us all.
Any additional charges will be a bad idea. They will just distract from the basic issue and increase Mr. Trump's ability to confuse the public.
Paul F. deLespinasse is Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Computer Science at Adrian College. He received his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 1966, and has been a National Merit Scholar, an NDEA Fellow, a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and a Fellow in Law and Political Science at the Harvard Law School. His college textbook, "Thinking About Politics: American Government in Associational Perspective," was published in 1981 and his most recent book is "Beyond Capitalism: A Classless Society With (Mostly) Free Markets." His columns have appeared in newspapers in Michigan, Oregon, and a number of other states. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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