Does Nancy Pelosi hate the United States? This is the latest suggestion that President Trump is using to rile up his rallies. Mrs. Pelosi’s allies in the Democratic Party and in the media will dismiss Mr. Trump’s words with the same acidic vitriol they greeted his lambasting Mrs. Clinton with chants of “Lock her up!”
As Mrs. Pelosi has become the new ringleader of the movement to impeach President Trump, though, there is more than a little validity in the president’s words. Impeachment is the nuclear option of national politics. The framers, when they drafted Article II, section 4, enumerating impeachable offenses as “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors” were seeking to limit the use of the impeachment power to real and serious abuses of presidential powers. They knew that impeachment would be politically divisive, and they took careful steps to ensure that it would not be used for any but the most serious of purposes.
Impeachment and removal were supposed to be tools of resolving national crises, when a thoroughly corrupt leader seemed bent on subverting the interests of the country. Perhaps there are those who genuinely believe this is Mr. Trump’s modus operandi, but, if so, they have trouble grasping reality.
One could legitimately differ with some of Mr. Trump’s initiatives or policies, but a man who has achieved record low employment, especially for minorities, a booming stock market, a reduction in federal regulation and taxation, and the appointment of two outstanding Supreme Court Justices and placed scores of equally distinguished people on the lower court benches, is not the kind of impeachment target the framers had in mind.
Obviously, Democrats would prefer a leader more committed to fighting climate change, ameliorating income inequality, and encouraging gender fluidity, but that is what elections are supposed to decide, not impeachment. Mrs. Clinton had a point when she railed at Mr. Trump for daring to suggest that he might not accept the results of the 2016 election, during the 2016 Presidential campaign, since the peaceful transfer of power is a bedrock of our republic.
The staggering irony and hypocrisy of the Democrats now using the impeachment mechanism in a blatant attempt to overturn that 2016 election will go down as one of the most shameful moments in American history.
For the Democrats the ends obviously justify the means, but what they are accomplishing is reducing impeachment to a tool of vicious partisan politics, and, by ramping up the political division in the country, by turning Americans against each other, they are making it more difficult for us to accept the legitimacy of our government itself.
In the recent letter the White House Counsel, Pat Cipollone, sent to Mrs. Pelosi and several Congressional leaders, he protested that the current impeachment proceeding is unconstitutional because, contrary to the precedents set in the Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon impeachment proceedings, the full House has not voted to approve the inquiry, and because, again contrary to precedent, the president’s party has not been given subpoena powers, nor has the president been accorded the customary due process rights of examining witnesses and defending himself. If indeed, Mrs. Pelosi is bent on ignoring these basic Constitutional protections, the precedent she is setting is dismal, and one could, with reason, suggest that she is behaving as if she were an enemy to important and historic American practices and values.
Objective observers understand that Mrs. Pelosi is acting as if politics is her only real concern, and what she, and her allies, Mr. Schiff, Mr. Nadler, Mr. Cummings, et. al. are seeking to do is at least weaken the president if he is acquitted in the Senate, and, in their best case scenario, to generate enough sound and fury to persuade malleable Republicans in the Senate, such as Mitt Romney, to abandon Mr. Trump in favor of the less controversial Vice President Pence.
Perhaps even the Romneys of the Senate will understand that to follow such a strategy would be to reward the most despicable abandonment of our Constitutional norms, and to reduce a noble institution, Congress, to a vile political snake pit. It is most likely that there will never be a conviction of President Trump in the Senate, but Mrs. Pelosi and her minions probably understand this, and are simply seeking to tarnish and weaken the president in the 2020 contest.
The current impeachment mania is based on the notion that if a president seeks to enlist the leader of another country in exposing the financial misdeeds of a political opponent, it somehow threatens the fabric of our republic. This is nonsense. The search for truth is what our politics and national life ought to be about, not the undermining of our Constitutional order.
Stephen B. Presser is the Raoul Berger Professor of Legal History Emeritus at Northwestern’s Pritzker School of Law, the Legal Affairs Editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, and a contributor to The University Bookman. He graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School, and has taught at Rutgers University, the University of Virginia, and University College, London. He has often testified on constitutional issues before committees of the United States Congress, and is the author of "Recapturing the Constitution: Race, Religion, and Abortion Reconsidered" (Regnery, 1994) and "Law Professsors: Three Centuries of Shaping American Law" (West Academic, 2017). Presser was a Visiting Scholar in Conservative Thought and Policy at the University of Colorado's Boulder Campus for 2018-2019. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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