Don’t Count on Impeachment from Republicans, redux

On February 15, 2017, I published a post with the title, “Don’t Count on Impeachment from Republicans.” My argument was that, since most Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee voted against articles to impeach Richard Nixon, even as members of the Committee repeatedly read from transcripts of tapes recording conversations in the Oval Office plainly showing that Nixon had conspired with his staff to cover up his 1972 campaign’s connection to the break in at the Watergate hotel that gave the scandal its name — clear evidence of obstruction of justice by the President — it seemed highly unlikely that they would be in any hurry to impeach the so called president, no matter how glaring his crimes might turn out to be.

One of the worst characteristics of conservatives, both the real kind and the faux, U.S. kind, is their blind loyalty to authority. This is the chief reason why it is impossible to be both a good conservative and a good American. Good Americans are very suspicious of authority figures. The United States only exists because of defiance to the authorities at the time. The definition of the presidency in the Constitution reflects this ambivalence. On the one hand, as we keep seeing to our horror with the so called president, the President of the United States wields enormous power within the federal government, nominating judges and hiring the vast array of other federal officials who populate our large, powerful government.

But the President is head of the Executive Branch, which is only one of three branches in the federal government. When appropriate, all knowledgeable persons refer to the three branches as “coequal.” The President can issue executive orders to control how the federal government operates, but only Congress can pass laws, and only judges may interpret laws, as the Donald seems to have discovered to his surprise after one issued a temporary restraining order preventing his Muslim ban from taking effect.

The Constitution expressly provides that, if the President undergoes trial in the Senate through the impeachment process, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court shall preside. Chief Justice Rehnquist so served at President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial.

In February, discussion of impeaching the so called president was highly speculative. Then it came up only because of the resignation of the National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, who had met with the ambassador from Russia before Trump took office, thus potentially violating federal law, then repeatedly lied about it. This event alone exacerbated existing suspicions about apparent collusion between the Trump campaign and Russians to nefarious ends.

Now, however, evidence of clearly impeachable conduct by the Donald has surfaced, after he fired the Director of the FBI, James Comey. Recent reports indicate that Comey memorialized a conversation with the Donald soon after Flynn resigned in which Trump asked Comey to end his investigation into Flynn’s conduct, and, by implication, Russian contacts with Trump’s campaign more generally.

This is the same crime that resulted in the resignation of Richard Nixon and the impeachment of Bill Clinton.

If obstruction of justice was sufficient to impeach Bill Clinton when the underlying offense was illicit sexual activity with a White House employee, it perforce should be more than enough to justify impeaching the so called President when the underlying offense is trying to stop an FBI investigation into possible collusion between the president’s campaign and foreign agents.

There still seems to be no reason to expect the Republicans, ever concerned only with what they perceive to be their own political advantage, to impeach the Donald.

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