Wednesday hearings shine a light on the question: What is presidential impeachment?

Wednesday was another day in legal boredom provided via the House Judiciary Committee.  The four law school professors called as witnesses were there to argue for or against the effort to impeach President Trump on intellectual grounds.  After yesterday's hearing, it appears that the committee's majority will vote out some article or multiple articles of impeachment.  The outcome of the House vote less certain, as Speaker Pelosi has not guaranteed a House vote before the Christmas break.

Nancy Pelosi may not be sure that she has the necessary votes yet.  She indicated that this situation is complicated, which implies that there are several Democrats from "moderate" districts not committed to ousting Trump.  She would like an overwhelming vote.  It is likely that no Republicans will vote for impeachment.  Therefore, the desire Pelosi expressed earlier this year for a bipartisan vote is not going to happen.  But she has indicated behind closed doors that time is running out, and there will be no further legal challenges to compel Trump administration officials to testify.

This forms the basis of the strongest argument against Trump.  Withholding evidence from Congress was the basis of Nixon's refusal to turn over tapes.  This was rejected in the courts, and he eventually did release the tapes.  However, both branches have constitutional privilege claims, so the Judiciary should make the decision.  But this takes time, which interferes with the election timeline.

Three professors (Noah Feldman of Harvard, Pamela Karlan of Stanford, and Michael Gerhardt of UNC) were exposed for their lack of impartiality.  Jonathan Turley of Georgetown indicated that he does not support Trump but sees this process as dangerous for the future.  No fact witnesses were called, and it  is unlikely that any will be, given the timeline. 

The impeachment of Andrew Johnson resulted in an acquittal in the Senate by one vote.  Johnson was impeached for removing a Cabinet member appointed by Abraham Lincoln under a questionable law passed over his veto.  Nixon resigned prior to any House vote for impeachment after his criminal behavior was exposed.  Clinton was not convicted by the Senate after Joe Lieberman gave an impassioned speech in his favor.  He had lied under oath about a sexual affair.

Twenty-one years ago, Chairman Jerrold Nadler argued that the process used against Clinton was contrary to the vote of the citizens.  Yesterday, he claimed that this view was distorted or misconstrued.  Now some argue that the Mueller report may provide evidence of obstruction that can be used for an article of impeachment.  The problem for Nadler's argument resides in the lack of direct evidence of bribery or some other high crime or misdemeanor.  Inferences are made about the delay in providing military equipment to Ukraine.  Yesterday's hearing did nothing to change any votes in Congress or throughout the electorate.

The Intelligence Committee hearing did not help Chairman Adam Schiff or the Democrats move the needle toward impeachment.  Probably it cost some support, as many saw the unfair proceedings as partisan.  This was in opposition to the Nixon and Clinton proceedings.  In the end, it caused Trump to refuse to participate.  The White House counsel did not attend, which was a strategic decision.  Further, holding the hearings while Trump was overseas at the NATO conference was a matter of poor timing.

It appears that the axiom given by Gerald Ford that the Congress decides what is impeachable will operate in this case.  As was pointed out previously, Alexander Hamilton argued against political passions as a basis for impeachment.  Some argue for "censure" as a compromise position, but Trump rejects this option. 

The problem for Trump is his tweets, statements, and own words.  He is not careful about many of his pronouncements.  Thus, he has allowed his political opposition to distort his words and pursue the impeachment effort that some have wanted for almost three years.

This effort may not result in Trump's removal from office.  However, the aim in this case is to weaken Trump's support in his re-election bid.  Thereby, the Democrats may hold the House majority.  Further, they may gain seats in the Senate, which then denies Trump's ability to appoint federal judges, administration officials requiring confirmation, and other Cabinet posts. 

The weak Democratic presidential field worries some who dislike Trump.  Rep. Green indicated that impeachment is the best method to defeat Trump.  The Washington swamp is threatened by Trump's directness.  Foreign leaders also find his challenge to the post-war (WWII) order, where the USA shoulders a disproportionate burden, frightening.  His demand that nations spend more on defense affects their social welfare spending, which helps ensure their re-election. 

Few could have survived the onslaught against Trump from the press, partisans, and opposition from within his own party.  This dragon is hard to slay.  Perhaps Trump will actually outsmart his opposition.  Maybe he did not commit an impeachable deed.  He is crude and impolite, but maybe he is more honest than the political class.  But the House will likely vote out articles of impeachment, which will fail in the Senate to get the two-thirds required vote. 

Will voters respond angrily when the USMCA legislation is held over?  Will voters decide that the Democrats failed to solve the immigration issues?  Will they blame Democrats for not fixing the high cost of medical insurance and drug coverage?  Stay tuned for the 2020 elections.

Image: Gage Skidmore via Flickr.

Wednesday was another day in legal boredom provided via the House Judiciary Committee.  The four law school professors called as witnesses were there to argue for or against the effort to impeach President Trump on intellectual grounds.  After yesterday's hearing, it appears that the committee's majority will vote out some article or multiple articles of impeachment.  The outcome of the House vote less certain, as Speaker Pelosi has not guaranteed a House vote before the Christmas break.

Nancy Pelosi may not be sure that she has the necessary votes yet.  She indicated that this situation is complicated, which implies that there are several Democrats from "moderate" districts not committed to ousting Trump.  She would like an overwhelming vote.  It is likely that no Republicans will vote for impeachment.  Therefore, the desire Pelosi expressed earlier this year for a bipartisan vote is not going to happen.  But she has indicated behind closed doors that time is running out, and there will be no further legal challenges to compel Trump administration officials to testify.

This forms the basis of the strongest argument against Trump.  Withholding evidence from Congress was the basis of Nixon's refusal to turn over tapes.  This was rejected in the courts, and he eventually did release the tapes.  However, both branches have constitutional privilege claims, so the Judiciary should make the decision.  But this takes time, which interferes with the election timeline.

Three professors (Noah Feldman of Harvard, Pamela Karlan of Stanford, and Michael Gerhardt of UNC) were exposed for their lack of impartiality.  Jonathan Turley of Georgetown indicated that he does not support Trump but sees this process as dangerous for the future.  No fact witnesses were called, and it  is unlikely that any will be, given the timeline. 

The impeachment of Andrew Johnson resulted in an acquittal in the Senate by one vote.  Johnson was impeached for removing a Cabinet member appointed by Abraham Lincoln under a questionable law passed over his veto.  Nixon resigned prior to any House vote for impeachment after his criminal behavior was exposed.  Clinton was not convicted by the Senate after Joe Lieberman gave an impassioned speech in his favor.  He had lied under oath about a sexual affair.

Twenty-one years ago, Chairman Jerrold Nadler argued that the process used against Clinton was contrary to the vote of the citizens.  Yesterday, he claimed that this view was distorted or misconstrued.  Now some argue that the Mueller report may provide evidence of obstruction that can be used for an article of impeachment.  The problem for Nadler's argument resides in the lack of direct evidence of bribery or some other high crime or misdemeanor.  Inferences are made about the delay in providing military equipment to Ukraine.  Yesterday's hearing did nothing to change any votes in Congress or throughout the electorate.

The Intelligence Committee hearing did not help Chairman Adam Schiff or the Democrats move the needle toward impeachment.  Probably it cost some support, as many saw the unfair proceedings as partisan.  This was in opposition to the Nixon and Clinton proceedings.  In the end, it caused Trump to refuse to participate.  The White House counsel did not attend, which was a strategic decision.  Further, holding the hearings while Trump was overseas at the NATO conference was a matter of poor timing.

It appears that the axiom given by Gerald Ford that the Congress decides what is impeachable will operate in this case.  As was pointed out previously, Alexander Hamilton argued against political passions as a basis for impeachment.  Some argue for "censure" as a compromise position, but Trump rejects this option. 

The problem for Trump is his tweets, statements, and own words.  He is not careful about many of his pronouncements.  Thus, he has allowed his political opposition to distort his words and pursue the impeachment effort that some have wanted for almost three years.

This effort may not result in Trump's removal from office.  However, the aim in this case is to weaken Trump's support in his re-election bid.  Thereby, the Democrats may hold the House majority.  Further, they may gain seats in the Senate, which then denies Trump's ability to appoint federal judges, administration officials requiring confirmation, and other Cabinet posts. 

The weak Democratic presidential field worries some who dislike Trump.  Rep. Green indicated that impeachment is the best method to defeat Trump.  The Washington swamp is threatened by Trump's directness.  Foreign leaders also find his challenge to the post-war (WWII) order, where the USA shoulders a disproportionate burden, frightening.  His demand that nations spend more on defense affects their social welfare spending, which helps ensure their re-election. 

Few could have survived the onslaught against Trump from the press, partisans, and opposition from within his own party.  This dragon is hard to slay.  Perhaps Trump will actually outsmart his opposition.  Maybe he did not commit an impeachable deed.  He is crude and impolite, but maybe he is more honest than the political class.  But the House will likely vote out articles of impeachment, which will fail in the Senate to get the two-thirds required vote. 

Will voters respond angrily when the USMCA legislation is held over?  Will voters decide that the Democrats failed to solve the immigration issues?  Will they blame Democrats for not fixing the high cost of medical insurance and drug coverage?  Stay tuned for the 2020 elections.

Image: Gage Skidmore via Flickr.