“When Can We Impeach Donald Trump?” I couldn’t stop thinking this on Saturday. On his second day as president Trump managed to drop a line about Iraq that would have been an international incident if it had come from any other politician. Nobody noticed though, because his administration’s lies about the crowd at his inauguration were so outrageous. I guess I’m kind of on board with the idea that we should give Trump a little time to succeed or fail, but his performance on his first full day was so disastrous that it made sense to look at impeachment in some detail with this week’s video.
The biggest misconception about impeachment is that Trump needs to commit some kind of special “impeachable offense” to be vulnerable to the process. That’s not what history shows. Sure Bill Clinton’s impeachment was about perjury to some degree, but Andrew Johnson’s impeachment was not. It was a purely political process. Impeachment is about how Congress votes, not actual wrong-doing. Any presidency, and Trump’s most of all, does things that could fit under the Constitution’s super vague “High Crimes and Misdemeanors” definition. If we want to impeach Trump before 2018 we’ve got to get the Republicans on board.
For many people, the main obstacle to going hard for impeachment is Vice President Mike Pence. If we get rid of Trump, Mike Pence becomes President, and a lot of people see that as worse. The fact that Pence is a fervently religious man, and a doctrinaire old school conservative is seen as more threatening than Trump. I do not find that approach convincing. I don’t like religious or anti-choice politicians either, but the threats that these two men pose strike me as very different. And the threat that Trump poses is much greater. With Pence we’ll get a conservative supreme court justice or two, and perhaps another four years of the old abortion-increasing abstinence education focus that folks like him love. That would be a shame and it would hurt a lot of people. With Trump we risk the destruction of the American world order, and four years of degradation of any common ideas of political honesty and common decency. That hurts the whole world, and presents a non-zero chance of ending it. I’ll go with Pence over Trump any day.
Video Transcript after the jump…
Hello all. So when can we Impeach Donald Trump?
This may seem a bit unfair to some of you, but after Trump’s day two performance, I think it’s a question worth asking. Impeachment is an interesting thing. The proceedings have only happened twice, and the President survived both times. Nixon resigned before he could be impeached.
So the first thing to know is that as of today, January 24th, impeachment is impossible. The Constitution says you can Impeach a president for some specific things…
You could argue that Trump is already in violation of the emolument clause of the constitution or something else, but it doesn’t matter. Impeachment is not a legal process. It’s a political one.
Congress does the impeaching, and Trump’s Republican party owns the congress. The House of Representatives, the lower house, puts together the articles of Impeachment, which are kind of like charges in a criminal trial. Then the Senate holds the trial.
It’s important to note that Trump doesn’t have to commit any special crime to get impeached. Clinton’s impeachment did hang to some degree on the legal question of perjury, but Andrew Johnson’s wasn’t about the law at all. I won’t burden you with the details, but Johnson was impeached because he disagreed with the congress on how to handle the Reconstruction of the South after the Civil War. It was a political question. “High Crimes and Misdemeanors” can mean pretty much anything.
Which is where this gets interesting. To impeach Donald Trump before 2018, we have to convince Republicans to get behind it. There are already a few Republicans who would be open to this. But not many. Most are blinded by visions of enacting their party platform, and many are just plain scared of Trump. To change Republican’s minds, Trump needs to have a lot of bad days.
Trump’s second day as president was a very bad day. There was White House Press secretary Sean Spicer’s ridiculous first performance, where he flat out lied about the attendance for Trump’s inauguration. It was bullying, and his facts simply weren’t facts.
This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration. PERIOD! Both in person and around the globe.
Worse, it made the Trump administration look petty, weak and easily distracted.
Then there was Trump’s performance at the CIA. This was supposed to be about building bridges to an intelligence community he’s publicly attacked over the past few weeks. Instead, In front of wall dedicated to CIA officers who lost their lives on the job, he delivered a typically vulgar and ego-drenched campaign speech. There was a lot to complain about here, but for me, this passage was the worst…
“I feel young. When I was young… I think we’re all young… When I was young we were always winning things in this country. We’d win with trade. We’d win with wars. And then after that, it’s like, we haven’t won anything. We don’t win anymore. The old expression “To the victor belong the spoils” Remember I always used to say… keep the oil… I wasn’t a fan of Iraq. I didn’t want to go into Iraq, but I will tell you, when we were in, we got out wrong. And I always said, in addition to that, keep the oil.
Now I said it for economic reasons, but if you think about it Mike, if we kept the oil you probably wouldn’t have ISIS because that’s where they made their money in the first place, so we should have kept the oil, but OK…
Maybe you’ll have another chance
Maybe you’ll have another chance
Maybe you’ll have another chance”
If there’s anything that can unite Iraq’s Kurds, Shias and Sunnis, it’s the suggestion that we’re going to get it right and take their oil this time. We’re probably about to put more boots on the ground in Iraq, and saying shit like this is mind-blowingly irresponsible. It basically guarantees more dead US soldiers.
This is the kind of thing that might give Republicans pause. If we want to impeach President Trump we need to create more of these WTF moments. I’ve got a strategy that can help with this. Trump’s beloved twitter feed is appalling. But how many of his supporters are even aware of it? Trump supporters skew old. I’d imagine that the Venn Diagram looks something like this. If you’ve got Trump supporters in your family, why not just send them a link to his Twitter? They don’t need to sign up for twitter to read it. I can’t think of a better tool for chipping away Trump supporters than giving them a direct line to how he actually thinks…
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