GOP impeachment logic (or lack thereof)

 

I’m watching with a bit of awe as members of the GOP engage in amazing contortion to continue to support the president in the ongoing impeachment inquiry by the House. I felt the need to create a running list of some of the things I’m hearing. Some are paraphrased, but I’ll throw in some quoted stuff as needed. If I use this like I want, I’ll keep editing this post to add new an interesting twists and turns in the logic (or lack thereof) I keep hearing.

Attempt to undo 2016. The one that gets me the most is the claim that the impeachment inquiry (and any resulting impeachment) is anti-democratic and is only attempting to undue the results of the 2016 election. This claim was in the letter sent from the White House to democrats in congress, and a search for “impeachment undo 2016” will bring up plenty of other op-ed pieces as well as quotes from Trump supporters. I don’t blame them for using this. It’s the same thing that Nadler and Pelosi and Schumer said about the impeachment of Clinton in the 1990s. But it just doesn’t make sense to me. Impeachment doesn’t overturn the results of an election, and it doesn’t change the fact that Donald J. Trump is the 45th President of the United States. Whoever comes next, in whatever way that happens (assuming there is still a United States of America), will be the 46th President of the United States, not the replacement 45th President. The election will not be undone, and the results stand. It’s not like Hillary Clinton becomes president if Trump is impeached and removed from office. It sounds so silly to me. Here’s the thing: I understand that people HATE Hillary. I don’t share that hate, and I think it’s terribly misguided, but people hate her nonetheless. Keeping that in mind, I understand why people supported Trump in the election. Again, I think that was a foolish choice, but I can’t ignore their motivation. But, at this point, why not say that Trump served his purpose, he kept Hillary out of office, and now let’s move on and end this insanity? Why don’t more people feel that way?

It’s not a crime because Trump provided the transcript. There are plenty out there who repeatedly say that Trump has provided the transcript, and never would have done that if there was evidence of a crime on that transcript. We’re talking about a man who joked (only half joked, it turns out) that he could shoot a man in the middle of fifth avenue and not lose support. Brazen criminal acts are still criminal acts. Being Brazen about it doesn’t make it any less punishable. Although releasing the transcript (which wasn’t a transcript, by the way) makes it seem as if Trump may not think he did anything wrong, but the transcript (that isn’t a transcript) makes it clear that Trump asked a foreign president to do him a favor by investigating a political rival. There are some who are saying there’s nothing wrong with this, but when there was a discussion of the Obama administration going after political opponents, Ted Cruz, without any evidence that this happened, asked AG Barr, in May 2019, if this would be an an abuse of power. Watch below, and jump to 5:29 for the part that matters here:

Barr is specifically asked if it’s an abuse of power to use the Department of Justice to investigate a political rival. So, I guess there’s a technicality here: Trump is using his office to ask a foreign power to investigate a political rival. Perhaps Barr would have said that’s OK, as long as the DoJ isn’t involved. But in the transcript (that isn’t a transcript), it’s clear that Trump is asking the Ukrainian president to work with the Attorney General to investigate Biden. It’s hard to argue that we’re not seeing exactly what Cruz was accusing Obama of doing (without evidence that Obama did anything). I wonder if Barr would like to clarify his remarks now.

There was no quid pro quo. WHO CARES??? This is a classic straw man fallacy. Quid pro quo is NOT a requirement for any of this to be impeachable. That’s what straw man argument is. Set the bar at a place that it shouldn’t have been set in the first place. Trump asked a foreign leader to investigate a political rival. That is a clear abuse of power. It doesn’t matter if it was preconditioned on something that Trump was supposed to give that foreign leader (although that kind of quid pro quo would make it even worse), it’s an abuse of power either way.

Straw Man

Yet, that’s what we’re hearing being argued now. That Trump shouldn’t be impeached because there’s no solid evidence of quid pro quo. On the one hand, perhaps what people are saying is that it’s OK for a president to ask a foreign leader to investigate his political rivals, as long as he doesn’t make foreign aid decisions based on the willingness or unwillingness to act, but I don’t think that’s what they were saying when the DoJ was investigating Trump in 2016. They were saying that it was Obama’s fault, and that it was an abuse of power (see Cruz/Barr above). Of course, there’s no evidence that Obama was behind the investigation, and there were clear reasons for law enforcement to be concerned, but that doesn’t seem to matter to those spouting off about this stuff now.
But but but…Hunter Biden!!!! This one is really strange. Sure, Hunter Biden very likely, almost 100% certainly benefited from being Joe Biden’s son (I say “almost” because, as a scientist, I realize that I can’t do the experiment, and that Hunter Biden might be even MORE successful than he’s been if his father were a painter in Dover Delaware). The same is true for Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump Jr, Eric Trump, Chelsea Clinton, Meghan McCain, Mika Brzezinski, Kiefer Sutherland, Kate Hudson, Angelia Jolie, or Ben Stiller. With the exception of a few earlier entries on this list, they are all super talented people who are doing their jobs very well. They have earned their keep, but it’s hard to argue that having famous parents didn’t help them get a foot in the door. So, yes, Hunter Biden benefited from his name and who his father is, but that seems to be where things stop being the least bit fishy. Hunter Biden was involved with a company that was being investigated (for stuff they did BEFORE Hunter Biden joined them). There was a prosecutor who wasn’t being hard enough on corruption, and the Obama administration, with the support of the international community, leveraged loan guarantees for Ukraine to get them to fire the deadbeat prosecutor. Here’s the thing, this didn’t in any way help Hunter Biden or his company avoid investigation. The prosecutor who was removed wasn’t investigating enough and the goal was to replace him with somebody who would investigate MORE, not LESS. If anything, the administration’s actions made it MORE likely, not less likely, that the company Hunter Biden was working for would be investigated. It just doesn’t make sense.

All that said, even if the Hunter Biden fairy tale were true, and Biden used the power of the administration to meddle in a foreign country’s criminal investigations to remove his sone from danger, that would be wrong. It would be AS wrong as abusing the power of the White House to get a foreign country to investigate a political opponent. By arguing that what Biden did was wrong, they’re making the case that what Trump did was equally wrong (and we have a record of the call that says he did it, with no alternate explanation of a way it can be seen as not asking a foreign power to investigate a political rival). If Hunter and Joe Biden are guilty, penalize them AND Trump, right? But in their strange world, two wrongs seem to make a right. I just don’t get it.

The impeachment isn’t legitimate because it’s one-sided. This one is coming right from Trump’s legal team, but is being echoed all over the right-leaning airwaves. It was a key argument in the letter sent by the White House lawyers. The crux of the argument here is that Trump is being denied due process because he can’t defend himself. Well, these folks either don’t know jack shit about how things work, or they’re banking on the public not knowing jack shit about how things work. Granted, in our recent history, when there was movement toward impeachment, the House had two votes: one to formally begin impeachment proceedings, and a second on whether or not to impeach (Nixon resigned before the second vote, but there almost certainly would have been one that would have passed). Nancy Pelosi, for several reasons, has avoided that first vote. But there’s nothing other than president that requires it, and it doesn’t change anything in the way they are moving forward. It’s not as if the House can or will formally impeach without a vote. That’s simply not possible, and any “impeachment” under those circumstances would be ignored by the Senate, with good reason.

But here’s the thing, the accused NEVER gets to defend him or herself in the House’s stage of an impeachment. Never. It’s akin to a criminal investigation in the stages of a Grand Jury. When a prosecutor is seeking an indictment, the prosecutor takes the evidence to the Grand Jury and makes the case. There’s no back and forth, there’s no defense. The accused often doesn’t even know that there’s a discussion about the accusation. It’s ALWAYS one-sided. The point is for a jury (the Grand Jury) to hear the case against the accused. There can be witnesses. There can be evidence. There can be expert testimony. There can be a combination of all three. But there is no chance for the accused to defend him or herself against the allegations. The Grand Jury then makes one decision, is there enough evidence to charge the accused with a crime. If the answer is yes, then the accused is formally charged with the crime and the next step is a trial, during which the defendant has the chance to defend him/herself. In an impeachment, the House’s role is analogous to that of the Grand Jury, but much of the proceedings aren’t sealed or in private like Grand Jury decisions are, and the vote to impeach or not impeach is public record, unlike the secret vote that Grand Juries make. So when does an impeached president get to defend himself: when there’s a trial in the Senate. If the House votes to impeach (like indicting the accused), then the Senate holds a trial, with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court acting as the trial judge. But any version of crying foul because the House is acting in a one-sided manner is just crap. That’s the job of the House!!!

That’s all I’ve got for now…but, like I said, I’m hoping to update this as things come up. It’s going to be a bumpy ride for sure.

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