Plan T, the apparent plan to impeach President Trump for a crime he clearly did not commit, is arguably the worse of the various AUC-contrived removal plots, because it will do the most damage by far. Even the actual impeachment, the ridiculous Plan S, had little long-term effect, and the Democrats abandoned it even as a campaign issue. Even they didn’t take it seriously: like so much of the rest, it was just one more way to denigrate, obstruct and weaken the leader of their own nation. It was part of strategy, that’s all. As I wrote in Part I, this is different in kind:
Plan T must be recognized for what it is: an act of pure hate and vengeance, and a deliberate, calculated insult to Trump’s supporters as well as those citizens who believe that that their government should not behave like third-world failed state.
I admit it: I am angry about this, and if it occurs, I will not forget it or forgive it—and I do not consider myself one of the Trump supporters being ostentatiously slapped in the face. I am angry because this is not how the United States of America behaves towards its leaders. I know readers here are sick of me saying this, but I will say it again because it is true: the nation owes respect and debt of gratitude to every President of the United States, without exception, when they leave office, and that respect should continue to the end of their days, and throughout our history. That’s right, every single one of them, the skilled and less-than-skilled, the competent and incompetent, the best and the worst of them, Andrew Johnson as well as Lincoln, Nixon as well as Eisenhower, the Bushes as well as Reagan, Hoover as well as FDR, Carter, Clinton, Obama, and yes, Donald Trump.
The job was always a killing one and a near impossible, one, and it has only become more difficult and unpleasant. Taking the job is an act of patriotism, and enduring it is an act of courage and character. No President has been treated as atrociously by so much of the public, the opposing party, his own party and the news media as Donald Trump, and it is remarkable that he accomplished as mach as he did under continuous attack. Nearly every other President has been accorded a “honeymoon,” the occasional benefit of the doubt, the opportunity to just play the head of state and accept the pomp, ceremony and traditional acclaim that comes with it. Not President Trump. He was not permitted a peaceful inauguration, nor respectful audiences in Congress to his State of the Union messages, nor the pleasure of throwing out the first ball in the baseball season, nor the host role in the Kennedy Center Honors, nor even an invitation to attend state funerals. Yet President Trump buggered on, as Winston Churchill said, doing his best to try to fulfill his promises and do what in his view was in the best interests of America.
He has been kicked virtually every day of his four years in office, and now his repulsive, vindictive, thuggish foes want to kick him as he goes out the door.
The effort to lay lat weeks riot at the Capitol at Trump’s feet is too cynical and false to be tolerated. Professor Turley had a succinct summary of how disingenuous that is in his recent column in the Hill:
We have had four years of violent protests, including the attacks on federal buildings, members of Congress, and symbols of our democracy. Former Attorney General William Barr was heavily criticized for clearing Lafayette Square last year after protesters injured numerous law enforcement officers, were injured themselves, burned a historic building, caused property damage, and threatened to breach the White House grounds. There were violent riots during the inauguration of Donald Trump and a lethal assault on some Republican lawmakers playing softball. Indeed, this year started as last year ended, with attacks on federal buildings in Portland and other cities.
It is beyond hypocritical for the same people and party that largely encouraged, enables and rationalized these and more to now pretend to be shocked, call a single, particularly stupid and pointless riot at the Capitol a “threat to Democracy,” and to attempt to impeach the President for his role in it, which consisted of endorsing a Constitutionally protected protest. The true threat to Democracy has been ongoing for four years, and it was called “the resistance.” I find it hard to believe that the American people will accept such a transparent and Orwellian distortion of reality, but I know that I won’t.
If the Congress wants to censure President Trump or some other symbolic gesture, fine. As I have written here, it was inappropriate for the President to be challenging the validity of his defeat, even more so than it was for Hillary Clinton to challenge the validity of her defeat, by Trump. Doing so was, in sequence, predictable, irresponsible, dangerous, in many ways justified, and completely in character. I would not object to an official precedent being established holding that no matter how close or dubious an election is, challenges to the results must not be pronounced in public, by POTUS.
Impeachment on this basis, however, is pure lawlessness. Here’s Turley again in another column (this is his specialty, after all). The emphasis is mine:
‘“..Democrats are seeking to remove Trump on the basis of his remarks to supporters before the rioting at the Capitol. Like others, I condemned those remarks as he gave them, calling them reckless and wrong. I also opposed the challenges to electoral votes in Congress. But his address does not meet the definition for incitement under the criminal code. It would be viewed as protected speech by the Supreme Court.
When I testified in the impeachment hearings of Trump and Bill Clinton, I noted that an article of impeachment does not have to be based on any clear crime but that Congress has looked to the criminal code to weigh impeachment offenses. For this controversy now, any such comparison would dispel claims of criminal incitement. Despite broad and justified condemnation of his words, Trump never actually called for violence or riots. But he urged his supporters to march on the Capitol to raise their opposition to the certification of electoral votes and to back the recent challenges made by a few members of Congress. Trump told the crowd “to peacefully and patriotically make your voices be heard.”….
The legal standard for violent speech is found with Clarence Brandenburg v. Ohio. As a free speech advocate, I criticized that 1969 case and its dangerously vague standard. But even it would treat the remarks of Trump as protected under the First Amendment. With that case, the government is able to criminalize speech “directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.” There was no call for lawless action by Trump. Instead, there was a call for a protest at the Capitol.
Moreover, violence was not imminent, as the vast majority of the tens of thousands of protesters were not violent before the march, and most did not riot inside the Capitol. Like many violent protests in the last four years, criminal conduct was carried out by a smaller group of instigators. Capitol Police knew of the march but declined an offer from the National Guard since they did not view violence as likely.
So Congress is now seeking an impeachment for remarks covered by the First Amendment. It would create precedent for the impeachment of any president blamed for violent acts of others after using reckless language. What is worse are those few cases that would support this type of action. The most obvious is the 1918 prosecution of socialist Eugene Debs, who spoke against the draft in World War One and led figures like Woodrow Wilson to declare him a “traitor to his country.”
Debs was arrested and charged with sedition, a new favorite term for Democrats to denounce Trump and Republicans who doubted the victory of Joe Biden.In 1919, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote for a unanimous bench in one of the most infamous decisions to issue from the Supreme Court. It dismissed the free speech rights for Debs and held it was sufficient that his words had the “natural tendency and reasonably probable effect” of deterring people from supporting the international conflict.
That decision was a disgrace, but Democrats are now arguing something even more extreme as the basis for impeachment. Under their theory, any president could be removed for rhetoric that is seen to have the “natural tendency” to encourage others to act in a riotous fashion. Even a call for supporters to protest peacefully could not be a defense. Such a standard would allow for a type of vicarious impeachment that attributes conduct of third parties to any president for the purposes of removal.
That, of course, just makes the argument that the impeachment is unjustified. Pelosi and her party made it clear with the first impeachment, as well as in their rhetoric, that little details like that don’t matter. First they wanted to remove Trump because “he isn’t fit to be President,” though that’s the voters’ call. Then they wanted to impeach him because they could, so they did. Now, they want to rush an impeachment through out of pure hate and vengeance.
Turley, in yet another post on the topic, observes,
“This impeachment not only threatens principles underlying impeachment but also free speech in our Constitution. As with court packing, this is not the time for good people to stand silent even in the face of such unhinged anger. Indeed, Democrats may loathe the day that they embraced the concept of a “snap impeachment” — a contradiction in constitutional terms. Impeachments are designed for deliberative, not impulsive, acts.“
I will pledge this: if the Democrats go through with their “snap impeachment,” I will do everything in my power to make sure they rue the day.
Finally, Turley made an observation that I was going to post on, but I’ll give him credit since I’m relying on his posts so much already. He said that it was profoundly disappointing that Joe Biden hasn’t but the brakes on this terrible idea by his party’s Congress. He concluded,
He should have asked Congress to focus on those issues and not an impeachment that will not succeed in removal but will succeed in undermining our constitutional system….Biden could have refused to go along with this plan or to remain silent in the face of a clearly improper use of the impeachment power. He could still have condemned the speech and the President, as many have done. He could then have asked for his party not to do greater damage by rampaging through the Constitution to try to remove Trump in his final days. That was a presidential moment missed by the President-elect.
As he often is, Turley was too measured. Biden’s failure to stop his party from an attempted impeachment designed to inflame much of the nation proves that his somber words about “healing” and being a President for all Americans were just cover for what he and his party intends, which is to crush and punish all opposition if they can, beginning with Donald Trump. This was Biden’s first test of judgment, character and leadership, and he flunked.
Nobody should be surprised.