“The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Impeachment” Becomes An Ethics Fiasco: Ten Observations


In this post, “Nancy And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Impeachment “—could it really have just been 12 days ago?—I wrote in part,

Nancy Pelosi came right out and said that her objective in impeaching Trump this time was to stop him from running again. That’s not what the Founders designed impeachment for. She’s admitting that this Congress and her party regard impeachment as just one more political stunt, like ripping up the State of the Union message, boycotting the inauguration, or nominating Kamala Harris. Worse, unless the Senate agrees to rush through a trial the way Pelosi rushed through the impeachment, Trump will already be out of office and a private citizen before he can be convicted—which he wouldn’t be anyway. The Constitution speaks of impeachment and the Senate trial as a means of removing a President, not as a device to say “I hate you! Ooooh, I hate you to pieces!” to an ex-President.

Thus it’s a joke. The first impeachment was a dud. Trump hasn’t been embarrassed, but Congress and the news media have been embarrassed and exposed as fools.

Not that they hadn’t been exposed as fools already.

But “Wait!”—as they say on infomercials–“There’s more!” And it only gets worse:

1. Since the impeachment vote in the House, further investigation of the attack on the Capitol and its time-line has shown that many of the participants had planned to storm the building in advance, in fact had begun preparations before the President addressed the protesters, and had begun to take action while the President was speaking on January 6. Thus the House’s impeachment theory that the President had incited a riot by providing a lit match to an obvious powder-keg is unsustainable n the facts: the powder had already been lit. Nor do the facts support the argument that the President intended to spark a riot, since the words of his speech never suggested violence or alluded to it.

2. Of course, if the House had not been rushing to complete its spite impeachment before Joe Biden’s Inauguration, some or all of this might have been addressed, perhaps allowing cooler heads—nah, there are no cooler heads among House Democrats, as a statistically unlikely as that is. Never mind. But Pelosi and her own insurrectionists decided to skip due process in Bogus Impeachment, The Sequel. No defense was permitted, not witnesses were called. This time, though Professor Turley had again articulated why the impeachment theory was legal and constitutional nonsense, he wasn’t permitted to explain it to the members and the public.

3. It was as unethically and irresponsibly a partisan stunt as Washington, D.C. has ever seen, which is quite an accomplishment, but a double handful of NeverTrump Republicans tried to grandstand by joining the sham. They claimed to be doing so on principle, which is hilarious on its face: a principled breach of Due Process, Constitutional standards and reality, based on emotion. Rep. Liz Cheney, the most prominent of the breakaway GOP group, has seen the backlash from constituents in Wyoming pretty much guarantee the end of her once promising political career. Good. Her vote for impeachment was irresponsible.

4. Cheney apparently couldn’t figure out the distinction between an official action to remove her party’s President and symbolic disapproval of his behavior, such as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s resignation in protest. Ethics Alarms also criticized Trump’s personal public involvement in the controversy over 2020 election irregularities as reckless and dangerous. He should have been rebuked; if I had been in his Cabinet, I might have resigned too. I wish some high-level Administration officials had resigned over some of the President’s earlier tantrums and excesses. But being a jerk is not a high crime or misdemeanor.

5.Why some Republicans, even Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, thought for a millisecond that it would benefit them or the party to try to convict the no-longer-President in a Senate trial is a mystery to me…or maybe not; maybe they really are that stupid. Cheney’s fall, however, seems to have gotten their attention.

The Hill tells us:

Republicans say the chances that former President Trump will be convicted in an impeachment trial are plummeting … Only five or six Republican senators at the most seem likely to vote for impeachment, far fewer than the number needed, GOP sources say.… They have observed the angry response to House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), who is facing calls to resign from the House GOP leadership team after voting last week to impeach Trump.

Those five or six, if it is that many (I doubt it), will be planning on retiring, I assume. Rasmussen, the only pollster who was close to correct in tracking the election results, reports that Trump’s approval ration is at an all time high, at 51%, and that’s after a second impeachment and his embarrassing post-defeat histrionics. Presidents with positive approval ratings don’t get convicted in the Senate; so far in out history, neither do those who are unpopular. The Senate vote won’t convict Trump unless they use mail-in ballots and have them counted in Detroit.

6. The Glenn Reynolds long-running line about the Democrats, “All they have to do is not act crazy, and they can’t even do that!,” now applies to Republicans. The Democrats, against all predictions (though not mine) nearly lost the House in November, even while their Presidential candidate was winning. Gee, I wonder why? Republicans got hammered in the Congressional elections after impeaching Clinton, and they had a valid case. Democrats apparently didn’t read George Santayana, and with this second, even worse impeachment, its clear they haven’t read him yet. Republicans should be able to mount a “red wave” in two years, but alienating Trump voters is not the way to do it.

The ethics passwords are “incompetence” and “arrogance.”

7. Professor emeritus at Harvard Law School Alan Dershowitz wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “Now that Donald Trump is a private citizen, the Senate should dismiss the article of impeachment against him for lack of jurisdiction.” Should? They have to. There is no plausible argument that a process described in the Constitution as applicable only to a President can be used against a private citizen.

Yesterday, we learned that Chief Justice Roberts “declined” to preside over the Senate trial, if it occurs. Well if the trial were constitutional, he couldn’t decline: he has to be there. If this doesn’t signal that SCOTUS is ready and waiting to declare the whole farce a kangaroo court with no force or validity, I don’t know what would. As Ann Althouse wrote yesterday of Roberts’ decision,

I think it means John Roberts arrived at the view that there was no occasion for the Chief Justice to preside, and therefore he has a duty to refrain from participating. That’s not ducking and it’s not skipping. When he presides, it’s because he must, and when he refrains, it’s because he must. It’s based on an interpretation of law.

I think so too. Meanwhile, ancient, hyper-partisan Democratic Senator Pat Leahy is going to serve as the “judge.” Oh, yes, that looks fair.

This impeachment fiasco is turning into a “who can act crazier” competition between the two parties.

8. Dershowitz also wrote,

…. Beyond the constitution, there are strong policy and historical reasons an incoming administration shouldn’t seek recriminations against its predecessor.”

Of course. Ethics Alarms has discussed this many times. The Democrats just don’t give a damn. (But it has been President Trump who has undermined vital “norms” of democracy.…)

9. Jonathan Turley, who agrees with Dershowitz that the trial is unconstitutional, suggests:

[Trump] must first decide whether he wants to sit for trial at all. He can legitimately argue that a private citizen cannot be impeached and the Senate cannot remove a person from office who has already left.… Trump can treat the proceeding as an extra-constitutional act because he is no longer subject to removal. If the Senate were to convict, he would have standing to challenge any disqualification from future federal offices.

Except that the Senate won’t convict; Turley is giving us classroom hypotheticals. I don’t understand why the trial should or would be allowed to proceed at all.

10. Perhaps Ethics Alarms needs a code or nickname for this point, as I feel I will get tired of spelling it out very quickly. President Biden mouthed comforting words about wanting to end division and encourage unity, but his action have pointed in the opposite direction repeatedly in less than a week in office. Not calling a halt to the impeachment fiasco will be another example, and one of signature significance.

31 thoughts on ““The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Impeachment” Becomes An Ethics Fiasco: Ten Observations

  1. So, what happens next? If my hypothesis is true, that Democrats cannot feel vindicated until and unless they absolutely crush and destroy Trump, what happens if the Senate rejects the trial? What happens if the Senate holds the trial, and does not vote to remove Trump? What happens even if the Senate does vote to remove Trump? I cannot imagine any of these scenarios will truly manifest the desired satisfaction. So what will be the game plan then? I’m sure we’ll see calls to charge citizen Trump with various crimes, and I’d even wager there will be someone who does file charges. But what then? Is there an exit plan for when the Democrats will finally say, “Enough!”? I have a feeling that Trump stands as a bulwark, and as long Democrats have not destroyed him, they will continue to batter themselves against him. But once he is destroyed, then their hate will turn on everyone who supported Trump. And I mean that from a standpoint that all the viciousness we’ve seen so far towards Trump supporters is but a pittance compared to what will be unleashed once Trump is dealt with.

    On the other hand, I don’t have a great track record for making predictions. I did tell my coworkers back in 2016 that whoever was elected, Clinton or Trump, would be a one-term president. I just did not envision events turning out the way they did. So maybe once this impeachment fiasco has passed, we’ll have a short return to “normal”, whatever that is, until 2023, after the Republicans take back the House and the Senate and then try to impeach Biden. Yay.

    • “I don’t have a great track record for making predictions.”

      Don’t be so hard on yourself Ryan. It’s Tough To Make Predictions, Especially About The Future–Y. Berra

      I’m on record in late 1979 claiming that Ronald Reagan would never even be nominated, much less elected.

      Then there’s five years ago: “The only way Donald Trump will see the inside of the Oval Office would be on a WH tour.”

      • Or as I moaned, after having voted for HRC in 2016, “The Republicans could have run a low grade artichoke and defeated Hillary.”

        “Surprise, surprise, surprise.”

        • Oh, I’m very sure that none of the alternatives to Trump would have beaten Hillary, AND that the GOP would have lost both the House and Senate. One more reason Mitch owes Trump a lot more loyalty than he has shown since the election.

    • I think the message being sent is: “Hey, you! If you are thinking of running for office, don’t even dare to challenge or upset the power structure. Look what happened to Trump. He has a ton of money to defend himself but we will still destroy him. You? You will be annihilated faster than you can think about it.”


      • That’s been the message from the professional pols and their cohort of enablers ever since November 8 and 9 of 2016. “Don’t even fucking THINK about running against life long political hacks. We run this show. Butt out! You think we’re going to willingly let loose of all the money flowing around the federal government? Hah! Not on your life.”

  2. Three thoughts:

    1) The Democrats theory is the first instance of the Ante Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc fallacy (outside of the Series Finale of Star Trek, The Next Generation, where it was a plot device).

    2) If Trump were really aggressive, he would seek a Writ of Prohibition against Leahy.

    3) If he were to proceed with #2, perhaps the most relevant case on its facts would be Marbury v. Madison.


  3. What seems to be the plan is that Trump will not be convicted, the Democrats don’t have the votes. However, they only need a simple majority to sentence him. So, they won’t convict him, but they will bar him from office. This ‘punishment despite acquittal’ is popular in Great Britain now.

    I don’t think Trump would have a successful challenge in the Supreme Court. I think Roberts would just say that they don’t have jurisdiction and allow the punishment to stand. Then comes the fun part. The next time a party controls both houses of Congress and the opposing party wins the presidency, Congress can impeach, not convict, but bar from office! If only the Democrats had thought of this earlier, they could have prevented Trump from becoming President in the first place.

    • 1. They can’t bar him from office without a conviction.
      2. I don’t think Trump would have a successful challenge in the Supreme Court. I think Roberts would just say that they don’t have jurisdiction and allow the punishment to stand. Huh? If the Senate has no jurisdiction—and SCOTUS makes those calls all the time—then the punishment CAN’T stand.

      • You are thinking logically. Remember, these are people who are trying to twist words to get the outcome they want. They shouldn’t be able to try him after his term expires either, but they are going to. Why do you expect them to follow normal convention for anything else? Logic doesn’t play into this. They are taking the most advantageous interpretation of the wording they can. They don’t have the votes to convict, but they do have the votes to punish, so, punish him without the conviction! Don’t even have a vote on conviction, just vote to bar him from future office. Sure that is completely illogical and against the spirit of the law, but you could get any of the law professors from the article below along with those 100+ law school deans mentioned to back that up.


        As for the second part, the Supreme Court just ruled on the Emoluments clause and what did they say? They said that it doesn’t matter because he isn’t President anymore. They didn’t rule in his favor, they didn’t say he didn’t break the law because it would enrage the leftist mob that they are hiding from. I think the Supreme Court would just refuse to take this case for the same reason. However, because they didn’t rule in his favor, the judgement of the Senate would still be in effect in the eyes of the Democrats. Again, stop thinking logically. Try to think like Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Shumer, or Maxine Waters.

        You cannot reason your way through this. You must think illogically, like a Junior High School Student Council who wants to allow their friends to go off campus for lunch, but not anyone else.

        FYI: I am currently on medication that is affecting my brain. The scary thing is that I NOTICE that it is affecting the way my brain works. Expect some odd comments for the next month. It should be fun.

        • But they did rule in his favor: they threw out the lawsuits. That’s a win. The Senate cannot act against the Constitution or the Court, and the Court must refuse to sanction or allow either branch to break the law. Under your theory, why couldn’t the House or Senate vote to lock a citizen up?

          • That is my point. I wouldn’t put it past them to do that. I am NOT saying this is legal or appropriate. I am saying these are the lengths of illegality and autocracy that I think they will stoop to.

    • But, Michael R., we don’t have a parliamentary system where the legislature can issue a “no confidence” vote, effectively killing someone’s political career. The best place for the supposed vote is when and if Trump runs again. The citizenry can vote for him and his party (assuming he forms a third party).

      What should terrify everyone, Republican, Democrats, conservative, liberals, leftists, and everyone in between is this impeachment action is purely political and is intended to thwart the democratic process. Assuming Trump runs again for office, the Establishment is telling him he will not, under any circumstances, be welcomed into the fold. Ever. It is also telling his supports, and those like mine own self, that we had better obey the power structure or expect to be dismantled from limb to limb.


      • Did it just take you this long to realize the second paragraph? That point was made clear in 2016. Donald Trump has been told he won’t be accepted into the fold his entire life. He spent much of his life trying to get that acceptance and I think he was on the verge of getting it when Epstein approached him. He lost all hope of that when he threw Epstein out and banned Epstein from his properties.

        • I am a little confused but the backhanded keyboard slap. I did read you post. I apologize if I am being obtuse but I reread your comment and don’t see what you mean and why there seems to be an offense taken. Please explain.

          I am curious about your position that Trump got hosed because he jettisoned Epstein. That adds a whole different level of intrigue. As much of a rogue as Trump is, he doesn’t seem to be the kind of guy who cavorts with teenage girls. From what I have heard and read, he visited Epstein’s little Fantasy Island but all of the women have stated that Trump did not partake of their “offerings”. If he had, every last one 0f them would be selling kiss and tell books.


  4. 5. “The Senate vote won’t convict Trump unless they use mail-in ballots and have them counted in Detroit.”
    No need to single out the Motor City; Atlanta or Philly could do just as fraudulent a job.
    10. The ”Unity Disingenuity?”

  5. If I were representing Trump, I’d advise him not to show up at the trial, not to send any lawyers and not mount a defense. Maybe, maybe send a brief letter saying the Senate has no jurisdiction. The Senate could then try Trump in absentia. That would look really good. Kind of the cherry on top of the Stalinist show trial sundae.

  6. Remember, unity is not necessarily a virtue or desirable and neither is peace. If the alternative to disunity is the destruction or subjugation of half the population, disunity is desirable. If the alternative to war is genocide, peace is not the preferable option.

    Absolute pacifism is the ideology of people afraid of making hard decisions. Unity is something dictators and autocrats demand.

  7. “Perhaps Ethics Alarms needs a code or nickname for this point, as I feel I will get tired of spelling it out very quickly. ”

    Just call it the Unity (or DisUnity) Files. Everytime an administration official or Democratic officeholder acts in a way designed to foment disunity, note it. It shouldn’t take long, at this rate, to get a lengthy list.

    All of this depresses me. I shouldn’t have picked this week to read the new book I got for Christmas, “The Zealot and the Emancipator: John Brown, Abraham Lincoln and the Struggle for American Freedom” by H.W. Brands.

  8. I’ve seen the idea floated that, in 2022, Trump should run for Congress or the Senate in a Republican-safe seat being vacated by a retiring member. THAT would be interesting.

    • He won’t run for anything; he’s more powerful from the sidelines and as a kingmaker. But a third party would give everything to the Democrats, so the GOP dast not disrespect him too far.

  9. #10 Maybe you could add a tag along the line of Althouse. She has “Civility Bullshit”, you can have “Unity Bullshit”. Although, if you think about it, Unity BS can be a subset of Civility BS.

  10. I understand that there’s no legal or factual basis for this, and it’ll probably be an exercise in rationalization hunting, but I’m going to provide an unpopular, blazing hot take: I hope the senate convicts.

    What happens if they convict? The Democrats get their “win”, it’s performative, to a point, because they obviously aren’t removing him from office, he’s already gone… But it does stop him from running in 2024. Maybe. Probably?

    That’s all academic, because the senate isn’t actually going to convict, but the idea of Trump running again in 2024 frankly scares me worse than the idea of Joe winning in 2020 did.. Despite having policy prescriptions I could generally get behind, despite the excellence of his judicial nominations, despite the effectiveness of his administration…. Trump’s administration was a noisy gongshow crammed inside a dumpster fire. It’s noisy, distracting, and people around him, good people, are getting burned. While it’s not fair to Trump personally, the best thing for conservatives, The Republican Party, and America is for him to go away. Enough is enough.

    But I think he’s fundamentally incapable of doing that on his own. He just set up “The Office of The Former President” out of Palm Beach, where he plans to remain involved in politics. If that were Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama days after Trump was inaugurated, we would have been shitting bricks: It’s not fair, it’s not right, it might not be unconstitutional, but it’s loud and tacky as hell, so it’s right up Trump’s alley. As much as Biden’s calls for unity are hollow and facially absurd, we do need some kind of path back towards a functional dialogue. That cannot happen with Trump yowling in the background.

    So yes, while everyone is already soiling themselves doing all kinds of things that are stupid, wrong, and otherwise lame, I hope we go one step further down the trail of filth and do a good thing the worst way possible and once and for all remove Trump from the public discourse.

    • I half agree with you: it would be a disaster if Trump ran again, but it’s not going to happen, and allowing a deadly precedent and the Democrats to be successful impeaching on the basis of free speech and no “crime” is a cure worse than the disease. And to allow the Senate to engage in unconstitutional acts aimed at a citizen is just one more boost to the totalitarianism the Democrats are already flirting with. That we don’t need.

      Besides, you can’t get there from here. A conviction will be over-turned. Without the conviction, the disqualification can’t happen. If EITHER occurred, the GOP should just dissolve. &5 million people will be pissed off, and with good reason.

      Each year after 70 is a crapshoot, and after 75, it’s more than that. Trump in four years, Trump may be broke, divorced, senile, or sick.A stronger candidate for the GOP is likely to emerge, and maybe many.

      I welcome a Trumpless political landscape, but not your way.

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