Conclusion To The Written Statement of Prof. Jonathan Turley: “The Impeachment Inquiry Into President Donald J. Trump: The Constitutional Basis For Presidential Impeachment”

Jonathan Turley ended his epic testimony before the House Judiciary Committee with a flourish. His whole statement was remarkable, leaving no reasonable argument for impeachment standing—but then the now-insatiable desire to undo the 2016 election has never been rational, and it has relied, despicably, on the historical and legal ignorance of the vast majority of the American people. Turley provided an opportunity for responsible citizens to educate themselves: his language was easy and clear, and there were no pompous or especially academic turns of phrase. Nonetheless, few will read or watch the whole thing, allowing the news media, which has exceeded all previous villainy in this three-year long fiasco, to distort and minimize his patriotic achievement. To the degree that they succeed, it is do the detriment of the nation, and its future. Somehow, Turley makes this clear as well, yet does so without the kind of alienating condemnation that I, in his position, would be unable to resist.

No doubt about it, the professor is a far better scholar and advocate than I am, and a brilliantly talented teacher as well. Still, he made me feel good about the analysis I have been presenting here since 2016. I have studied Presidential history for a shockingly long time; I know my impeachment history well, and observed two of the three previous inquiries up close, live and carefully. I have been certain, certain, from the beginning that what we have seen here is an unprecedented crypto-coup, for virtually all the reasons Professor Turley explains. I’m glad to have the legal authority and the meticulous tracking of where the inquisition ran off the rails, but Turley validated the analysis I have  given readers here. That came as a relief and a confirmation.

It was naturally a special pleasure that the professor ended his testimony by referencing the scene in the video above, from “A Man for All Seasons,” my favorite ethics moment in any movie, and the clip most often used on Ethics Alarms. He also referenced the story of the Republican Senators who turned on their party and voted to acquit President Andrew Johnson, for me the most memorable chapter of “Profiles in Courage,” the book that introduced me to the topic of ethics when I was 12 years old. Turley quotes one of the Senators who was only slightly mentioned by credited author John Fitzgerald Kennedy, but it’s a stirring quote, and damn any politician or citizen who ignores its message.

Lyman Trumbull (R- Ill.) explained fateful decision to vote against Johnson’s impeachment this way:

“Once set the example of impeaching a President for what, when the excitement of the hour shall have subsided, will be regarded as insufficient causes … no future President will be safe who happens to differ with the majority of the House and two-thirds of the Senate …I tremble for the future of my country. I cannot be an instrument to produce such a result; and at the hazard of the ties even of friendship and affection, till calmer times shall do justice to my motives, no alternative is left me…”

Those who endanger the future of my country because of their unrestained anger, hate, confirmation bias, partisan loyalty, prejudice, need to conform, and yes, ignorance and their lack of education, are contemptible. Those who lead them in pursuit of power are worse.

[Turley’s entire statement, with footnotes, is here. The Ethics Alarms edited version is here (Part I); here (PartII); here (Part III); here (Part IV), and here (Part V.) The video is here.]

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V. CONCLUSION

Allow me to be candid in my closing remarks. I get it. You are mad. The President is mad. My Democratic friends are mad. My Republican friends are mad. My wife is mad. My kids are mad. Even my dog is mad . . . and Luna is a golden doodle and they are never mad. We are all mad and where has it taken us? Will a slipshod impeachment make us less mad or will it only give an invitation for the madness to follow in every future administration?

That is why this is wrong. It is not wrong because President Trump is right. His call was anything but “perfect” and his reference to the Bidens was highly inappropriate. It is not wrong because the House has no legitimate reason to investigate the Ukrainian controversy. The use of military aid for a quid pro quo to investigate one’s political opponent, if proven, can be an impeachable offense.

It is not wrong because we are in an election year. There is no good time for an impeachment, but this process concerns the constitutional right to hold office in this term, not the next.

No, it is wrong because this is not how an American president should be impeached. For two years, members of this Committee have declared that criminal and impeachable acts were established for everything from treason to conspiracy to obstruction. However, no action was taken to impeach. Suddenly, just a few weeks ago, the House announced it would begin an impeachment inquiry and push for a final vote in just a matter of weeks. To do so, the House Intelligence Committee declared that it would not subpoena a host of witnesses who have direct knowledge of any quid pro quo. Instead, it will proceed on a record composed of a relatively small number of witnesses with largely second-hand knowledge of the position. The only three direct conversations with President Trump do not contain a statement of a quid pro quo and two expressly deny such a pre-condition. The House has offered compelling arguments why those two calls can be discounted by the fact that President Trump had knowledge of the underlying whistleblower complaint. However, this does not change the fact that it is moving forward based on conjecture, assuming what the evidence would show if there existed the time or inclination to establish it. The military aid was released after a delay that the witnesses described as “not uncommon” for this or prior Administrations. This is not a case of the unknowable. It is a case of the peripheral. The House testimony is replete with references to witnesses like John Bolton, Rudy Giuliani, and Mike Mulvaney who clearly hold material information.

To impeach a president on such a record would be to expose every future president to the same type of inchoate impeachment. Continue reading

Not Protesters, Just A Mob

Giving a mob the dignity and legitimacy of referring to them as “protesters” just encourages them. A prime example occurred two days ago in New Haven, at the traditional Harvard-Yale game, the culmination of the Ivy League college football season. Personally, I wouldn’t have crossed the street to attend the 136th edition of “The Game,” though I witnessed the most famous of the them all, 1968’s 29-29 tie. Nonetheless, what a bunch of climate-addled demonstrators inflicted on a large group of students and alumni just trying to have a good time enjoying football, traditions, nostalgia and camaraderie  should not be romanticized. The “protesters” are arrogant, disrespectful and anti-democratic jerks. Boola-Boola.

A large mob of Yale Bowl spectators rushed the field at halftime, demanding that Harvard and Yale divest themselves of investments in fossil fuel and energy companies, delaying the start of the second half by nearly an hour, and causing the game to finish in near-darkness. Students from both schools, who didn’t care who they hurt or inconvenienced, rushed to midfield as soon the Yale band finished performing. ( At least they could have done it while the Yale band was performing…)The contest resumed after the Yale police issued 42 summonses for disorderly conduct. But the wasted hour threatened game’s finish:  the Yale Bowl lacks stadium lights, and the game went to double overtime. Yale won just before it became too dark to play.

The Ivy League referred to the protest as “regrettable.” and Yale said that while it “stands firmly for the right to free expression,” it added that “the exercise of free expression on campus is subject to general conditions, and we do not allow disruption of university events.”

So will Yale suspend or expel any of the mob? Of course not.

Protesters that set out to get attention by disrupting the lives of law-abiding citizens engaged in innocent activities are low-level terrorists. They aim to bypass democracy by creating implicit threats, hoping that their adversaries will surrender to just shut them up and avoid the annoyance. Continue reading

From The “Nah, There’s No Mainstream Media Bias!” Files: The Washington Post Plays Partisan Politics With A Headline, And Can’t Even Do It Competently

Once again I will begin by saying that those who deny the partisan bias in the mainstream media against President Trump (among other topics) deserve contempt, either for their lack of perception of the obvious, or for their atrocious citizenship. The last metaphorical rotten journalism gun choking the public with smoke was September’s effort by the New York Times and two of its reporters to continue the smearing of Justice Kavanaugh, a story quickly buried by the Ukraine phone call impeachment plot. (I know, I know, I never got my promised post up on Kavanaugh II. But I will, if it takes until December…) The latest, this time by the Washington Post, is pure res ipsa loquitur. Let me break it down:

I. From the New York Post:

A “high value” target believed to be ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has died in a US raid in Syria Saturday, according to multiple news reports. Baghdadi was targeted in a strike by US Special Operations forces, three US officials told ABC News. One of those officials told ABC that it is believed the ISIS leader detonated a suicide vest as the ground raid was carried out in the northwestern city of Idlib. Defense Department officials told the White House Saturday it had “great confidence” that Baghdadi was killed in the raid, Newsweek reported, citing Army sources.

This is an undeniable achievement by U.S. forces of the type that the previous President claimed great credit for, and received from the news media without hesitation.

II. Reporting on the terrorist leader’s death, some headline writer at the Washington Post naively played it straight, as if the Post was a real, trustworthy news source. Referring to Al-Baghdadi as “Islamic State’s terrorist-in-Chief” in the obituary heading. Oooh, can’t have that! It will make casual readers assume that the Trump Administration did something praiseworthy!  So the foolishly objective headline writer was dispatched to the Kids Post section, and new headline was appended:

That means President Trump just killed a religious scholar! Oh, he may have been austere, but that’s no reason to kill him! Trump’s a monster!

This was so misleading and blatantly absurd that it didn’t remain for more than a couple of hours. Ultimately the Post settled on…

That’s better, but it omits the little detail that the man was a terrorist, like, for example, Osama Bin Laden. The first headline was the right one; unfortunately, it might have benefited President Trump.

III.  The Post was caught red-handed. Tweeted muck-raking journalist Glenn Greenwald, no friend he either to the mainstream media or President Trump…

Democrats, Washington Post, mainstream media…Greenwald properly lumps them all together. Charles Glasser wrote, Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Quiz: The Paintball Attack”

This is a record for Ethics Alarms; johnburger 2013’s Comment of the Day on the paintball shooting ethics quiz is being honored before it has gotten out of moderation. (Too many links will do that.) It’s also jumping ahead of several other COTD’s on the runway, and the reason is—in addition to the fact that I’ve been feeling lousy recently and catching up requires more time and energy than I’ve had left after trying to keep up with paying work and the daily personal catastrophes—that I find the story of the paintball siege and resulting death raises fascinating and perplexing issues that transcend easy answers in ethics and law.

Some will find jb2013’s (that’s my nickname for him; I hope it’s not presumptuous of me) post provocative. He was reacting to commenter Alizia’s speculation that such episodes are inevitably populated by citizens who are not, shall we say, the sharpest knives in the drawer. It is a topic that Americans are not supposed to talk about of think about: democracy means letting a lot of really, really, dumb, ignorant people having power over your life and influence over your culture and society. As in the short story : “The March of the Morons,” it is the duty of the minority that is not semi-literate, crude, ruled by passions and emotions and lacking the critical thinking and problem solving skills of my Jack Russell Terrier to keep the rest from hurting themselves and lousing up the country beyond repair, but to do so without infringing on their rights and liberty. In today’s dangerously polarized public, both sides regard the other as over-stocked with dolts, and both are, sadly, correct. A majority of Republicans think Barack Obama is a  Muslim. A majority of Democrats think we have just 12 years to address climate change or we are all doomed.  A majority of both believe in ghosts.Most can’t name ten Presidents, or identify half of the Bill of Rights, or tell you the significance of today and tomorrow to world history. No, I don’t think such people are qualified to vote, and the fewer of them who do, the better off we are. Sill, the Founders articulated principles that ensure them the right, and we have to respect that and do the best we can, relying on the “wisdom of crowds,” the phenomenon, unknown to George, James, Ben, Tom and the rest, that seems to make group decisions wiser that the composition of the groups would predict.

Contrary to all the Democratic Presidential candidates, Michelle Obama and others who maintain that America was never great, this has worked out rather well so far.

Watching cable TV is both educational and terrifying—just binge on true crime shows and listen to the interviews with family members and friends of the victims and perps. Observe the cretinous plots and actions of the adulterers, sociopaths, psychopaths,  and petty thieves, thugs, pugs, mugs and Methodists. I literally don’t know people like these, and never have; I’ve never had a relationship of any kind with someone who regularly uses “ain’t no..,”  or who mixes up statue and statute. That’s my bubble: I have to constantly remind myself that my mini-world is the outlier, and my responsibilities lie in the real one.

Here is johnburger2013’s comment on Ethics Quiz: The Paintball Attack:

You raise an interesting point. I live in Houston – where it is frickin’ hot and humid (PLEASE MAKE IT STOP!!!) – and I saw this story on the news. It happened in South Houston. A little bit about South Houston: Stay the hell out of there. At all costs. It is as close to a Hell Hole as one can get without actually being in a Hell Hole. It is an unincorporated area of Harris County, Texas, at the southern edge of the City of Houston. It is politically independent of the City of Houston and is a major petrochemical center in the region, with atmospherics to show for it. It is about 78% Hispanic, where Spanish is the primary language spoken. The median income is $42,615 (as of 2016). It is above the state and national averages in property and violent crimes.* Gang activity is a problem. Just for grins, read through this report from the Texas Department of Public Safety from 2018 to see what gangs operate in here. It’s a fun read. Continue reading

Disney’s Sinister Threat And The Danger Of Partisan Corporate Boycotts To Democracy

The official position of Ethics Alarms is that organized boycotts are a form of unethical coercion that pose a direct threat to democracy and personal liberty. Recent developments on the corporate front only reinforce that conviction. Several states have chosen this moment to try to persuade a conservative majority on the Supreme Court to either amend or overturn Roe v. Wade, either with so-called “heartbeat” bills, defining a fetus with a detectable heartbeat distinct from the mother’s as a person within the range of Constitutional protection, or in the case of Alabama, a direct challenge to Roe with a bill outlawing abortion entirely except in special circumstances.

My personal assessment is that these efforts are doomed to fail, and that conservative justices, in part because they advocate conservative jurisprudence, will not accept the invitation to overturn Roe regardless of their objections to the holding. It is a major decision of long-standing asserting an individual right, and the epitome of the kind of decision that requires the practice of stare decisus. I cannot think of another example where the Court eliminated a right after a previous Court had protected it, certainly not one with such wide-ranging social and legal implications. Even though abortion is only ethically defensible by applying the most brutal variety of utilitarian balancing,  and requires disingenuous, bootstrapping reasoning in the process, I do not advocate overturning Roe. We have a system, though. The system should be allowed to work. It has generally served us well as a nation and a society. Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 2/9/2019: “Your Host Is Finally Feeling Better’ Edition.

Good day!

1. More evidence that a lot of Americans have trouble with this “democracy” thing. Former Democratic Representative John Dingell ofMichigan died this week at 92. He became  the longest-serving member of Congress in history before he finally agreed not seek re-election in his 80s, but that’s not the real head-exploder in his obituary. It was this…

“Dingell first arrived to Congress in 1955, taking over the seat held by his father John Dingell, Sr., who had died earlier that year, and the younger Dingell continued to serve in the House for more than 59 years. He announced in 2014 that he would not seek re-election and instead his wife, Debbie Dingell, ran for his seat and is now serving her third term.”

A little googling will reveal that Daddy Dingell served in Congress from 1933 until Junior took over. That means that voters in the district have sent only members of the Dingell family to Washington for 86 years. Debbie Dingell, the alliterative named widow of the departed, had no apparent experience in legislation before she was elected to hold the Perpetual Dingell Seat.

This is laziness, civic inattention, vestigial aristocracy and passive democracy at work, or rather, in a semi-coma. There is no excuse for electing leaders based on family connections and name recognition, except that Americans have been doing it for a couple of centuries. I know you can’t fix stupid, but the parties are exploiting stupid, and that goes to the heart of democracy’s greatest weakness: government by the people means a lot of really lazy, ignorant, biased and irresponsible people are going to involved in government.

2. Of course. The New York Times today defends the ongoing efforts by Congressional Democrats to make it impossible for the elected President to govern by burying the administration in specious and intrusive investigations. “Harassment? Nope. Oversight.” is the disingenuous headline of the paper’s Saturday editorial. Oversight is an important Congressional function, but investigations based on the logic “Gee, this guy seems sleazy to me and we don’t trust billionaires, so let’s keep digging into his personal and business affairs until we find some dirt” or “So far our impeachment bills have gone nowhere, but if we keep investigating, I bet we can find some real offenses” are not oversight. Oversight must be handled in good faith, and there is no good faith among Democrats, who made their intentions clear the second Trump humiliated Hillary Clinton. Their stated objective is to get him removed from office by any means possible, and if that fails, at least to reduce his public support to the point where he cannot govern. Harassment in the workplace is defined by creating a hostile work environment that makes it impossible for the target to do his or her job. Could this describe what kind of work environment the “resistance” and the news media (the Times, in defending Congressional Democrats, is also defending itself) have created for President Trump any more precisely? Continue reading

Yes, The House’s Investigation Of The President’s Business Dealing Is “Presidential Harassment,” And We Will Pay Dearly For It

I will expand on this soon, but for now, let us agree that Rep. Schiff’s intended investigation of President Trump’s business activities before he was Presient, while legal, is unethical, and will do great damage to the structure of our democracy.

Let us also stipulate that it was the Republicans who opened this Pandora’s box with the Whitewater investigation into the Clintons’ always fascinating financial machinations. The Democrats have now taken that tactic to new depths, with the thinly veiled—is it veiled at all?—purpose of preventing an elected President whose existence they deplore from doing the job he was elected to do. If I never admire Donald Trump for anything else, I will admire him for fighting this destructive and unconscionable attempt by the Democrats to undo the will of the people., and doing so with all the tools at his command, as well as some that aren’t really his to command.

There are few, if any, high ranking politicians in either party who could withstand the kind of scrutiny being focused on Trump. That is, of course, the whole idea. If this continues, whether the fishing expedition uncovers anything or not, a precedent of tit-for-tat and cyclical vengeance will be established, with every President subjected to the same obstruction and constant attack, resulting in the position of President being permanently crippled and sullied. Maybe that is what the Democrats want; maybe destroying Trump’s Presidency is worth destroying them all to them—as part of a general tantrum, vengeance for spoiling Hillary’s coronation, or perhaps as a first step in establishing the progressive totalitarian regime many Democrats yearn for.

Whatever their motive, they should be clear that their methodology will not stop with President Trump, and will be aimed at te next Democratic President as well. I believe that Republican leaders should state this explicitly, not as a warning, but as a statement of fact.