This is all so embarrassing—as an American and an advocate of Constitutional government, I’M embarrassed, and those perpetrating this fiasco have more to be embarrassed about than I do by far— and ridiculous that I am at a loss to describe it fairly. My head-exploding graphics don’t do it justice, and a mere train wreck photo is inadequate. I’m not even certain where to place the focus.
I was tempted to concentrate on the now not rationally disputable fact that if you can read Pelosi’s comments yesterday and consider Greg Sargent’s and Brian Klaas’s columns in the Washington Post and not think, “Holy Cow! These people have completely lost their minds!” you have passed, as the Phantom of the Opera was fond of saying, the point of no return, and your Trump hate and derangement have digested your brain.
This is so, so obvious now, but that’s not an ethics framing, and I’m looking for that. I was thinking about designating the entire Democratic Congress as “Incompetent Elected Officials Of The Month,” but that doesn’t quite encompass the enormity of what we are witnessing. Similarly, calling the Post’s self-evident decision to put bringing down Trump over all professional standards as well as law, justice and common sense is minimized by calling it mere “mainsteam media bias,” as the Ethics Alarms tag would have it. This is more than that. This is a public display of insanity by those incapable of realizing what craziness is any more.
Did Donald Trump really drive them to this? “Mr. [Trump], are you that smart?”
Let’s start with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who said
“Don’t tell anybody I told you this: Trump is goading us to impeach him. That’s what he’s doing. Every single day, he’s just like, taunting and taunting and taunting…We can’t impeach him for political reasons, and we can’t not impeach him for political reasons.We have to see where the facts take us.”
I could have made this gallactically unethical statement an”Unethical Quote of The Month,” but again, that would trivialize its significance. Of course, the statement begins with a “Comnnie Chung,” an intentionally contradictory “don’t tell anyone I told you this”–what is that? A joke? A signal that Pelosi doesn’t take her own party’s impeachment mania seriously? I have no idea.
I do know, however, that the statement that the President is goading and taunting Democrats into impeaching him is as close as we will ever get to an outright admission that the President’s “high crimes and misdemeanors” consist of his being himself, daring to win the office, and existing on the planet. I’ve checked the POTUS twitter feed: he’s not talking about impeachment “every day” or saying anything that could rationally be interpreted as aimed at trying to goad Congress into taking that step. “The resistance” regards the President’s existence as enough to justify impeachment. This is Pelosi’s Impeachment Plan P, a Mobius strip, alternate universe theory that says, “We have to impeach him because he’s daring us to and if we don’t, we let him win, but we can’t, but then he’ll win!” [You can find and review Plans A-O here.]
Who in their right mind says things like this in public? It’s like saying “I am Monga, Empress of the Eels!” You only say it if you are confident your audience thinks you ARE Monga, or you risk a visit by the men in white coats.
Yet Pelosi’s statement gets worse. “We have to see where the facts take us”—what “facts?” An excessive, disruptive, falsely-reported and dubiously executed investigation provided the facts, and because they do not support impeachment, the Democrats want to look for more “facts,” they don’t know what, but they are sure they’ll justify impeachment. “Fariness, justice and competence” left the Democrats’ building long ago.
I’m now giving a spoiler on a post I’m working on about impeachment ethics, but this is not how impeachment works, was intended to work, or can work.
What the Constitution says and the Founders intended is that when a President, in office, commits “high crimes and misdemeanors” (“high” refers to crimes relating to the President’s high office, and also modifies “misdemeanors,” meaning that some acts by the President, because of his office and power, may be impeachable even if they are not technically crimes. They are misdemeanors in the general sense, not the legal sense: literally bad acts.), then it may be necessary to remove him from office because those acts make him inherently untrustworthy.
What the Democrats and “the resistance” have been trying to do since the 2016 election is the Bizarro World version of impeachment. Deciding immediately in the wake of their candidate’s defeat (based on no new information that the public didn’t have when it duly elected Trump) that the new President is untrustworthy and dangerous, they have been looking for something that could be used to impeach him. This was essentially what the post-Civil War Radical Republicans tried to do to President Andrew Johnson, and their near-miss failure has been interpreted by many historians (as well as “Profiles in Courage”) as saving the office of the Presidency and maybe the nation itself.
Pelosi’s statement has been mocked in various forums as “we have to pass a bill of impeachment to see what’s in it.”
Now let’s look at the Post’s pundits. Believe it or not, Greg Sargent makes this argument: The Democrats want to get Trump’s tax returns so they can look for something that might justify impeachment, but Trump might prevail in the courts and keep them private, because the courts could hold that Congress was “just rummaging through Trump’s returns to embarrass him and not for a legitimate legislative purpose.” That’s because this is exactly what Congress wants to do. (I think that the courts rejecting the House’s subpoena is more than possible; it’s virtually certain.)
Democrats dare not take the chance that a court would reject its demand for Trump’s tax documents, because that loss would make Democrats look bad right before the 2020 elections. Ah, but if the Democrats start proceedings to impeach Trump first and then demand the tax returns as part of the inquiry, then they have a “legitimate purpose” to seek the returns!”
There it is: Impeachment Plan Q! Impeach Trump to get his taxes, and then use those taxes to impeach him! Brilliant!
Sargent says, in full derangement mode,
“Not getting Trump’s returns would allow him to get away with one of his most blatant acts of contempt for transparency, for the separation of powers and for the notion that basic accountability should apply to him at all.”
What? When did not providing the public with tax returns become an impeachable offense, since every President before Nixon did exactly that? Accountability for what? The IRS under multiple administrations examined Trump’s returns, and did not find any crimes. Sargent is just giving us “resistance” blather. Ann Althouse calls it “histrionic,” also a good word, and nicer than “nuts.” She writes,
“If the courts took the position Sargent is afraid of, it would be because the court was enforcing separation of powers, limiting Congress to the legislative role and protecting the Executive power from encroachment. Trump isn’t showing “contempt” for separation of powers. He’s taking a position on separation of powers. That position would either win or lose in court, and the court would give the final answer on the meaning of separation of powers.”
Greg Sargent is the model of rationality, however, compared to colleague Brian Klaas, who issues one false theory after another:
“So here’s a question for congressional leaders: Precisely how many crimes does someone have to commit before impeachment hearings are warranted? Does the person in question get a pass if it’s three or fewer? Was there some clause in the Constitution that I missed that says it’s okay for the president to direct a criminal conspiracy in certain circumstances? Is there a Federalist Paper that says the president can commit tax fraud so long as it was years ago, or that obstruction of justice is fair game so long as it happens on Twitter? To oppose impeachment hearings now, you have to believe that the president allegedly engaging in three separate categories of criminal acts isn’t serious enough to even consider impeachment. Really?”
How did a Post editor let this get published? There was no “conspiracy”; the Mueller report was unambiguous on that accusation. The “resistance’s” response is denial at this point, and to keep repeating Big Lies.
Where’s the “tax fraud”? The IRS’s job is to find tax fraud, and didn’t. Trump doesn’t fill out his own returns, and they were presumably examined with unusual care by the agency charged with that responsibility. How dare this hack state as fact that Trump engaged in tax fraud? Oh, he just “knows.” How many times have I heard that justification for impeachment?
And the obstruction claim…there’s no precedent in law or history for punishing opinions, tweeted or otherwise, as “obstruction of justice.” The Justice Department reviewed the evidence and determined that the obstruction theory was weak, ergo no obstruction of justice. Nor was there any underlying crime to try to cover-up by obstruction, and the investigation was not, in fact, obstructed in any way.
It is true that “the resistance” has become completely unhinged gradually, and it may be difficult to see the exact moment of complete detachment from reality, since the movement was hardly rational to begin with. Nonetheless, that moment has definitely arrived