What are the grounds for impeachment?
But we don’t want Mike Pence to become president, do we?
The question of who is worse, the current president or the vice president, is a very different question from this one: “Who is worse, President Trump in an era of unchecked power and immunity, or President Pence in an age of popular sovereignty with the threat of impeachment looming behind every high-crime-and-misdemeanor that comes up for consideration by the White House?” We believe changing the office of the presidency into one that can be lost for substantive crimes and abuses — a radical change from its current state — would be a crucial step toward genuine democracy. Part of that significance would derive from the benefits of building the movement that imposes impeachment on a corrupted and partisan and reluctant Congress. Deep and long-term political change comes principally from movement-building, which is what will prevent future Trumps and Pences. As Trump’s reign of disaster continues, justifications for allowing it to continue appear ever weaker. And, if the most sycophantic worshiper of Trump on the national stage, Mike Pence, becomes president after the removal of a discredited Trump, Pence will be one of the weakest presidents in modern history. Even weaker than Gerald Ford, who had far more distance from Nixon, the discredited president he replaced. In addition, one of our draft articles of impeachment applies to both Trump and Pence.
Why punish a successful business man?
We can set aside the legality and morality of Trump’s business success, and the question of how successful he has been. A campaign to impeach him for his violations of the Constitution’s emoluments clauses can hold the position that Trump is perfectly welcome to keep all of his businesses and loans. He just cannot simultaneously hold an office in which they create gross violations of the U.S. Constitution. Past presidents have sold off their assets or placed them in a blind trust. A blind trust would not, however, be blind for Trump who would inevitably learn of the approval of new towers or the sale of properties. Selling (and using a truly blind trust to do so) was Trump’s only option other than not being president. He chose not to take his only constitutional choice.
Is this partisanship?
A great many people do anything political for partisan reasons. It is inevitable that people will favor or oppose impeaching Trump for partisan reasons. But they need not. The charges against Trump are largely unprecedented. They should apply to him and any future presidents who engage in similar abuses, regardless of party. Someone who voted for Trump as a way out of corruption should want him impeached as much as someone who voted against him for the same reason. Trump is now the worst possible “insider” — using public office for personal greed.
Is this personal?
A great many people focus their political interest on personalities rather than policies. They forbid themselves to praise a good action by a politician who mostly makes bad ones, or to condemn a bad one by a hero. They make heroes of whoever is not their enemy, and vice versa. They place greater importance on whether they’d like to be friends with someone than on whether that person will benefit or harm the world. Many will support or oppose impeaching Trump based on whether they consider him awful or inspiring. They shouldn’t and need not.
Why not impeach Trump for being a Russian agent?
If such evidence ever emerges, then at that time it should be pursued.
Do you really think Congress will impeach a president?
Yes, it certainly might, especially as the evidence of “high crimes and misdemeanors” accumulates and Trump’s popularity sinks even lower than its current record level — an effect that just opening an impeachment process has usually contributed to. But even an unsuccessful impeachment effort can have seriously beneficial results, including helping to end the Vietnam War and ending Nixon’s presidency.
Isn’t it pointless and counterproductive to impeach when the Senate will not convict?
No. First of all, impeachment hearings on serious indisputable public offenses are educational for the public and the media and the Senate. Second, they serve to check a president whose egregious abuses of power have been increasing in light of his apparent impunity and whose recklessness risks environmental and nuclear apocalypse. Third, wise predictions of what the Senate will do can reverse themselves rapidly, as just prior to Nixon’s resignation. Fourth, it is the job of the House to comply with the Constitution, and predictions of what the Senate might do cannot excuse a dereliction of duty. Fifth, if there is no impeachment, Trump will claim that he did nothing wrong, and Senators will claim that they never had a chance to consider the matter. Sixth, if there is an impeachment and the Senate does fail to do its job, Senate leadership and individual Senators can be held accountable, including at election time. Isn’t identifying and removing lawless Senators worthwhile?
Do you really think everything is normal and nothing radical is needed?
Useful strategies are desperately needed, and impeachment is one of them. Others are marches, sit-ins, petitions, media production, legislation, strikes, refusals to cooperate with illegal actions, protection of those in danger, peace initiatives, local and global moves toward sustainable economies, boycotts, divestments, foreign exchanges, art work, parades, etc., etc. But a nonviolent movement seeking to overturn an abusive government would fantasize about an impeachment provision if it didn’t exist. It’s one of the best gifts that the drafters of the Constitution gave us. Continuing to neglect the power of impeachment would be a terrible waste.
Isn’t impeachment a trick by the evil System which is rotten to the core and wants us to think it is capable of reform?
No. The system may be rotten to the core, but the question is how to fix it. Impeachment can be a very useful tool for that, and is clearly not one longed for by either big political party.
Do you really think something as radical as impeachment is needed?
If it’s not needed now, when would it be?
Shouldn’t we all focus on electing Democrats to Congress first?
No. Numerous impeachment efforts over the centuries, of presidents and many other high officials, have led to reforms and resignations short of reaching impeachments or convictions. In numerous cases, representatives and senators have put justice ahead of partisanship. In numerous cases, the effort has had to build for months or years before having an impact. In numerous cases, whether impeachment efforts or all sorts of other dramatic social and political changes, the common wisdom has predicted defeat until shortly prior to victory. It is also important for us to understand the position of the leaders of the Democratic Party, based on their past performance and their public statements. They apparently do not want a Trump impeachment, not now or ever. If we are going to make impeachment happen, if we are going to move members of either party to support it, and if we are going to make it effective in achieving reform and setting a precedent, then we need to advance impeachment as a non-partisan and urgent matter. It’s urgency is no pretense. Every moment he remains in office, Trump increases the risk of environmental and/or nuclear catastrophe.
Wasn’t impeaching Clinton a bad idea, thus making all impeachments bad ideas?
The impeachment of Bill Clinton was not driven by public demand, and was, in fact, unpopular with the U.S. public. Other impeachments have been very popular with the public. Clinton had 66% approval, while Trump has 42%. Clinton was impeached for how he responded to an investigation that turned up very little. Trump could be impeached in a very similar manner, or he could be impeached for any number of important and indisputable abuses of power. And those abuses could be made known to the U.S. public through impeachment hearings of the sort that had a powerful impact on the public during the process to impeach Richard Nixon. While impeaching Clinton was unpopular, it did not negatively impact Republicans in any major way; they kept control of both houses of Congress and claimed the White House. Here is a column that explored this question.