This post is also available in: Spanish
By David Swanson
I had hoped to make the above statement after electing a president whom I did not consider a vile mass-murderous warmongering climate-destroying threat to humanity. I’m saying it early. I’m saying it while Trump is president.
But I’m not saying it because I’ve come to share any of the common views of the matter. I do not think it matters more who is president than whether presidents can be held accountable, so I’m not quaking in fear of President Pence. I do not think an indictment is useless without a conviction, so I’m not predicting doom and demanding inaction. Nor have I gained the magical ability to foresee the impossibility of conviction. Nor do I have any interest in electing Democrats, much less the belief that more of them will be elected the more they look like losers who will roll over and take any abuse. I also think the failure to impeach Trump makes Trump more likely to stay in office an extra four years — no matter how much he squeals about being left in a briar patch.
The reason I’m against impeachment is that House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler has made clear that he will use it to focus on the disastrous and counterproductive unproven and unprovable claims of Russiagate rather than on the dozens of indisputable public acts through which Trump has committed open and acknowledged (and in some cases acknowledged by Nadler) impeachable offenses.
Yes, yes, yes, someone in Russia may have bought an infinitesimally small amount of very weird advertisements on Facebook.
Yes, of course, Trump has shady business dealings in Russia as in every other part of the earth.
Yes, Trump has obstructed justice and refused to comply with subpoenas in connection with Russiagate-ish things.
But a Russiagate impeachment is good for Trump and bad for humanity.
It amounts to an endless repetition of the basic truths that nobody Russian, much less the Russian government, influenced the outcome of the U.S. election, that Trump never conspired with the Russian government to influence the election, that Russia never hacked into election machines or electricity grids, that Trump has not been a Russian agent for decades, that Trump didn’t steal Democrats’ emails or give them to WikiLeaks, that the content of those emails (the corruption of the Democratic primaries, and the nastiness of the Democratic nominee) were the reason for the invention of the Russiagate distraction, and that the Democrats have made themselves look like jackasses for three years.
All of this is bad for any hope of cleaning up actual problems with the U.S. election system, including the financial corruption, the media failure, the electoral college, the two-party system, debate access, ballot access, gerrymandering, unverifiable counts, racist roll purging, and a candidate who openly intimidates and instigates violence.
Russiagate also creates a competition among its various supporters and detractors to appear tougher than the other guy on Russia, more eager to enflame hostilities, more prepared to consign us all to nuclear apocalypse. If Russiagate were a prescription drug, every “news” story about it would have to have carried that warning: “Viewing this may increase the risk of nuclear war.”
Russiagate is also horrible for impeachment. After making Trump look good and his critics look like idiots, a Russiagate impeachment is the most likely to fail in the House and if passed by the House to fail in the Senate. The result will be a free pass, even more powerful than the post-Bill-Clinton pass handed to George W. Bush, for presidents to do simply anything without fear of impeachment. Because, just as the Democrats blame Russia for their lousy election, they will blame the impeachment process itself for their lousy impeachment.
It didn’t have to be this way. I have been far from alone in demandingimpeachment for the right reasons since before inauguration day. I have not been the only one denouncing Russiagate since its birth. Impeachment could have and should have happened in January 2017 on the grounds of violation of both emoluments clauses of the U.S. Constitution. Impeachment could have and should have happened when Trump tried to ban Muslims, when he threatened nuclear war, when he took children from their families and locked them up, when he abused the pardon power, when he declared phony emergencies in order to violate the law, when he failed to prepare for or respond to hurricanes, when he waged wars and plotted coups and told various subordinates he’d have their backs if they broke the law.
If impeachment at any point had reversed the offenses, had reformed the policies — which is what impeachment efforts in the past have usually done — that would have been a significant accomplishment. Instead, Trump has been given immunity, and his brazenness has increased accordingly.
Even now, impeachment hearings for the right reasons would educate the public, and the media, and the Senators. But that will clearly never ever happen. “Impeachment” simply means Russiagate to U.S. Congress Members and television viewers. So, I am against it. At the risk of having all the wrath of the impeachers redirected to myself, let me say that I am in favor of friendship and peace with Russia, and of survival for the human species.