Impeachment, the House as Prosecutor, and Justice

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. –Matt 23:24

Patient readers, I had originally intended to compare and contrast the statements of the four lawyers (Feldman, Karlan, Gerhardt, and Turley) appearing before the House Judiciary Committee. But I changed course, for a few reasons: First, Feldman, Karlan, and Gerhardt simply didn’t produce serious documents; all were short, and Karlan’s wasn’t even footnoted, whether to facts, or to law. Turley’s statement at least showed signs of legal reasoning, as opposed to preaching to the choir, but there’s no point my summarizing it; you can just read it.[1] Second, since the House Judiciary’s report on the “Constitutional Grounds for Impeachment” followed so soon after the lawyers’ testimony that it could hardly have been influenced by it, their testimony was evidently for show. Finally, this abbreviated Season 2 of Impeachment!, “UkraineGate,” reminds me of nothing so much as Gish Gallop: There’s too much to track in the time frame available, the few trustworthy interpreters are overwhelmed, and that’s by intent. (Season 1, “RussiaGate,” was more of a Gish stroll by comparison.)

So I’m going to do something completely different. Conventional wisdom agrees that when impeaching a President, the House plays the role of the prosecutor, and brings and prosecutes the indictment; and the Senate then tries the case. From Senate.gov, just as a change from citing the Federalist Papers, which I too shall get to:

In impeachment proceedings, the House of Representatives charges an official of the federal government by approving, by majority vote, articles of impeachment. A committee of representatives, called “managers,” acts as prosecutors before the Senate.

(The Senate has a useful potted history of impeachment as well.) One of innumerable quotes to this effect: “The House is just acting like a prosecutor or grand jury, deciding on charges to be filed.”

The question nobody seems to be asking is whether the House, in this impeachment inquiry, is acting as a prosecutor should act[2]. That is the question I will ask in this post. (I’m sensible that we have actual prosecutors in the readership, and so I’m going out on a limb here; the fact that nobody I can find has gone out on this particular limb doesn’t mean that it is, or is not, a good limb to go out on. We’ll see!)

So, assuming the House to be performing the role of a prosecutor, how should a good prosecutor act? From the American Bar Association, “Criminal Justice Standards for the Prosecution Function“:

The primary duty of the prosecutor is to seek justice within the bounds of the law, not merely to convict. The prosecutor serves the public interest and should act with integrity and balanced judgment to increase public safety both by pursuing appropriate criminal charges of appropriate severity, and by exercising discretion to not pursue criminal charges in appropriate circumstances. The prosecutor should seek to protect the innocent and convict the guilty, consider the interests of victims and witnesses, and respect the constitutional and legal rights of all persons, including suspects and defendants.

What then is justice? Philosophers differ, but here is a definition from which “the rule of law” (of which we hear so much) can be derived. From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

The third aspect of justice to which Justinian’s definition draws our attention is the connection between justice and the impartial and consistent application of rules – that is what the ‘constant and perpetual will’ part of the definition conveys. Justice is the opposite of arbitrariness. It requires that where two cases are relevantly alike, they should be treated in the same way…. Following a rule that specifies what is due to a person who has features X, Y, Z whenever such a person is encountered ensures this. And although the rule need not be unchangeable – perpetual in the literal sense – it must be relatively stable. This explains why justice is exemplified in the rule of law, where laws are understood as general rules impartially applied over time. Outside of the law itself, individuals and institutions that want to behave justly must mimic the law in certain ways (for instance, gathering reliable information about individual claimants, allowing for appeals against decisions).

The Law Dictionary conceptualizes the requirement for “impartial and consistent application of rules” as fairness. From “The Four Pillars of the Rule of Law“:

It’s one thing for the laws to be written fairly, but if they are enforced in such a way that is either arbitrary or unfair then the rule of law begins to break down. For example, if a jurisdiction passes laws against drug use, but then only enforces those laws against a particular ethnic minority or social group, then the laws are not being enforced fairly. Citizens living under a rule of law system have a right to know that the laws are being administered and enforced in a way that is fair and accessible.

There are many theories of justice, but surely the “impartial and consistent application of rules” is understood by lay readers as fundamental. From the Washington Post, “The U.S. court system is criminally unjust“:

We like to believe that decisions made in U.S. courts are determined by the wisdom of the Constitution, and guided by fair-minded judges and juries of our peers.

Unfortunately, this is often wishful thinking. Unsettling research into the psychology of courtroom decisions has shown that our personal backgrounds, unconscious biases about race, gender and appearance, and even the time of day play a more important role in outcomes than the actual law.

Having established that the House, when impeaching a President, acts as a Prosector, that the duty of a prosecutor is not merely to seek conviction, but justice, let’s now ask ourselves whether the House, assuming it to have impeached Trump, will have acted in accordance with its duties, or not.

As a sidebar, it may be urged that unlike a prosecutor’s office, the House has no permanent prosecutorial function. Indeed, House.gov seems, unlike the Senate, to have no page on impeachment at all; and the House is structured very differently:

The House is the only branch of government that has been directly elected by American voters since its formation in 1789. Unlike the Senate, the House is not a continuing body. Its Members must stand for election every two years, after which it convenes for a new session and essentially reconstitutes itself—electing a Speaker, swearing-in the Members-elect, and approving a slate of officers to administer the institution. Direct, biennial elections and the size of the membership (currently 435 voting Representatives) have made the House receptive to a continual influx of new ideas and priorities that contribute to its longstanding reputation as the “People’s House.”

It could be argued, then, that the “rules” for impeachment need only to be consistent during the two years of a House session, and could then be changed at the next session, an evident absurdity since the President serves for four years, and could presume himself acting unimpeachably for two years, and then be impeached, for the same acts, in the third. Clearly, some sort of institutional memory of what is impeachable and what is not, even if tacit, must be shared among the three branches of government and the public — even if not adhered to by all. Fortunately, for Trump’s impeachment, we have such repository in the person of the Leader of the House — one might call them the Chief Prosecturor — Nancy Pelosi, to whose remarkable statement I now turn. End sidebar.

Here is how Nancy Pelosi describes her past exercise of her prosecutorial function (in this case, declining to prosecute:

Here is the transcript, which is extremely verbose:

DEAN CHIEN, STUDENT, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY: So, Speaker Pelosi, you resisted calls for the impeachment of President Bush in 2006, and President Trump, following the Mueller report earlier this year.

This time it’s different. Why did you impose – why did you oppose impeachment in the past? And what is your obligation to protect our democracy from the actions of our President now?

PELOSI: Thank you. Thank you for bringing up the question about – because when I became Speaker the first time, there was overwhelming call for me to impeach President Bush, on the strength of the war in Iraq[3], which I vehemently opposed, and again not – again, I – I say “Again,” I said – said at other places that I – that was my we – all has always (ph) Intelligence.

I was Ranking Member on the Intelligence Committee even before I became part of the leadership of Gang of Four. So, I knew there were no nuclear weapons in Iraq. It just wasn’t there.

They had to show us now – to show the Gang of Four all the Intelligence they had. The Intelligence did not show that that – that was the case. So, I knew it was a – a misrepresentation to the public. But having said that, it was a, in my view, not a ground for impeachment. That was – they won the election. They made a representation. And to this day, people think – people think that that it was the right thing to do.

If people think that Iraq had something to do with the 9/11, I mean it’s as appalling what they did. But I did – and I’ve said, if somebody wants to make a case, you bring it forward.

(Remarkably, or not, Pelosi kept her knowledge that the Iraq War was built on lies secret from the public. This doesn’t strike me as the right approach to “a Republic, if you can keep it.”) First, apparently a President’s “misrepresentation to the public” that led to war — a war that resulted, even in the early years of the war, in tens of thousands of civilian deaths, thousands of American deaths, hundreds of billions of dollars, and the Abu Ghraib torture scandal — is not a “high crime or misdemeanor.” Pelosi would have us believe that Bush’s disinformation campaign was not, as Madison writes in Federalist 65, a case of “misconduct of public men, or, in other words…the abuse or violation of some public trust.” And why? Because “[Bush] won the election.” Except Pelosi gets the timeline wrong. Bush won his election in 2004. The Democrats took back the House in 2006 — how we cheered, then; it was almost as satisfying as Obama’s inaugural — based in large part on Bush’s botched handling of Iraq. Pelosi “won the election.” And then didn’t do anything with her power.

Let’s ask a little consistency from our Chief Prosecutor, shall we? Because that’s what justice demands? If “misrepresentation to the public the public” in service of taking the country into war — the aluminum tubes, the yellowcake, all the whackamole lies that Bush put forth — is not impeachable, then how on earth is what Trump did, even under the very worst interpretation, impeachable? Are we really going to convict Trump because he — Bud from Legal insists I insert the word “allegedly” — tried to muscle Zelensky? Here is what Turley, who approached his statement as a lawyer would, did with that accusation. I’m going to quote a great slab of this, because the whole thing ticks me off so much:

Presidents often put pressure on other countries which many of us view as inimical to our values or national security. Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama reportedly put pressure on other countries not to investigate the U.S. torture program or seek the arrest of those responsible.103 President Obama and his staff also reportedly pressured the Justice Department not to initiate criminal prosecution stemming from the torture program.104 Moreover, presidents often discuss political issues with their counterparts and make comments that are troubling or inappropriate. However, contemptible is not synonymous with impeachable. Impeachment is not a vehicle to monitor presidential communications for such transgressions. That is why making the case of a quid pro quo is so important – a case made on proof, not presumptions. While critics have insisted that there is no alternative explanation, it is willful blindness to ignore the obvious defense. Trump can argue that he believed the Obama Administration failed to investigate a corrupt contract between Burisma and Hunter Biden. He publicly called for the investigation into the Ukraine matters. Requesting an investigation is not illegal any more than a leader asking for actions from their counterparts during election years.

Trump will also be able to point to three direct conversations on the record. His call with President Zelensky does not state a quid pro quo. In his August conversation with Sen. Ron Johnson (R., WI.), President Trump reportedly denied any quid pro quo. In his September conversation with Ambassador Sondland, he also denied any quid pro quo. The House Intelligence Committee did an excellent job in undermining the strength of the final two calls by showing that President Trump was already aware of the whistleblower controversy emerging on Capitol Hill. However, that does not alter the fact that those direct accounts stand uncontradicted by countervailing statements from the President. In addition, President Zelensky himself has said that he did not discuss any quid pro quo with President Trump. Indeed, Ambassador Taylor testified that it was not until the publication of the Politico article on September 31st that the Ukrainians voiced concerns over possible preconditions. That was just ten days before the release of the aid. That means that the record lacks not only direct conversations with President Trump (other than the three previously mentioned) but even direct communications with the Ukrainians on a possible quid pro quo did not occur until shortly before the aid release. Yet, just yesterday, new reports filtered out on possible knowledge before that date— highlighting the premature move to drafting articles of impeachment without a full and complete record.105

Voters should not be asked to assume that President Trump would have violated federal law and denied the aid without a guarantee on the investigations. The current narrative is that President Trump only did the right thing when “he was caught.” It is possible that he never intended to withhold the aid past the September 30th deadline while also continuing to push the Ukrainians on the corruption investigation. It is possible that Trump believed that the White House meeting was leverage, not the military aid, to push for investigations. It is certainly true that both criminal and impeachment cases can be based on circumstantial evidence, but that is less common when direct evidence is available but unsecured in the investigation. Proceeding to a vote on this incomplete record is a dangerous precedent to set for this country. Removing a sitting President is not supposed to be easy or fast. It is meant to be thorough and complete. This is neither.

Put Turley’s justifiable polemic against a childish West Wing view of international relations aside. Just look at the triviality of the subject matter, whether you think Trump is guilty or not. White House appearances. Military aid. Corruption investigations. How is lying the country into the Iraq war not impeachable, and this mass of anodyne trivialities impeachable? When it’s the same prosecutor declining to indict for Iraq, and deciding to indict for Ukraine? Whatever this is, it’s not “the impartial and consistent application of rules”, and that means the House is failing in its prosecutorial duty to seek justice, and not merely conviction.

NOTE Yes, I’m leaving the national security aspects of Ukraine aside. We can take up the question of whether the interagency process should run foreign policy, or the President, and the Blob’s peculiar view of the national interest another time.

UPDATE I also see I didn’t get to the (quite prescient) Federalist Papers. Another time.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.

79 comments

  1. inode_buddha

    As a lay reader (thank you for this, BTW) I think the whole thing is going to hinge on the “consistent application of the law” as spelled out for a Pillar of Justice.

    As they say, “Consistency is the hobgoblin of tiny minds”, and I am certain that those who lack consistency have no interest in actual justice, let alone fairness.

    Taking fairness as a higher order of justice, being consistent enough to do so would require a functioning ethics, at the least. And an ethics would require a conscience. But there is none, because there are no consequences for the powerful.

    “”See them clamber, these nimble apes! They clamber over one another, and thus scuffle into the mud and the abyss.

    Towards the throne they all strive: it is their madness—as if happiness sat on the throne! Ofttimes sitteth filth on the throne.—and ofttimes also the throne on filth.””

    –Thus Spake Zarathustra, by Friedrich Nietzsche
    ch. 11, The New Idol.

    Reply
  2. JBirc4049

    I agree with this analysis, but Madam Speaker Pelosi and her fellow players are not doing what they are doing for the Republic’s, the law, ethics, morality, and certainly not for justice’s sake. If they were, Pelosi would not have mentioned her prewar knowledge of President Bush’s and his Administration’s lies on the reasons given for going to war.

    This is merely political theater and a way to stiffen their spines of jello for their coup. Heaven forfend that President Evo Morales Donald Trump be ousted in a coup by the American Deep State. Our ruling class and their servants really are stupid enough to believe that destroying the norms, both written and unwritten, that our society is actually governed by is a good thing.

    Maybe TPTB truly believe that an increasingly ungovernable, immiserated, and desperate society in an increasingly unpredictable climate is just another chance to consume the poor instead of the poor consuming them.

    Reply
    1. urblintz

      It occurs to me that her “pre-war knowledge” re Iraq might be the very reason she didn’t impeach the shrub. Had she impeached Bush, her (and others) “pre-war knowledge” probably would have become public knowledge and she’d have done anything to stop us from knowing it at the time. Now, well… it’s all in the past, we’ve looked forward.

      Reply
      1. pretzelattack

        i think it was obvious at the time, hans blix wasn’t finding anything, but the war got shoved down our throats anyway.

        Reply
      2. rob

        I agree
        The democrats couldn’t go after the bush administration for falsely leading this country to invade iraq, for one big reason…. they were JUST as guilty . They, including clinton; voted, and went on all the air waves, did op eds; all justifying the charade, that was the run up to the iraq invasion.
        People ought not forget,
        EVERY bit of information proving the iraq war was a lie…. was in plenty of places BEFORE the invasion. And every establishment shill did their level best to not only ignore the truth, but to discredit it with pathetic lies and rhetoric.

        The democrats were just as guilty for iraq as the republicans.
        And when the terrorists who were used as a ploy to blow up the twin towers, were being protected by the fbi between 1998 and 2000.(look at Robert Wright and John Vincent fbi agents from chicago office, who were told by superiors to “let sleeping dogs lie”.. after a two year investigation of two of the “were to become terrorists”and yasin al-qadi. their money man… who was a co owner of P-TECH(above top secret clearances at :cia,fbi,nsa,faa,secret service,norad,nro,etc.) and later a donor to the MITT Romney campaign) The clintons and the democratic elite were right there pretending nothing was happening. And have since pretended that “the war on freedom”,,,,or as they call it “the war on terror”… is justified.
        whether it was the democratic party or the new york times or la times or washington post of the weekly standard or fox news or PBS… EVERY media powerhouse was on the side of “the big lie”..
        Pathetic logic fails were fed to the american population 24/7/365…
        The truth be damned… and still is…

        Reply
        1. Michael Mooney

          When you have a Democrat do away with Glass-Steagall, who needs Republican villains. Both totally corrupt parties are beholden to the banks and corporations, and need to be voted out of office.

          Reply
  3. Jeotsu

    Question, is there a statute of limitations for impeachable offenses?

    Because the Speaker of the House admitted on the public record of implicitly participating (by her silence) in an orchestrated lie that led to the deaths and maiming of thousands of American soldiers.

    Should we be taking that public statement and calling for her impeachment? Can you impeach the Speaker of the House?

    Reply
    1. d

      Congress and senators are impeachable. impeachment only applies to judges, president and vice president. and very very few others

      Reply
      1. inode_buddha

        Congress and senators are impeachable. impeachment only applies to judges, president and vice president. and very very few others

        Time to impeach Pelosi, then. I’m not in Cali, but I wonder what it would take to get that ball rolling.

        Reply
  4. The Rev Kev

    Maybe the Democrats are hoping that once it reaches the Senate, that one of their number will step up, make a stirring West-Wing style speech which will cause all those present – Republicans included – to rise to their feet and clap and cheer as they vote for Trump to be finally kicked out of the White House. Then in their newfound maturity, they will make Mike Pence the new President of the United States as they work together for a better country with new respect for each other.

    The End.

    Reply
  5. clarky90

    The MSM is reporting the “impeachment” as if it was a serious (approved by expert academics) endeavor. However, the veil is lifting. The revealed face of the ruling class is Neo-Orwellian.

    “Nadler’s committee will likely vote to impeach Trump. In a report defining what it considers impeachable offenses, the committee states that even if Trump did not actually break any laws in his supposed “quid pro quo” dealings with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, he can still be impeached for his unstated motives.

    “The question is not whether the president’s conduct could have resulted from permissible motives. It is whether the president’s real reasons, the ones in his mind at the time, were legitimate,” it stated.”

    https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980918000328

    Certainly they are working on mind wave tech, to scan us for “unstated motives” as we live our day to day lives?

    Reply
  6. Carolinian

    Turley says he is now getting threatening phone calls as well people trying to get him fired as professor because he dared to pooh pooh the case for impeachment. There has been a vast and irrational response to Trump from day one–perhaps based on the fantasy that the presidency really is like The West Wing whereas the reality is likely closer to the HBO comedy Veep. From “now watch this drive” Dubya to Obama and his “propeller heads” our presidents are a series of vain peacocks with Trump merely the extreme case. Impeach them all–or none.

    Reply
  7. DJG

    This observation by Lambert Strether sums it up: “Karlan’s wasn’t even footnoted, whether to facts, or to law.” She is supposedly a professor of law, supposedly advising the Congress about the process of impeachment. She didn’t even try to do her job. One may not agree with Turley, although the long excerpt brings a broad perspective to what is criminality and to how much criminality we now consider normal in the U.S. government. To his credit, Turley marshals facts into a synthesis.

    What the Republicans don’t seem to get is that will to power isn’t all that matters and that their commitment to economic degradation and looting the citizenry have thrown them into a crisis (as the paleo-conservatives keep pointing out). Among liberals like Pelosi (and Karlan), the cluelessness is breathtaking. American liberalism is in a profound crisis, with Karlan’s disquisition being particulary breathtaking for clichés-a-minute, sheer vulgar thinking, and kitsch.

    This is the end. For those of us on the left, and I hesitate to advise non-action, it may be time simply to let these two rotten structures and ways of thinking collapse. It is like watching two ghost ships engaged battle, desparately trying to sink one another into a putrid ocean.

    On a lighter (!) note, I will quote Gramsci:

    The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying away and the new cannot yet be born; during this break in continuity, unhealthy events of every kind are happening.

    La crisi consiste appunto nel fatto che il vecchio muore e il nuovo non può nascere: in questo interregno si verificano i fenomeni morbosi piú svariati.

    Antonio Gramsci—Prison Notebooks

    Reply
    1. Dirk77

      I think your last quote hits the nail on the head. It should be painted on every highway overpass. The insanity of liberals strikes me as the actions of the philosophically bankrupt, the hysterical demonizing of Trump being their desperate way to avoid recognizing that fact. I can understand that almost all people crave certainty, but Jesus its time to let it go and strike out to elsewhere.

      Reply
    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > it may be time simply to let these two rotten structures and ways of thinking collapse

      ‘Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished. For the record, I don’t love Trump. But ya know, if Pelosi had impeached Bush in 2006, we wouldn’t have Trump, we would still have a Fourth Amendment, and so on and and on. Of course, that would have required the Democrats to govern instead of posture:

      Reply
  8. flora

    An old lawyer adage: If you have the facts on your side, pound the facts. If you have the law on your side, pound the law. If you have neither the facts nor the law , pound the table.

    Karlan was pounding the table.

    Reply
  9. Titus

    I’d remember this: in every yes there are a lot noes. And only a yes is a yes everything else is a no. Trump is a no. Fate will do its thing.

    Reply
  10. Off The Street

    Nadler, like Schiff before him, is putting on a diversionary show. The big rush in both shows has been to construct narratives to sow doubt in the minds of viewers and voters, on a tight schedule. That schedule has been known for some time, with a big component dropping today in the IG report.

    They had seen enough in SCIFs and elsewhere to know that Team Dem was going to get slammed due to its supporters in the FBI and DOJ. That much is evident in reviewing the report and scores of other documents available to the public. What hasn’t been made available, like the Atkinson piece, also provide further support to the Schiff and Nadler accelerants.*

    In a way, I almost feel sorry for Rep. Schiff as he was sent on a fool’s errand. History will be unkind to him, among others.

    Of greater concern during their proceedings is the absolute lack of regard for the principles like Due Process established in our US Constitution, and the rule of law.

    *Accelerant – fuel in arson cases.

    Reply
      1. Elizabeth

        Then she’s a war criminal too! I also remember her saying, “well, we didn’t want to ruin our chances” (in the next election). My fondest wish is that GW Bush, Jr. and the gang who lied us into the war in Iraq be prosecuted and convicted for war crimes. A somewhat hopeless wish – that.

        Reply
        1. ChrisPacific

          She can be surprisingly frank about these things sometimes. She is saying the same thing in this quote (“people think that that it was the right thing to do” = opposing this would have cost us votes). I can’t understand why anybody would ever trust her again after a revelation like that.

          Reply
      2. Shiloh1

        Whether it’s Iraq I, Iraq II, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and any others I’ve missed, I want to know how many of these rats had / have financial interests in these wars including daily drone-fests a few years ago. The war drums have been beating on the Ukraine vs Russian for a few years now. Pelosi is worth over $100,000,000 on mere $200,000 humble public servant salary, many others on both Team Blue and Team Red similar. If Team Red Senate votes to summarily dismiss impeachment it is the tell that there were / are many more cockroaches they do not want to expose, such as Lindsey Graham, Mitt, McCain, Kerry, not to forget Rummy, Wolfe, Condi, Cheney, W, O, Hillary, Poppy and so on. Any 20 somethings in those households die or maimed “over there”? Let them all hang, dig their corpses up if you have to. Trump should double-dog dare them all to do it.

        I voted for Trump solely as a bull in the china shop, with everything preceding him the past ~ 40 years as the china shop. Andy Jackson was not on the ballot 3 years ago, so I had to settle.

        Reply
  11. Samuel Conner

    I agree that DJT’s misdeeds (at least the ones we know about) do not approach those of the Bush/Cheney presidency (the ones we know about). I wonder what lies beneath the D determination to impeach.

    I have been getting emails from various D-oriented organizations asserting that control of the Senate is within reach for the Ds in 2020, and asking for funds.

    Given the near certainty that the Senate will not vote to convict (either through ~20Rs voting with Ds or ~30Rs simply not voting), perhaps it is hoped that a failure to convict in the Senate would help Ds make the case for an extra heavy base turnout in 2020 to deliver the Senate to the Ds.

    They can’t, or won’t, govern. But with control of both houses, they might be able to impeach and convict.

    Reply
    1. JBird4049

      If the Democratic Party refuses to govern, just why should they be in office? Unless it is Goldman Sach, Jeff Bezos, and their fellow oligarchs, it is just mendacity masquerading as seriousness. The Republicans also do not govern, but loot the lower 80% of the population while dismantling the government.

      Just before the Civil War, Republican Party replaced the American Whigs and the Democratic Party split in two and looked like it too was going away as well. Let’s have a clean sweep this time and maybe prevent another war.

      Reply
    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > lies beneath the D determination to impeach

      The impeachment talk began immediately after the inauguration (maybe even before). Liberal Democrats, certainly the leadership, don’t regard the 2016 election as legitimate, and will not accept responsibility for their loss.

      Reply
    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I don’t know if the allusion to Alice in Wonderland is intentional, but it certainly is appropriate:

      `Let the jury consider their verdict,’ the King said, for about the twentieth time that day.

      `No, no!’ said the Queen. `Sentence first–verdict afterwards.

      `Stuff and nonsense!’ said Alice loudly. `The idea of having the sentence first!’

      `Hold your tongue!’ said the Queen, turning purple.

      `I won’t!’ said Alice.

      `Off with her head!’ the Queen shouted at the top of her voice. Nobody moved.

      `Who cares for you?’ said Alice, (she had grown to her full size by this time.) `You’re nothing but a pack of cards!’

      Reply
  12. Susan the Other

    It seemed that the Democrats started out focused on a Trump connection to laundered Russian money. They didn’t like his friendliness toward Putin. The FBI and Mueller went straight for Manafort and got him cold. It’s possible they can’t get Trump because he dealt through DeutscheBank and DB has been protected so far from prosecution. Every bank in the EU seems to have laundered Russian money. So to start prosecuting would/will be a total circus. The House Dems started to boil when Trump suggested the Magnitsky Act was not impartial and Browder might be a crook, heaven forbid. But when Trump really started to focus on the Ukraingate stuff the House shifted into high gear. Schiff started to look like a cornered animal, the expression on his face went from moral superiority to downright angst. His eyes started to bug out. Nancy went from no impeachment to, almost overnight, yes impeachment. And Rudy Giuliani was accused of Treason for questioning their favorite operative, Joe Bagman. And how impolite of Trump and Rudy to suggest that Joe’s doofus son could be up to the same corruption as daddy. So the fear in the House is visible. I’m thinking there are lotsa members who might be not just complicit in the coup but complicit having received money for favors. Or in the case of Browder, helping an international thief and conman with high connections here and in the UK. High connections usually means political bribes. So Trump knows where the skeletons are buried imo and it freaks them out beyond any possible just proceeding. And Nancy’s an idiot with a gavel.

    Reply
  13. John

    Prosecutors seeking justice? On what alien planet do you suppose that might be happening? Prosecutorial misconduct, caprice, and inconsistency is a hallmark of the US criminal carcerial system. Our Gulag doesn’t just fill itself…it needs prosecutors to keep the ball rolling. Sorta like insurance delivering healthcare.

    Reply
  14. Katniss Everdeen

    How is lying the country into the Iraq war not impeachable, and this mass of anodyne trivialities impeachable?

    It’s not. The system has broken completely down, although many americans don’t know it yet. The democrats need to back off, although I wouldn’t put money on it.

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > The system has broken completely down

      Since at least 2006, and arguably 2003 (when Bush ran his WMD disinformation campaign successfully, and Pelosi licensed it, unless she had a child-like trust that Bush would act in good faith (after Florida 2000, too, which I suppose is really the Rubicon for all this)). Every since then, “our democracy” has been gut-shot and just staggering forward out of momentum.

      Reply
      1. polecat

        I would go even further, Lambert .. back to the beginings of the New Dems (Clintons-both!) ascension to their gilted iron throne($) upon a not-so-shining city on a capitol hill .. for the rest of us unlucky, to die on.

        Reply
  15. Vegetius

    If not one puts a stop to it, Unsettling Research is going to fatally undermine the foundations of Liberalism as such.

    Then what?

    Reply
  16. JTMcPhee

    Good to remember the ultimate frame that bounds this Gong Show Trial: “In the long run we are all dead.”

    What’s going on here seems to me to have the same overall flavor of what’s happening in Britain. Let the last stage of the Great Looting of the Planet begin.

    I think there are too many moving parts to allow any meaningful analysis of such a soon-to-be-fait accompli. Justice, fairness, Constitution, “rule of law” are the shibboleths of the weak. None of those are anything but fig leafs over tumescent power, mentioned occasionally and clearly without adherence or conviction by that tiny set of front people and spokespersons for the even smaller set that actually move the levers of power. In the end, of course, as with all the climax events of the last few generations, we mopes will never get more than a modified limited hangout of an inkling to what actually happened, and not even that while the play’s afoot.

    And what good would it doe us to know all the details? What power do American mopes, for sure, atomized and fearful and befuddled, have to “bend the arc of history toward justice”?

    Reply
    1. inode_buddha

      Well, I think we made a credible effort to bend the arc of history in 1776, and again in 1865. I have little doubt that history will eventually repeat itself, or at least rhyme quite nicely.

      Reply
    2. Rhondda

      Strong, evocative words, JTMcPhee. Memorable and worth remembering. Thank you.

      “Justice, fairness, Constitution, “rule of law” are the shibboleths of the weak. None of those are anything but fig leafs over tumescent power

      Reply
    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      > I think there are too many moving parts to allow any meaningful analysis of such a soon-to-be-fait accompli.

      I well remember the Bush WMDs. I forget all the lies: The aluminum tubes, yellowcake, white powder, drones IIRC (it’s been a long time….). As soon as the blogosphere — then a force, before it was decapitated and the platforms took its networks — would shoot down one lie, another one would pop right up. The reason it felt like playing whack-a-mole is that it was whack-a-mole; the stories were being planted in the press by the White House Iraq Group. It was, in other words, a disinformation campaign run domestically.

      That disinformation campaign was easy to decode. None of it ever passed the smell test on internal evidence alone.

      The current whatever-it-is is extremely difficult to decode (“too many moving parts”). Granted, I can’t spend all my time on it, as I could then, and there really are other topics that are more important. Since I think I have the power relationships and the effects on the Constitutional order correct, I’m not too worried, but I find it really frustrating that not only can I not drill down into all the detail, I have little trust for anyone else doing or attempting to do that (though I think a hermeneutic of suspicion well worth applying to any work product of the intelligence community). But I think the Bush WMD disinformation campaign is to the RussiaGate/UkraineGate disinformation campaign as a Kennebunkport sailboat is to an aircraft carrier task force.

      Reply
  17. DHG

    He will be impeached and he has committed enough crimes out in the open to support the charges that will be levied against him. Yes this was for show to get to some voters who did not hear from any other source as it was televised.

    Reply
    1. inode_buddha

      I think its possible, but a long shot — and not necessarily desirable.

      Congressional Democrats have just as much dirt on them as Trump does, if not more, since they have been in office far, far longer than he has. He will have no problem exposing this, and destroying what little credibility the Democrats have left. Democrats have a very bad case of the pot calling the kettle black.

      Besides, who would want Pence for president?

      Reply
      1. ambrit

        Pence represents a large cohort of Evangelicals who are not averse to using ‘direct action’ to advance their causes. Think of the abortion doctors who were shot by ‘right wing nutters,’ and the horrific tactics used against women trying to enter and leave abortion clinics.
        One of Pence’s strengths is his unswerving adherence to a particular ideology. He has focus, and that aspect of his character gives him strength and purpose.
        Even Napoleon realized the value of the Moral in human affairs.
        Also consider groups within the Government and Military aligned with the Evangelical mind set. Pence has ample resources to manage the job of President.
        History shows that relatively small groups of committed and coordinated True Believers can take over and run governments. Pence is the figurehead for such a group. Beware.

        Reply
    2. Carolinian

      Biden was asked if he would comply if subpoenaed for the Senate trial and he said no. So Trump is to be impeached for his “crimes” while his potential opponent defies the law and that’s ok because….why was that ok again?.

      Reply
    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      > He will be impeached and he has committed enough crimes out in the open to support the charges that will be levied against him.

      That’s not the difficulty. The difficulty is that a criminal class is convicting one of their own. This is not exactly on point, because the players don’t map one-to-one, but John 8:1-11:

      …Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.

      2 And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.

      3 And the scribes and the Pharisees bring a woman taken in adultery; and having set her in the midst, 4 they say unto him, Teacher, this woman hath been taken in adultery, in the very act.

      5 Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such: what then sayest thou of her?

      6 And this they said, trying him, that they might have whereof to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground.

      7 But when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. 8 And again he stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground.

      9 And they, when they heard it, went out one by one, beginning from the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the midst.

      10 And Jesus lifted up himself, and said unto her, Woman, where are they? did no man condemn thee?

      11 And she said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said, Neither do I condemn thee: go thy way; from henceforth sin no more.

      (This story becomes very, very funny when you start thinking why the eldest went away first (as oddly, or not, the eldest Democrats are not doing)).

      What I’m saying is that from a moral position, the liberal Democrats simply have no standing to judge.

      Reply
  18. Stupendous Man - Defender of Liberty, Foe of Tyranny

    “However hurried a court may be in its efforts to reach the merits of a controversy, the integrity of procedural rules is dependent upon consistent enforcement because the only fair and reasonable alternative thereto is complete abandonment.” Miller v. Lint, 62 Ohio St. 2d 209 (1980).

    “We have granted discretionary review because a majority of a Court of Appeals panel has refused to follow a long line of decisions of the highest court of this state in violation of S.C.R. 1.030(8)(a) which provides:

    ‘The Court of Appeals is bound by and shall follow applicable precedents established in the opinions of the Supreme Court and its predecessor court.’

    The rule is fundamental and is absolutely necessary in a hierarchical judicial system. If every tier of courts in the judicial hierarchy were free to disregard the decisions of a higher court, the Court of Appeals could freely disregard the decisions of the Supreme Court, the circuit courts could freely ignore the decisions of the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court and our District Courts would be bound by no law at all, free to ignore the decisions of all higher courts. The result of that course is anarchy.” Special Fund v. Francis, 708 S.W.2d 641 (Ky. 1986).

    The above favorable articulations notwithstanding what I’ve been seeing the past decade, or so, is something much more akin to “The Rule of Whimsy,” with said rule of whimsy having replaced “The Rule of Law.”

    Reply
  19. JeffK

    I don’t think the comparative impeachable offenses argument adds any clarification. The distinction is that the current proceedings are about potential extortion that impacts the next election; the impeachable lies and corruption that led to the Iraq war took two years for the public to perceive. Future versus past. Even if Kerry won in 2004, there would not have been convictions because the conflict was still in progress. Besides, those that carry out orders are the ones that get convictions, not the commanders. Oh, and let’s not forget “the fog of war” – a very useful alibi for top military advisers and political leaders.

    I think the problem with the current impeachment mess can be Venn diagrammed. Imagine two circles. Once circle titled political leverage, the other circle titled extortion. Move the circles together to partially overlap. Where they overlap is titled Joe Biden. A distinction can usually be made between political leverage and extortion by asking who the stakeholders are. Leverage (with military aid) is always going on, and it benefits “regional stability” and “national security”. Extortion benefits the requester, weakens his rivals, creates a compromising dependency the supplicant. In the overlap area the extorted political smear gets executed and the goods get delivered. I think the GOP’s argument is that as long as the goods get delivered it is acceptable political leverage. They want to minimize the effect of smearing Joe Biden on the election. They want to blur the distinction between extortion and leverage.

    Back to future versus past: The current mess may originate with an lack of conflict of interest oversight during/by the Obama administration by sending Joe Biden and John Kerry to Ukraine to negotiate anti-corruption deals favorable to the US, knowing that their family members were involved with Burisma. Surely there were others in the state Department that could have been direct envoys of the administration. If Burisma wants to stack their board with influential people and pay them a ridiculous sum for doing nothing – just to attract investors – well you can chalk that up to corporate stupidity. It’s not necessarily corruption, especially if it works. How many US private equity firms have high-visibility dead weight board members?

    Reply
    1. inode_buddha

      It took me all of one week to connect corruption with the Iraq war, back when it was beginning. The comparison of past with present is quite useful because it highlights the injustice that is going on right now. Even if Trump committed impeachable offenses, does not give the House any moral authority to engage in selective prosecution for the exact same type of behavior that they themselves, and past presidents have engaged in. This whole circus is nothing but politics, it certainly isn’t about justice, nor doing what is actually good for the country. Disclaimer: I voted for Jill Stein. Deal with it.

      Reply
  20. SteveB

    I can only watch small snippets of the “impeachment hearings” before screaming at the TV like an insane man.

    Even if one accepts the argument that Trump was using leverage to influence US election:

    BIDEN WAS NOT THE NOMINEE !!!!!!!!!!! there were many others vying for the position. How can you use leverage for personal gain on an event which hasn’t and may not occur ?

    It only works if he becomes the nominee. Trump was very effective at portraying his opponents as he wanted during the 2016 campaign (“Crooked Hillary” ) with all the self inflicted gaffs “Uncle Joe” makes it would seem to be shooting fish in a barrel for Trump in 2020…… Why work through Ukraine, when he’d have it so easy destroying him on national TV while stroking his own ego at the same time

    Reply
  21. Adam1

    When I started having kids 14 years ago I never dreamed that my first big political discussion with them would be what “political theater” is.

    Reply
  22. @pe

    So, in Myanmar, should the Hague not act because it’s hands aren’t clean? It hasn’t acted against the US, for example, which was a much more dangerous agressor in the ME recently (not to speak of other cases), and so clearly, the investigation into Myanmar is “merely” political. Even if investigating the US is impractical, it could investigate smaller countries that have been involved in that case — but they haven’t, since this is merely “political”.

    In fact, following this to the reduction to absurdity, no court ever has clean hands — everything is corrupt to some extent, self-interested and hypocritical. Do we abandon all pretense at systems of justice? Or is the case presented here “special” in some sense, whereby we should look at the goals of the accusers beyond and above the acts and goals of the accused?

    Reply
  23. katiebird

    Thank you, Lambert this is a great piece. I haven’t been able to follow this impeachment thing at all. But your final question and answer pulls it together for me.

    It doesn’t make sense because it really doesn’t make sense.

    Also why now, when we are about to have an election?

    I just wish I had the nerve and moral strength to share your post.

    Reply
    1. katiebird

      OK. I posted the link to Facebook. I really wonder what my family and friends will say. (Yikes!)

      Lambert, I really like this post. Thank you.

      Reply
  24. Steve Ruis

    Re “How is lying the country into the Iraq war not impeachable, and this mass of anodyne trivialities impeachable?” So, the failure to impeach when it was clearly warranted, is evidence against impeaching now? A mistake then should be used as precedent? Yes, Nancy Pelosi is not being consistent. Imagine that, a politician not being consistent! My, my.

    The “process” has built in checks and balances. If the Dems cannot make a good case for impeachment, the impeachment legislation will fail … unless you think the Democrats are locked into a party-line vote before the process runs its course. (Were are talking about the Dems, here, the never hold the line Democrats, no?) Even if the impeachment legislation passes, everyone is saying that it will not lead to a conviction in the Senate, which means that the Senators have pre-judged the case before hearing the evidence.

    The Dems could fail to pass the impeachment legislation. The Senate could convict. These are based upon the checks and balances built into the process.

    Anyone who claims this process is partisan is bringing up irrelevancies. Everything that happens in the U.S. Congress is partisan to some extent, grow up. Some are complaining that the process is political. What else would it be? Can you name a process that would remove a criminal federal officer that was not political?

    Sheesh.

    Reply
    1. inode_buddha

      So, you’re ok with liars and hypocrites not only representing us, but also causing mass deaths? OK, gotcha. My maturity is just fine, since I actually have a spine.

      Reply
    2. pretzelattack

      it wasn’t a mistake on pelosi’s part. it was a deliberate decision to participate in a war crime, the worst war crime of all. what check balanced her decision to do that? there wasn’t one. the whole process just degenerates into political posturing, which makes it useless for its intended purpose.

      Reply
  25. John Beech

    I voted for Donald Trump but a few months back switched voter registration to Democrat. I offer this as proof of my bona fides with respect to having an open mind. Had Rep Schiff and Nadler persuaded me, I’d have fetched my pitchfork to see President Trump off before the election but in fact, they did the opposite, they persuaded me the Democrats aren’t to be trusted because they put politics ahead of the good of our nation. For shame.

    Reply
  26. shinola

    Well, they’re going for it. Forgone conclusion:

    The R dominated senate will not “convict” & Trump will loudly proclaim that he has been completely vindicated; it was just a politically motivated witch hunt.

    Wake me when it’s over…

    Reply
  27. Matthew G. Saroff

    The are two answers to the question, “How is lying the country into the Iraq war not impeachable, and this mass of anodyne trivialities impeachable?”

    The optimistic answer is, “Because the former is a matter of statecraft, and the latter is using official power to derive a direct personal benefit, and the standards for impeachment based statecraft are much higher.” (Congress in rejected Cambodia based articles of impeachment in 1974)

    The cynical answer is, “Because everyone in Washington, DC has sad-sack children who get jobs because of their political power, and Trump must not be allowed to infringe on our privilege.”

    The thing is, BOTH answers are true for different people.

    For folks like Pramila Jayapal or AOC, I think that they see this as bribery and an abuse of office for personal gain. (This group has been calling for impeachment for a while)

    For someone like Nancy Pelosi, whose kids have clearly had opportunities as a result of her position, I think that it is the latter.

    How these two categories are split in the Democratic caucus, and there are probably some in the, “Both,” camp, is beyond me.

    However, even by a relatively strict interpretation if impeachable offense, we have obstruction of justice in the Mueller report, obstruction of Congress right now, tax and bank fraud (though those were done when he was a private citizen), connections to the mob, both domestic and Russian, witness intimidation, and bribery off the top of my head. (Ignoring campaign finance violations, because seriously, who cares)

    I have always felt the the furor over Russian interference in the election, which was minor compared to what Churchill did in 1940, was primarily about excusing the corrupt and incompetent Democratic Party (mis)leadership, and you will notice that I have not included any of that, though obviously the cover-up flowed from that in some cases.

    Reply
  28. synoia

    I’m sensible that we have actual prosecutors in the readership

    Spellcheck strikes again?

    The problem with computers is they they flawlessly execute one’s mistakes. Over and over and over again.

    Reply
  29. David in Santa Cruz

    As Lambert knows, I’m retired after working as a prosecutor in Silicon Valley for 32 years. I think that Lambert is “on to something” here, but doesn’t quite hit the mark. Selective Prosecution is a huge issue in this country, but it isn’t the issue here.

    I agree that for years, Presidents have been committing “impeachable offenses” without being impeached. Unlike the decision to prosecute an ordinary citizen, impeachment is a political decision. However, the question being asked by the House Judiciary Committee, whether attempting to extort the investigation of a political rival through the withholding of foreign aid or favors to a foreign head of state is only one small facet of the impeachment inquiry. If Trump were to have engaged in such conduct, I believe that it would certainly constitute an impeachable offense. Whether to proceed with an investigation into such an offense is a political decision. I happen to agree that Trump is a turd and that he should be investigated.

    Once this political decision has been made, the potentially impeachable offense must be investigated and prosecuted. The House leadership are engaging in the typical mistake of the rookie prosecutor: saying to him/herself “I know he’s good for it” and filing charges without conducting a complete and thorough investigation. This is where Professor Turley is correct:

    Proceeding to a vote on this incomplete record is a dangerous precedent to set for this country. Removing a sitting President is not supposed to be easy or fast. It is meant to be thorough and complete. This is neither.

    A thorough investigation is the missing step before a case is presented to the Senate (or to a jury). The White House stonewalled the House Intelligence Committee. Just like with the Nixon impeachment inquiry the first step must be to litigate in the courts the assertion of Executive Privilege. JeffK above is correct that there is a subtle distinction between the Venn circles of “leverage” and “extortion” — the distinction being whether pressure is being exerted on behalf of the state in pursuit of a stated foreign policy objective (however misguided that policy may be) or whether it is intended for the personal political or financial benefit of an official. These are “gray areas” in which understanding the subjective intent of the actor is crucial.

    This is where hard evidence such as tapes and transcripts of the actual words used become critical. This evidence apparently exists, but House Democrats have failed to file suit to obtain them. Only when we know the words used and the surrounding circumstances can we draw inferences about the subjective intent of the actors. In the criminal law we draw such inferences about an actor’s subjective intent all the time. However, we apply special rules when drawing inferences about a person’s intent. Those inferences must not only be reasonable, they must be the only reasonable inferences that can be drawn from the facts and circumstances presented.

    As a veteran prosecutor, to me this is where the House Democrats are failing to act as ethical prosecutors. They have failed to develop the evidentiary record, which is their fundamental Due Process duty prior to filing charges. “I know he’s good for it” isn’t evidence.

    Reply
  30. Lambert Strether Post author

    Taking things out of order:

    > the distinction being whether pressure is being exerted on behalf of the state in pursuit of a stated foreign policy objective (however misguided that policy may be) or whether it is intended for the personal political or financial benefit of an official.

    As I keep saying, Lincoln, in 1863, was very concerned to have some battlefield victories before the election of 1864 and as President directed strategic planning to that end, with the effect of thousands of deaths. That was so-called “personal benefit” (re-election), national benefit (the Union), world-historical benefit (destruction of the Slave Power). We want Presidents to do things that get them re-elected because if we don’t, we don’t have a democracy. And when Democrats frame seeking re-election as a personal benefit, that’s exactly what they’re saying they want (which we already know, since they’d prefer to turn foreign policy decisions over to The Blob (their class interests, as PMCs)), as opposed to having an elected official make them.

    > extort the investigation of a political rival through the withholding of foreign aid or favors to a foreign head of state

    In academia, we call “extortion” “international relations.” And rightly. We’re the imperial hegemon. Every relationship we have will be characterized by what we would, domestically, call extortion, bribery, blackmail, etc. All the huffing and puffing on this is West Wing brain damage.

    As for “political rival,” Democrats sincerely believe that Trump is a lying scumbag whose sexual and/or financial proclivities make him susceptible to kompromat, hence a national security risk, hence to be removed from office. So it’s not clear to me why Trump could not believe, or give the impression of believing, that Hunter Biden is a corrupt scumbag whose drug and/or financial proclivities make him susceptible to kompromat, hence making his father a national security risk (see what appears to be genuine sentiment in re: Beau), hence to be denied office. We’ve got “four legs good, two legs bad” with an admixture of “my legs four, your legs two” from everybody no matter how many legs they have.

    > I agree that for years, Presidents have been committing “impeachable offenses” without being impeached. Unlike the decision to prosecute an ordinary citizen, impeachment is a political decision.

    I don’t think the Democrats can have it both ways, try as they might. If they conceive of this impeachment as prosecutorial in character, then they should adhere to prosecutorial standards (justice, not mere conviction). Alternatively, if this impeachment is purely political — and another way of saying that is “undo the results of an election they lost” — then we have immediate payback to look forward to as soon as the Republicans regain the House again. Hamilton writes in Federalist 65:

    A well-constituted court for the trial of impeachments is an object not more to be desired than difficult to be obtained in a government wholly elective. The subjects of its jurisdiction are those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated POLITICAL, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself. The prosecution of them, for this reason, will seldom fail to agitate the passions of the whole community, and to divide it into parties more or less friendly or inimical to the accused. In many cases it will connect itself with the pre-existing factions, and will enlist all their animosities, partialities, influence, and interest on one side or on the other; and in such cases there will always be the greatest danger that the decision will be regulated more by the comparative strength of parties, than by the real demonstrations of innocence or guilt.

    Are we really going to argue that forming bad intentions — inchoate offenses — are “injuries done immediately to the society itself”? If so, see my invocation of John 8:1-11 elsewhere on this thread.

    As for the cavalier and calendar-driven nature of the Democrats’s shoddy treatment of evidence, I couldn’t agree more. Turley does a fine demolition job of this enormous pile of crap in my extended quotation from him.

    Reply
    1. flora

      The Dems (and the blob) have painted themselves into a political corner, imo.

      On the one hand, they’ve been depicting Trump ( himself a Dem until 1987 and again from 2001 to 2009) as a trivial, unserious, vulgar blowhard. On the other hand, they’re impeaching him for his supposedly very serious, dangerous, wily, and scheming actions. (They want it both ways.) Why not just run a halfway decent election campaign and win the office away from him in less than a year’s time?

      (adjusts foil bonnet) The blob seems to want him out and to make an example of him to any future outsider candidate who would dare run, win the presidency, and reduce or challenge their power in the administration. ‘Fall in line or watch out’. (Heaven help Bernie if he’s elected. ) For the Dems, impeachment theater pays well, er, brings in the donations. * Different groups, different motives. The blob looks sinister. The Dems look venal. Not a good look going into an election year. (removes foil bonnet)

      * See billionaire Dem donor and candidate Steyer’s “Need to Impeach” campaign. From January this year.
      https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2019/01/billionaire-steyer-wants-2020-democrats-impeach-trump/580909/

      Reply
    2. David in Santa Cruz

      Turley agrees with me that if an official threatens to withhold foreign aid in exchange for the targeted investigation of a political rival, it would constitute an impeachable offense. This applies equally to the actions of Biden and of Trump in the rump-republic of Ukraine —which I question as ever having been constituted as a legitimate nation-state with a legitimate government).

      It is a false equivalency to compare the non-investigation of Biden with the drawing up of articles of impeachment on Trump. Both are wrong for the same reason — that congress failed to properly investigate their unethical conduct (the Watergate Committee was formed in February of ‘73; called their first witness in May of ‘73, litigated Executive Privilege all the way to the SCOTUS, and delivered their report in July of ‘74). Why? Because our government’s morally-bankrupt foreign policy would not stand-up to such scrutiny.

      The result of a consistent and total substitution of lies for factual truth is not that the lie will now be accepted as truth and truth be defamed as a lie, but that the sense by which we take our bearings in the real world—and the category of truth versus falsehood is among the mental means to this end—is being destroyed.

      “Everybody does it” is simply not a morally acceptable justification.

      Hannah Arendt
      The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951)

      Reply
      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > Turley agrees with me

        I don’t agree with Turley, for reasons stated. The issue is that it’s extremely difficult to separate out “personal benefit’ from other benefits, especially when the so-called benefit is re-election; see my example of Lincoln. Even with Trump.

        > ““Everybody does it” is simply not a morally acceptable justification.

        I think at the case level, as we might call it, morality is a wash (at least for the players; I hope they all lose and suffer greatly). That leaves moral considerations at a higher, systemic level. One might regard removing a bad President as the highest morality. One might regard preventing the intelligence community from having veto power over the selection of Presidents as the highest morality. As the cliche goes, hard cases make bad law.

        Reply

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