Impeachment is not undemocratic

A president like Trump is precisely what the US Founders feared.

Wendy Kaminer
columnist

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Topics Politics USA

If impeachment is undemocratic then so is the US Constitution that provides for it. If impeachment is undemocratic then our democracy is practically defenceless against a lawless, undemocratic president, who assumes ‘the right to do whatever I want’, including openly soliciting and accepting foreign assistance in defeating his electoral opponents, an arguable felony, at least, as well as a clear abuse of office. Trump has even conditioned aid to Ukraine (voted on by Congress) on its cooperation in smearing former vice-president Joe Biden, as the White House summary of his phone call with Ukraine’s president, testimony and text messages definitively demonstrate.

Put aside the Trump administration’s claim that the president cannot be criminally charged or even investigated, leaving impeachment the only remedy for high crimes and misdemeanors or other unconstitutional abuses of power. Put aside as well the corruption of the Justice Department, which under the control of William Barr is functioning like the president’s personal law firm, instead of representing the nation: it is, for example, joining Trump’s personal lawyers in civil suits against investigations into his finances. And, like the increasingly erratic Rudy Giuliani, attorney general Barr has acted as Trump’s personal fixer, misstating the damning conclusions of the Mueller report and enabling the president’s bizarre conspiracy theories.

Put all this aside and simply consider the fact that the people may be deprived of the right to hold Trump accountable in 2020 if he is allowed to enlist foreign assistance in undermining a free and fair election. The reason for his impeachment is the reason it’s needed to preserve democracy.

It is also the primary reason the Founders provided for impeachment, as numerous scholars have observed. They regarded it as an essential safeguard against the dangers posed by foreign influence and a leader who solicited or submitted to it, out of personal or political self-interest. ‘That a scheming, feckless leader might sell out his own country was a very real threat in the minds of those tasked to create a constitutional framework for a new government’, historian Gail Savage wrote in the Washington Post last year.

But if impeachment in this case is practically required by the Constitution, its outcome will reflect political realities. While the Democratic House may formally impeach the president, the Republican Senate will not convict him, absent a political earthquake and polls showing majority support for conviction, including the support of Republicans and independents – in which case, his removal would reflect the will of the people. Critics who consider impeachment undemocratic should rest easy — popular opinion will decide its outcome, and voters can still expect to have the chance to try voting Trump in or out of office in 2020. But the crimes and abuses being revealed by the impeachment investigation can help counter the misinformation on which he has always relied.

Consider the definitively discredited allegation that former vice-president Joe Biden was instrumental in firing a Ukrainian prosecutor investigating his son Hunter, who sat on the board of a Ukrainian gas company. Trump’s claim is the opposite of what’s true. The prosecutor was forced out of office as a result of pressure from Ukrainian anti-corruption activists, the Obama administration, and European allies precisely because he was not investigating corruption. Of course, Hunter Biden’s involvement in a Ukrainian company raised legitimate ethical questions at the time about whether he was profiting from his father’s tenure as vice-president, just as Trump’s children profit from his presidency. Indeed, Trump himself, who retains ownership of his global business, profits from his office, in violation of the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, to an unprecedented degree.

The spectacle of this wildly venal, corrupt president accusing others of corruption and venality is jaw-dropping, but also unsurprising. Trump’s MO is to accuse his opponents of precisely the crimes and abuses of which he is most credibly accused. That is what distinguishes his lies from the ordinary lies told by politicians accused of wrongdoing. Generally they issue strong denials, unless and until they are caught red-handed and have no choice but to confess. Trump doesn’t just deny his misconduct, at least initially; sometimes, in between or after denials, he admits, defends and boldly repeats it, openly exhorting China, for example, to investigate the Bidens – all the while loudly accusing them of the abuses in which he is brazenly engaged.

Imagine that Bill Clinton had defended himself against impeachment by alternately bragging about his affair with Monica Lewinsky and asserting his right to enjoy it while also claiming that they had never met, and accusing a leading Republican of seducing and abandoning her. Imagine, too, that these claims were widely disseminated on social media and by a major network viewed by millions. You don’t have to wonder why so many people are either exhausted by the Trump show or driven a little crazy by it. If Senate Republicans who privately despair of Trump’s character and conduct eventually disown him publicly, they may do so with a sense of relief.

Wendy Kaminer is an author, a lawyer and a former national board member of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Picture by: Getty.

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Comments

Jonathan Swift

14th October 2019 at 8:35 pm

I was in the USAF when they combined the Communications and Computer Career Fields. I understood the rationale for it, but I doubt the generals who made the decision fully understood the differences between the career fields. Communications officers grew up thinking (were trained to think) that if the regulations do not specifically allow something, then it is forbidden (against the regulations to do it). Computer officers grew up thinking (were trained to think that if you could imagine something you could do it and) that if the regulations did not forbid something, then it was allowed!

I was a Computer Officer who spent time as a Sergeant in the Communications career field, so I understood both ways of thinking.

The Democrats try to have it one way when they hold the White House and another way when they don’t. When Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were President we did not hear any complaints from Democrats about their unconstitutional actions whenever they did something not specifically authorized in the Constitution. But when a Republican President does something not specifically authorized or forbidden in the Constitution and there is no end of their wailing and gnashing of teeth!

Jim Lawrie

8th October 2019 at 7:12 pm

Donald Trump choose not to put the running of his business affairs into a Washington, establishment, trust, committee because he did not trust them. This was because he knew they reviled him. With her every utterance Ms Kaminer proves him more and more correct.

Tell me Ms Kaminer, after the election, was there a massive change in the number of foreign governments using his hotels and apartments? Or are you just cherry picking the post election bookings? Or are you too thick to realise that is what you are parroting?

What kind of lawyer cites an opinion poll as proof that someone is guilty?

Jim Lawrie

8th October 2019 at 7:02 pm

It’s Wendy Kamoaner, so no comment.

michael savell

8th October 2019 at 5:03 pm

Another female democrat spewing the falsehoods of her party or is she just into the party of woke feminism?
Trump may not be the ideal president or the ideal republican but he is the man of the moment and is absolutely if not desperately necessary to clear out the rogues who have used the people and their hard earned cash to set themselves and their families up in the type of luxury only dreamed about by most of us.These people are lying politicians,unscrupulous bankers and carpetbaggers
who think it fair game to abuse hard and trusted rules in order to set up a system which will decimate the lives of the working class.Unfortunately it is happening in the UK as well so it does not seem too far a stretch to say it has all been well rehearsed by both countries.Free speech entitles this column to be written but,unless Kaminer can give us any reason why democrats are better people and more well intentioned I think she should wait until Trump has done his job and we no longer have the spectre of war and negative interest rates.

Forlorn Dream

8th October 2019 at 1:37 pm

Does this writer work for CNNPC?

alan smithee

8th October 2019 at 1:03 pm

Terrible article because a simple YouTube search will show your Biden admitting he paid Ukraine to get rid of a judge that was looking into his sons affairs.

Philip Humphrey

8th October 2019 at 12:32 pm

Trump believes in the constitution, he believes in free speech , he believes in the right to bear arms and he believes in religious freedom and genuine equal opportunity for all. He doesn’t want to start unnecessary wars. Which is more than I can say for his opponents. I find it difficult to understand this article, president Trump is exactly the sort of president the founding fathers had in mind.

Michael Lynch

8th October 2019 at 12:50 pm

I agree. Take Vietnam for instance; a war started by a Democrat (Kennedy) and then accelerated to ridiculous heights by another Democrat (Johnson). What was most astonishing, from the leaked War documents to the Washington Post at that time, was just how unenthusiastic the Johnson administration was about fighting the war. This leak gave an implacable enemy the edge it needed. It undoubtedly put American soldiers at great risk and yet the leak is still being celebrated today as a great act of patriotism! Liberals are a loathsome lot in the way they mishandle power and the great responsibility that comes with it. What’s most disturbing though is how they justify themselves when things go awry. Trump is a businessman and he’s not interested in War simply because it’s bad for business. Credit due where credit is due. We seem to be in safe hands because of it.

Michael Lynch

8th October 2019 at 11:45 am

More Trump bashing for the sake of bashing. Impeachment is all the Democrats seem to bring to the table. Where are the policies to win over the electorate? These are not the actions of wise leaders who are ready to take up the reigns of power. On another note, just watching SKY News this morning about his latest tweet regarding pulling US troops out of Syria on the eve of a possible invasion by Turkey. Loads of condemnation of Trump yet very little raised eyebrows over Turkey’s threat. Bizarre, truly bizarre.

Ven Oods

8th October 2019 at 12:17 pm

“the reigns of power.”
Isn’t that more Elizabeth II?

Michael Lynch

8th October 2019 at 12:35 pm

Wrong choice of words, but you know what I mean.

Adamsson 66

8th October 2019 at 9:53 am

Have you seen how the Ukraine helped the Clinton campaign in 2016?
If Biden was corrupt do you think Trump should help cover it up or investigate it?

Christopher Tyson

8th October 2019 at 9:35 am

I think that ‘fishing’ is the legal term. From the start liberal and lawyerly critics of Trump has been trying to find non political find means of removing him. We see a similar thing in the UK with Johnson. In the UK Johnson has no majority in the House of Commons, and yet the opposition parties refuse to hold a vote of no confidence in his government. The ability of the UK to call an election was removed by the Fixed term Parliament Act of 2011. The opposition are putting pressure on Johnson to resign so that they assume power without the inconvenience or risk of a general election that they might lose. It is not undemocratic to hold presidents and prime ministers to account, but what is missing is any democratic political alternative. The liberal elites in the UK and the USA seem unwilling or incapable of winning over the electorate to an alternative vision or political movement, on the contrary they are suspicious of the voters particularly of the kind of voters who would support Trump or Johnson. The liberals and technocrats would not subject a leader that they approve of to the same sort of scrutiny. The impeachment of a president is not inherently undemocratic, but liberal, left, centrists, legalistic and technocratic types are instinctively looking to circumvent the democratic process, albeit convincing themselves that they are acting on behalf of the people or know better than the people.

Michael Lynch

8th October 2019 at 1:16 pm

Absolutely right. Well put.

Jerry Owen

8th October 2019 at 8:30 am

At least Ms Kaminer hasn’t tried to repeat her lie that Trump thinks that some Neo-Nazis are very fine people eh !

steven brook

8th October 2019 at 8:13 am

Trump Derangement Syndrone – Play the man not the ball.

Jerry Owen

8th October 2019 at 7:40 am

Poor old Wendy. Still suffering from Trump derangement syndrome .
The problem with impeachment in this case is that the whinging Democrats have been screaming ‘impeach’ from his first day of presidency.
Wendy.. up your game , beat Trump on ideology , not childish ranting !

Ven Oods

8th October 2019 at 7:06 am

“Imagine that Bill Clinton had defended himself …”
… by lying through his teeth. A Rhodes scholar, yet didn’t understand what constituted ‘sexual relations’ with a young intern..
And still, the USA still didn’t have the stomach to complete the impeachment.
And even today he tours the world doling out his wisdom.

Andrew Leonard

8th October 2019 at 6:03 am

“Trump has even conditioned aid to Ukraine (voted on by Congress) on its cooperation in smearing former vice-president Joe Biden […]”

Is aid ever given unconditionally?

Ian Wilson

8th October 2019 at 5:08 am

I’m afraid you sound like another one suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrone. With the entire media and tech giants against him, his rise to office was nothing but seismic, and it seems you still can’t accept it. Trust in democracy, if the people care and believe this stuff he’ll be voted out, if not, and he wins, shut up about it once and for all.

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