Are The Democrats Building A Collapsible Impeachment?

As the impeachment of Donald Trump unfolds, it is inevitable that comparisons are drawn to the Johnson, Nixon, and Clinton impeachments. This column in The Hill discusses the most notable distinction: the narrowness of case for impeachment. While Trump has long been portrayed as a type of perpetual criminal motion machine and many have claimed that an array of crimes are proven from the Russian investigation, none of the crimes discussed over the last three years will apparently be included in this impeachment. The question is why. Democratic members insisted after the Mueller hearings that the impeachable acts were now laid bear on the record. If such violations are so obvious and proven, it is unclear why the Democrats are insisting on proceeding on such a narrow basis — a decision that greatly reduces the chances of success in the Senate.

Here is the column:

As impeachment hearings begin, some have raised dubious objections to the process from a constitutional basis. Former acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker suggested there can be no impeachment since “abuse of power” is not a crime. Northwestern University Law Professor Steven Calabresi argued that President Trump was denied the Sixth Amendment right to counsel in the closed hearings held by House Democrats.

Neither argument is compelling. The fact is that, if proven, a quid pro quo to force the investigation of a political rival in exchange for military aid can be impeachable, if proven. Yet the more immediate problem for House Democrats may not be constitutional but architectural in nature. If they want to move forward primarily or exclusively with the Ukraine controversy, it would be the narrowest impeachment in history. Such a slender foundation is a red flag for architects who operate on the accepted 1:10 ratio between the width and height of a structure.

The physics is simple. The higher the building, the wider the foundation. There is no higher constitutional structure than the impeachment of a sitting president and, for that reason, an impeachment must have a wide foundation in order to be successful. The Ukraine controversy is not such a foundation, and Democrats continue to build a structurally unsound case that will be lucky to make it to the Senate before collapsing.

For three years, Democrats in Congress have insisted that a variety of criminal and impeachable acts were established as part of the Russia investigation. Even today, critics of Trump insist that, at a minimum, special counsel Robert Mueller found as many as ten acts of criminal obstruction of justice. That is not true as he investigated those acts of obstruction but found evidence of noncriminal motivations that would have made any criminal case highly unlikely to succeed. For that reason, Attorney General William Barr and then Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein agreed there was no case for criminal obstruction.

Putting aside that legal judgment, the glaring absence of any articles of impeachment related to Russia would raise a rather obvious problem. If these criminal or impeachable acts are so clear, why would Democrats not include them in the actual impeachment? There are only two possible reasons why these “clearly established” crimes would not be included. Either they are not established, as some of us have argued, or Democratic leaders do not actually want to remove Trump from office.

For three years, some of us have warned that Democratic leaders clearly were running out the clock on impeachment and doing little in terms of building a case against Trump. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been openly hostile to impeachment. Now, after moving at a glacial pace, Democratic leaders are insisting on an impeachment vote on the basis of a presidential phone call made this summer. They are in such a hurry that they have said they will not even seek to compel the testimony of key witnesses like former national security adviser John Bolton.

Ironically, the strongest impeachment was the one that never happened with President Nixon. It was so strong that he resigned shortly before a vote. The contrast with the Nixon impeachment is so concerning in the current context. In the Nixon impeachment, public opinion shifted after months of public hearings and testimony. The evidentiary record showed that Nixon knew of criminal acts and sought to conceal them.

The result was a deeply developed evidentiary record. A presidential impeachment requires this period of maturation of allegations to swing public opinion. In contrast, after years of discussing Russia allegations, Democrats want to move forward on a barely developed evidentiary record and cursory public hearings on this single Ukraine allegation. Democrats also are moving forward on a strictly partisan vote.

That brings us back to architecture. Bad buildings often are built in slapdash fashion. The infamous Fidenae Stadium in Rome was built in a rush to restart the gladiator games, an atmosphere not unlike the current bread and circus frenzy in Washington. It eventually collapsed, killing or injuring 20,000 spectators. The two prior impeachments show the perils of building slender and tall. Take, for instance, the foundation of the Clinton impeachment. I testified during those hearings, as one of the constitutional experts, that President Clinton could be impeached for lying under oath, regardless of the subject matter. Democratic witnesses and members insisted that such perjury is not an impeachable offense when it concerned an affair with a White House intern.

The Clinton impeachment was broader than the one being discussed against Trump but it still was quite narrow. It did involve an alleged knowingly criminal act committed by Clinton. A federal judge later found that Clinton committed perjury, a crime for which he was never charged, despite thousands of Americans who have faced such charges and jail. Yet Clinton was impeached on lying to the grand jury and obstruction of the Monica Lewinsky investigation. Notably, he was not indicted on other allegations, like abuse of power in giving pardons to his own brother or Democratic donor Marc Rich. The result was an acquittal in the Senate by a largely partisan vote. The articles discussed against Trump would be even narrower and rest primarily on an abuse of power theory.

Then there is the impeachment of President Johnson, which also failed in the Senate. While encompassing nearly a dozen articles, it was narrowly grounded in an alleged violation of the Tenure of Office Act. Johnson removed War Secretary Edwin Stanton in defiance of Congress and that law. The impeachment was indeed weak and narrow, and it failed, with the help of senators from the opposing party who would not stand for such a flawed removal, even of Johnson, who was widely despised.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is a reminder of those who strive for great heights without worrying about their foundations. If Democrats seek to remove a sitting president, they are laying a foundation that would barely support a bungalow, let alone a constitutional tower. Such a slender impeachment would collapse in a two mile headwind in the Senate. Much like the Burning Man structure raised each year in the Nevada desert, this impeachment may well be intended to last only as long as it takes to burn it to the ground.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. He served as the last lead counsel in a Senate impeachment trial and testified as a constitutional expert in the Clinton impeachment hearings. You can follow him on Twitter @JonathanTurley.

276 thoughts on “Are The Democrats Building A Collapsible Impeachment?”

  1. Like Russiagate this impeachment charade is to hide the real criminals and crime in the Democratic Party

    Judicial Watch: Documents Reveal Extensive Relationship Between Dossier Author Steele and Top Obama State Department Officials

    Judicial Watch and The Daily Caller News Foundation today released 146 pages of State Department documents revealing that former British spy and dossier author Christopher Steele had an extensive and close working relationship dating back to May of 2014 with high-ranking Obama State Department officials.
    The documents obtained by Judicial Watch in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit show that, from May 2014 to November 2015, Steele filed dozens of reports with his close associate at State, Special Coordinator for Libya Jonathan Winer, who would then pass them to Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland. The reports focused mainly on the Russia-Ukraine crisis and U.S. sanctions on Russia.
    The documents show that Steele’s work was also distributed to State Department Coordinator for Sanctions Policy Daniel Fried and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Paul Jones, whose focus in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs was on Russia and Ukraine policy.“

  2. From Andrew Sullivan:

    “Every now and again, it’s worth thinking about what the intersectional left’s ultimate endgame really is — and here it strikes me as both useful and fair to extrapolate from Kendi’s project. They seem not to genuinely believe in liberalism, liberal democracy, or persuasion. They have no clear foundational devotion to individual rights or freedom of speech. Rather, the ultimate aim seems to be running the entire country by fiat to purge it of racism (and every other intersectional “-ism” and “phobia”, while they’re at it). And they demand “disciplinary tools” by unelected bodies to enforce “a radical reorientation of our consciousness.” There is a word for this kind of politics and this kind of theory when it is fully and completely realized, and it is totalitarian.”

    He is describing the Democratic Party in our time.

  3. So, ran into an ole friend. Says it’s all bread and circus around the world. Has something to do with the banks buying up the metals…gokd, silver, etc and creating a big distraction while they do this….then the rug will be pulled and the prices will plummet. Idk. Just something I heard.

    1. And the fed are silently bailing out the banks again

      Dylan Ratigan says Dodd Frank allows the banks to be bailed out without congress now

      Look at the liquidity that the fed is giving the banks

  4. What are democrats saying about President Trump?

    “Nixon was a crook and a disgrace to politics and the nation and should be impeached.”

    – Edward Mezvinsky

    “Who Impeached Richard Nixon?”

    “Edward “Ed” Mezvinsky, born January 17, 1937.

    You’ll probably say, “Who is Ed Mezvinsky?” Well, he is a former Democrat congressman who represented Iowa’s 1st congressional district in the United States House of Representatives for two terms, from 1973 to 1977. He sat on the House Judiciary Committee that decided the fate of Richard Nixon. He was outspoken saying that Nixon was a crook and a disgrace to politics and the nation and should be impeached.

    In March 2001, Mezvinsky was indicted and later pleaded guilty to 31 of 69 counts of bank fraud, mail fraud, and wire fraud. Mezvinsky embezzled more than $10 million dollars from people via both a Ponzi scheme and the notorious Nigerian e-mail scams. He was found guilty and sentenced to 80 months in federal prison. After serving less than five years in federal prison, he was released in April 2008 and remains on federal probation. To this day, he still owes $9.4 million in restitution to his victims.

    About now you are saying, “So what!” Well, this is Marc and Chelsea Mezvinsky. That’s right; Ed Mezvinsky is Chelsea Clinton’s father – in-law. Now Marc and Chelsea are in their early thirties and purchased a $10.5 million dollar NYC apartment (after being married in George Soros’ mansion). Has anyone heard any of this mentioned in the media?

    If this guy was Jenna or Barbara Bush’s, or better yet, Sarah Palin’s daughter’s father-in-law, the news on it would be an everyday headline and every detail would be reported over and over. They say there are no double standards in political reporting. And then there is possibly Chelsea for president in our future!

    Where did this young couple get the 10.5 Million dollars for the apartment? Clinton Foundation, right. Or perhaps the off shore account of Marc.”

    – Anonymous Internet

    Ed reminds me of A-Damn Schiifff!

    It’s all in the family – from Soros to Chelsbillary Clinton.

  5. The police/military in Bolivia are massacring civilians who are protesting the coup in their nation. This is one of the many literally Nazi connected coups the USGinc. supports. The IC is busy in many nations, alliances with Nazis is everywhere. Murder is everywhere. Freedom of speech is being taken, everywhere.

    Look how we feel about the IC coup in our nation and think what it would be like to demonstrate against it and be shot at, right in the head, by our own military and police. We should not tolerate this of our govt.

    1. Jill:
      “This is one of the many literally Nazi connected coups the USGinc. supports. The IC is busy in many nations, alliances with Nazis is everywhere.”


      Any proof of this proposition? Or is it just your world view?

      1. The business about ‘Nazis’ is pure lunacy. She’ll cite her favorite source, a dame in St. Cloud, Minnesota with a website.

      2. Yes mespo, go to max blumenthal’s twitter and start reading/learning. There are pictures with nazi flags/swastika’s etc. and the “leaders” of these right wing coups.

      1. I’m hoping they sort things out there in the next few months. The question at hand (given that Morales was running for re-election in defiance of constitutional provisions and in defiance of a referendum three years ago on that very question and given that his party stuffed the ballot boxes) is whether the Morales organization is willing to abide by rules. (See contemporary Nicaragua for an example of a Latin American country where the incumbent left just steals). We have the same problem in this country.

        1. Latin America is a tragedy. I have stated on this blog many times my concern that the USA has followed in the same trajectory as Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, etc but with more wealth and materials, unlike Cuba, et al

          When Pelosi cut off a Sinclar Broadcast reporter last week during her press conference, and accused him as peddling the Republican talking points because he asked why the WB should have more rights than the US President, my first thoughts were to Cuba. This from the 3rd Person high up in the the US Hierarchy. And the “prensa amarilla” (yellow press) nods their heads like Granma

          1. No one has the right to question my source and find the flaws in his argument or to point out his political bias.


            Nancy Pelosi

            1. The “whistleblower” was an anti-Trump activist who heard it from a friend, who heard it from a friend, that Trump withheld aid to Ukraine unless they agreed to investigate Joe Biden.

              The transcript didn’t bear that out.

              No first hand witness bears that out.

              The Democrats’ witness affirmed Ukraine didn’t know anything about this and it was never mentioned.

              This is an attempt to overthrow the government.

              Will they behave this way towards all future Republican presidents and their Supreme Court nominees? Because that would install a single party state, just like many Leftist dictatorships that came before.

              Look how they abuse their authority when Trump tried to investigate one of their own. They can dish out one investigation after another, but not take it.

            2. Karen, it’s hard not to notice that you provide no date or context for this alleged remark. Readers of this blog would be hard-pressed to verify if Pelosi ever said this. But that could be your strategy; an assumption that readers are going to think that Karen has no deceptive intent.

              1. John – it was a sarcastic paraphrase of the YouTube video where Pelosi brushed off questions about Trump’s due process as “Republican talking points.”

                If I quote someone, I use quotation marks.

          2. her face looks funny. like she’s always trying to grin while she’s talking. strange

            “Whisteblower” etc etc. these people were nowhere while previous adminstrations were locking whisteblowers up left and right. what a pious fraud this lady is!

            but i like the dress

      2. You do realize this coup is totally illegal. The self declared president has ordered violence against the people. She is a racist who hates indigenous people. She has literally exempted the military and police from prosecution for their violence against the people trying to restore democracy in Bolivia. The CIA is one of the actors behind this coup. People who are peacefully trying to take back their legitimate govt. are being beaten and murdered. I really hope you are not serious about everyone following the lead of this violent/military coup which is murdering the people of Bolivia.

        Please don’t believe everything you read in the MSM. They are the ones who assured you Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and that Saddam Hussein was, in part, behind 9/11. The MSM lies all the time. Read around more widely than just the MSM. Even dare to read telesur and go to @maxblumenthal, an award winning journalist.

        1. You do realize this coup is totally illegal. The self declared president has ordered violence against the people. She is a racist who hates indigenous people.

          You’ve told three lies in three sentences. Par for your course.

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