“The First Time In History”: Gerhardt Claims McConnell Is The First Senate Leader To Coordinate With White House On An Impeachment Trial

University of North Carolina Law Prof. Michael Gerhardt made a remarkable claim this week when asked about stories that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R, Ky.) was coordinating on the details of the Senate impeachment trial with the White House. Gerhardt claimed that such a thing has never happened in history. Despite my long association and friendship with Gerhardt, I must disagree with that remarkable suggestion.

Gerhardt and I testified at both the Clinton and Trump impeachment hearings. I have always valued his views and commentary.

In the Trump impeachment hearing, Gerhardt is probably best known for his sweeping declaration that “if what we are talking about is not impeachable, nothing is impeachable.” I will note that we were talking about a host of crimes from bribery to extortion to campaign finance violations to abuse of power. I testified that the legal definitions of the bribery, extortion, campaign finance and obstruction of justice (including Mueller-related claims) do not fit these facts and cannot be used as a basis for impeachment. The only two impeachable offenses that I saw as conceptually and constitutionally viable were abuse of power and obstruction of Congress but testified that the record would not currently support such claims. Ultimately, the Committee dropped all of those crimes and went with the two that I discussed. However, it has unwisely kept to its pledge to impeach by Christmas despite the obvious gaps and conflicts in the record.

Now to Gerhardt’s surprising claim. He was asked about reports on Thursday afternoon that Senate Majority Leader McConnell met at his office with White House counsel Pat Cipollone and others to talk about impeachment. McConnell acknowledged later that he was working on the details of the trial with the White House.

Gerhardt cried foul when asked by CNN’s Poppy Harlow “how normal or abnormal is it for the Senate Majority Leader to work in, what he said, was lockstep, essentially, with the White House on a senate trial. Is that normal?”

Gerhardt responded:

“It is extremely unusual. We don’t have a lot of experience with presidential impeachments, but this is the first time in history when the president was coordinating with a big bloc of people from his own party in the Senate. With Andrew Johnson, he wasn’t coordinating with anyone. No one liked Andrew Johnson. Bill Clinton was not coordinating with the Democrats. In fact, they kept a fair distance between themselves. Richard Nixon, his party was beginning to fragment at this point and, in fact, it was Barry Goldwater who said […] he’s not going to get through this without being convicted and removed. So, this is the first time we’ve seen this kind of coordination.”

With all due respect to my friend, that is wildly offbase from the history. First, in fairness to Gerhardt, little is really known of the backroom negotiations in the Johnson case. However, given the fact that he was widely despised even among his own party, it could well be true that he was not working closely with the Senate. However, the plain fact is that the Senate was overwhelmingly Republican and opposed to Johnson who was affiliated with the Democrats and later the National Union party. The very idea of the majority coordinating with Johnson on the trial would have been absurd given the open hatred for Johnson.

As for Nixon, both the House and the Senate were under the control of the Democrats, not the Republicans. Moreover, Goldwater was not the minority leader or minority whip. They were Hugh Scott and Robert Griffin, respectively. However, there was no trial being actively planned and Nixon resigned soon after the decision of the Supreme Court ordering him to release the key tapes.

As for Clinton, the Republicans controlled the Senate and the House. However, the notion that Harry Reid and Tom Daschle did not coordinate with the Clinton White House is . . . well . . . baffling. There were news reports of senators meeting with the White House on the details. Coordination between a president under impeachment and congressional leaders of his own party is not unprecedented. In the book “The Breach,” the author recounts close coordination between the Clinton staff and the Senate staff. Clinton also spoke directly with senators. Howard Kurtz for example reported on the views of a “Democratic senator who is consulting regularly with President Clinton” on the trial in his coverage for the Washington Post. On January 1, 1999, the Associated Press reports on the developments from meetings where “Senators and the White House are finalizing strategy for conducting President Clinton’s impeachment trial.” Some like Tom Daschle were actually uncomfortable with the degree of coordination and he resisted some of direct coordination but the White House was very clear about its demands. In one interview. Daschle agreed that “Clinton was leaning very heavily on [Sen. Ted] Kennedy, concerning a strategy: These are the 35 names, things he wanted, and a strategy he wanted to pursue. It’s my impression that he wasn’t consulting with the Democratic leader very much on these things.” While Daschle tried to maintain some distance, he admitted that he and Kennedy pursued the same approach on the details for the trial.

Since the opposing parties controlled the Senate in Clinton and Nixon, there would have been no shaping of the trial with the majority. However, it is very common for the party of an accused president to coordinate closely with the White House. That was done openly during Clinton and widely reported in the press as different options were raised with the White House by Democratic allies.

There is nothing unprecedented with conferring with the White House on the dimensions or demands of the trial. There should ideally be conferral with the House managers and party leaders are under a constitutional obligations to ensure a fair and legitimate process. However, conferral and coordination with inevitable and certainly not unprecedented.

233 thoughts on ““The First Time In History”: Gerhardt Claims McConnell Is The First Senate Leader To Coordinate With White House On An Impeachment Trial”

    1. David Benson is the God Emperor of Making Stuff Up and owes me forty citations (one from the OED, one from the town ordinances and two from the Old Testament), an equation and the source of a quotation, after fifty-five weeks, and needs to cite all his work from now on. – Robert de Niro is not even an authority on acting. Again. Post what de Niro said if it is that important.

    2. Are you referring to Robert De Niro claiming he’d disown his own children if they ever behaved like Trump’s children? He referred to them as mobsters.

      So…Donald, Jr, Erik, Ivanka, and Barron are supposedly like the mob.

      De Niro is no wise guy. He just plays one on TV…in all sense of the word. He’s become increasingly unhinged, dropping F bombs about the President every time he’s on TV while decrying Trump’s behavior. Ironic.

        1. Is that due to his divorce, the lawsuit by a former assistant who alleged abuse, as well as losing his role in the Goodfellas remake because he turned off older voters with his political diatribes?

          I heard he blamed Trump for losing that role. Perhaps he should look in the mirror for the source of his problems.

          Instead, I anticipate he’ll just make more profanity-laced threats.

          1. Karen S – I going for his divorce. The prenup may be invalid. His holdings are worth 500 million so he could lose half of that.

            1. Oh, well, whatever the ex leaves will go to the allegedly abused assistant, and since he’s offended his generation, there won’t be that big roll to replenish the coffers.

              He really is not a very nice man.

    3. De Niro has played the same character for decades, in a bunch of different movies.

      He’s no Pacino, that’s for sure.

      I liked it when he was reading someone else’s lines .When he writes his own, it’s clear, he should stick to someone else’s text.

      1. Mr. Kurtz,
        My favorite DeNiro movie is MIDNIGHT RUN….
        1988, I think. He and Charles Grodin we’re great in it.

    1. What you know about Gangsters or mafia fits in a thimble.

      Trump isn’t even close.

      The similarities are purely on the positive side.

  1. Karen S, if you want to communicate with me, start over from the top. I can’t read what you most recently wrote. This mobile device has limitations.

    1. It’s hard to read the blog on a cell phone. Turning it landscape helps, but at some point, the comments tree gets tabbed over too far to read properly on a phone.

  2. PCS, learn to read with care.

    I didn’t write “this thread’, I wrote “this site”.

    Double jeeze, *WAF*!!

    1. David Benson is the God Emperor of Making Stuff Up and owes me thirty-nine citations (one from the OED, one from the town ordinances and two from the Old Testament), an equation and the source of a quotation, after fifty-four weeks, and needs to cite all his work from now on. – Cite it on this thread, I am about to kick you up to forty owed citations.

          1. David Benson is the God Emperor of Making Stuff Up and owes me forty citations (one from the OED, one from the town ordinances and two from the Old Testament), an equation and the source of a quotation, after fifty-five weeks, and needs to cite all his work from now on. – I see the students at WSU are giving you help on acronyms. And, since you can clearly post links, both here and on another site, you can get the students to help you post the 43 citations you owe me.

        1. Anonymous – I will wait to see how Benson responds to me. 😉 However, you are free to start your own long count yourself.

        2. Are you talkin’ to me, are you talkin’ to me? I don’t see anyone else here, so you must be talkin’ to me.

          Sorry, I had to, DeNiro classic, Ya know how it goes…

          1. W33,
            It looks like DeNiro’s level of stability is getting more and more like that of Travis Bickle, the character he played in Taxi Driver.

                1. Mr. Schulte,
                  Some lawyers have written that the pre- nub DeNiro had may not shield his assets as effectively as he’d hoped.
                  His ex may want to drain him before a possible Warren Administration bleeds him with a “wealth tax”.

                  1. Anonymous – it appears that he was not honest with his ‘partner.” And the judge has a sense of humor. 😉

          2. De Niro drew on his own humanity when he depicted the disturbed loner Travis Bickle.

            De Niro is so arrogant today, that humanity lies underneath a thick layer of self-referential phoniness that’s made any sort of brilliant work like he once did, impossible.

            Fame ruins artists. Very few can continue to shine beyond their early work.

            A “lesser” Italian American actor captured this in “Rocky” —

            De Niro lost the eye of the tiger a long time ago!

            Now, Stallone’s not a Trumper. He calls himself a “political atheist.”

            But yeah his brother Frank is. Go Frank!

            https://www.phillymag.com/news/2019/10/22/frank-stallone-documentary-sylvester-stallone/

  3. Peter and Anon along with the other crazies out there. Below is todays comment from the Powerline Blog. Over and over they and other groups have detailed the lies you both have made based on the news media and your heros such as Adam Schiff. The difference between this blog and the trash you guys think is gold is that when they say something it can be proven. If they make a mistake they clearly correct it. This comment is not loaded with arguments and facts like some of their others but their comments are generally short and to the point. You would benefit from reading some of what they write on a daily basis.

    “We now know: Full of Schiff
    Posted: 15 Dec 2019 04:24 PM PST
    (Scott Johnson)
    In a February 2018 memo that earned him noting but opprobrium and abuse, Rep. Devin Nunes laid out the truth of the FISA abuse underlying the Obama administration’s surveillance of the Trump campaign. Rep. Adam Schiff disputed the Nunes memo with a competing memo of his own. Following the Department of Justice Inspector General report issued last week by Michael Horowitz, however, Schiff has been incapacitated from keeping up this particular ruse.

    We have come to know Schiff as something of a pathological liar. Nunes now seeks to conduct an intervention. In the letter captured in the tweet below, Nunes invites Schiff to undertake rehab. The first step is admitting he has a problem: “As part of your rehabilitation, it’s crucial that you admit you have a problem—you are hijacking the Intelligence Committee for political purposes while excusing and covering up intelligence agency abuses.” Schiff’s enablers will nevertheless insulate him from the consequences of his exposure. Indeed, they are his accomplices.

    Quotable quote: “I understand taking action on this issue will be difficult for you, as it will be an implicit acknowledgment that you were wrong to deny these abuses and that you were complicit in the violation of an American’s civil liberties. I also understand that such an acknowledgment is made even more difficult by the fact that you’ve already been discredited by your years-long false claim that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to hack the 2016 presidential election.”

    1. “When you strike at a king, you must kill him.”

      – Ralph Waldo Emerson
      ___________________

      Adam Schiff is not conducting impeachment, he is frantically engaging in counter-battery fire because he knows the day of reckoning for striking the king is rapidly approaching.
      __________________________________

      The Obama Coup D’etat in America is the most egregious abuse of power and the most prodigious scandal in American political history.

      The co-conspirators are:

      Bill Taylor, Eric Ciaramella, Rosenstein, Mueller/Team, Andrew Weissmann, Comey,

      Christopher Wray, McCabe, Strozk, Page, Laycock, Kadzic, Yates, Baker, Bruce Ohr,

      Nellie Ohr, Priestap, Kortan, Campbell, Sir Richard Dearlove, Steele, Simpson,

      Joseph Mifsud, Alexander Downer, Stefan “The Walrus” Halper, Azra Turk, Kerry,

      Hillary, Huma, Mills, Brennan, Gina Haspel, Clapper, Lerner, Farkas, Power, Lynch,

      Rice, Jarrett, Holder, Brazile, Sessions (patsy), Nadler, Schiff, Obama et al.

    2. Oh, yeah, and Adam, tell us more about the Ukrainian arms dealer who financed your last campaign please. https://apelbaum.wordpress.com/2019/09/29/how-to-finance-your-congressional-campaign-with-arms-sales/

      If we knew half of what’s really going on, we’d shoot them all!
      https://va.news-republic.com/a/6743967308613419525?app_id=1239&c=fb&gid=6743967308613419525&impr_id=6743981698609023237&language=en&region=us&user_id=6739460583575569414

      You’d think someone in the media would find all of the interesting. There is probably a Pulitzer in it somewhere, but I guess these people get their orders…

      1. Bob, what you provide is what Peter and Anon are allergic to and run away from. They are mindless, factless and base arguments on lies and deception. Only similarly mindless people accept what they say as truth.

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