The Pied Pipers of the Left

With Trump’s inauguration still weeks away, Robert Kuttner of the American Prospect is calling for progressives to begin building a public case for impeachment by “keep[ing] a running dossier [on Trump’s illegal actions] and forward[ing] updates at least weekly to the House Judiciary Committee.” Salon’s Heather “Digby” Parton is echoing Kuttner. It’s a terrible idea.

There is no chance it will succeed. The only way to remove a president is first for a majority of the House of Representatives to vote for impeachment and next for two thirds of the Senate to vote for conviction. Given the extant evidence, neither the Republican House nor the Republican Senate will accede to the wishes of those seeking Trump’s removal.

Success means failure. If the impeachment efforts did against all odds succeed, Mike Pence would take command. There is good reason to believe Pence would do even more harm to the body politic than Trump will.

Objectively, any prospective case against Trump is thin at best. Kuttner implicitly acknowledges this when he writes “[t]here will be no lack of evidence.” (Emphasis supplied.)  Kuttner seems to feel surer footing when claiming “Trump has already committed grave misdeeds of the kind that the Constitutional founders described as high crimes and misdemeanors.” But his follow-up sentence undermines this claim with the presumption that “Trump will be in violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which unambiguously prohibits any person holding public office from profiting from gifts or financial benefits from ‘any king, prince or Foreign state.’” (Emphasis supplied.)

It is true that Trump’s hotels and resorts will receive additional business due to spending by foreign governments. Whether this amounts to a violation of the Emoluments clause, much less rises to the level of a high crime or misdemeanor, is an open question and one that will not be answered in the affirmative by the sitting Republican Congress.

Making impeachment based on the Emoluments clause even less likely is the fact that Trump won a majority of the electoral college even though voters knew full well of his international business interests.  Indeed, many cited the width and breath of Trump’s financial holdings (even if wildly exaggerated) as a reason for voting for him. They believed his wealth made him less likely to be seduced by gifts or financial benefits.

Kuttner also cites Trump’s relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin as possibly undergirding an impeachment claim based on treason. But again the specifics are unconvincing. Kuttner says that if Trump suppresses an investigation into Russian manipulation of the Presidential election he might be committing a “crime” giving aid or comfort to our “enemies.”

Note that the qualifiers Kuttner employs in support of his argument demonstrate its pusillanimity.  Note too that Trump has not suppressed any investigation and almost certainly will not do so. His attorney general will simply opt not to pursue one against the Russians. Moreover, even if Trump directly suppressed such an inquiry, he would probably not be committing a crime and, in any event, Russia likely does not meet the definition of an “enemy.”

By pursuing impeachment before inauguration, progressives will cement in many minds the notion that we are not above partisan bickering and that our first loyalty is to the Democratic party rather than to the public’s well-being.  We would also be wasting precious time and energy fiddling while Trump and the Republicans Congress are burning our house down.

We on the left should of course monitor Trump’s actions for evidence that he is contravening the interests of the American people or violating the law.  We should publicize every word and deed that could hurt his standing with the electorate or create fissures within the Republican party.  What we should not do is announce in advance our intention to push non-starter impeachment claims based on facts of which the public was aware when it elected him.

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8 Responses to The Pied Pipers of the Left

  1. Paul Henri says:

    Point well taken Hal. And yes, Pence may just be a worse choice given his record on social issues. However, I am not looking forward to 4 years with this clown and his circus running the show. Not sure how to keep a positive attitude for the next 4 years.

  2. halginsberg says:

    Thanks Paul. I’m going to set out a more positive program in the next few days. Cheers and here’s to a better new year than we fear. (Hey that rhymes!)

  3. John says:

    We won’t recognize this country after 4 years of this administration. My greatest hope is that non voters are so badly hurt by Trump and the Republicans that they get off their asses and vote, but I’m starting to believe at this point that they are too stupid to tie their shoes, let alone figure out how, and where, to vote.

  4. Shade says:

    Nothing that occurs involving Trump or his administration should surprise us at this point. While I’m not holding my breath or putting all my eggs in this basket, Trump may act so irrationally or split the Republican party so badly that impeachment might get initiated from the Right specifically to remove this unstable man & install the Progressive nightmare Pence as our President.

  5. Daniel DeCamp says:

    Thank you Hal for your deep and well thought out analysis. It gives me plenty of food for though. I didn’t even know there were any serious plans for impeachment.

  6. Shade says:

    If Trump is going to keep running around dissing our spooks & now threatening their budget, impeachment might not be necessary. CIA spooks on the grassy knoll might see to it that Trump catches cold instead!

    • Shade says:

      Intel agencies now attack Trump from grassy knoll. So not surprised leaks 2press now support prev suspicions- that Trump operatives paid4/worked-on DNC hacking as much as Russia itself. Neither am I surprised Trump would fall4 having grp sex during which pixs got took. Old saying is American men r asked 2stand up 4their country, Russian women asked 2lie down 4theirs. And of course Trump doesn’t need briefings re this- he participated live! So now what? Right-wing leads impeachment 2get wet-dream Pence? http://tiny.cc/jw5diy

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