Commentary: Impeachment effort by Dems a ‘fool’s errand’

Back in early 2017, we noted on this page that progressive heads were exploding on the election of Donald J. Trump as president of the United States. Boom.

They couldn’t believe it. It simply couldn’t be. One comment, this one from David Brooks of the New York Times, was his prediction that Trump would either be impeached or resign within 30 days of his inauguration. Others were urgently predicting that Trump would be impeached and removed fairly expeditiously.

And then there was the somewhat humorous notion that if Trump were simply impeached and removed, a foregone conclusion according to this line of thought, that Hillary Clinton would become president.

The Founding Fathers were very intentional at the Constitutional Convention in providing for impeachment. The subject was seriously debated. For one thing, the founders rejected the notion of including “maladministration” as a ground for impeachment. The grounds, “treason, bribery or high crimes or misdemeanors,” were intended to set a high bar for impeachment and removal.

Reid Beveridge

This high bar was clearly, or at least arguably, met in the three previous impeachment situations. Andrew Johnson was accused of breaking a law passed over his veto, the Tenure in Office Act. This Reconstruction-era law, which almost certainly was unconstitutional, prohibited a president from firing a cabinet officer who had been confirmed by the Senate.

Johnson finished his term, having succeeded Abraham Lincoln, because the Senate fell one vote short of the two-thirds majority required for removal.

Richard M. Nixon would have been accused of several real crimes. But he resigned in the face of certain impeachment and a high likelihood of removal, his Republican allies in the Senate by then convinced of his guilt.

Bill Clinton, impeached in 1998 and tried in 1999, was accused of perjury – lying to a federal grand jury. The Senate, in its wisdom, didn’t think this was a high crime or misdemeanor. Later, a federal judge thought he was guilty and disbarred Clinton for five years.

So today, we have the thinnest of all impeachments. The charges are abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The abuse of power stems from that famous phone call back on July 25 with the president of the Ukraine. We have the rough transcript; readers can judge for themselves. Similarly, you can judge for yourself whether Hunter Biden deserved to make $990,000 a year to serve as a board member of a company of whose technology he knew nothing in a country whose language he neither spoke or understood – while his father was vice president of the United States.

As for “obstruction of Congress,” this stems from President Trump’s refusal to assist in his own prosecution. He invoked executive privilege to bar his closest foreign-policy aides from testifying before the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees. This is any president’s right — the right to talk with his advisers without the discussion becoming public.

The congressional Democrats might have won this case. But to do so would have required them to go to court, probably all the way to the Supreme Court, to prevail. This is what Independent Counsel Leon Jaworski did in Nixon’s case. In that case, it was the tape recordings of Oval Office conversations in which President Nixon discussed the Watergate break-ins with aides.

So the charges are none of the four mentioned in the Constitution: No treason, no bribery (discussed by Democrats at one point) and no crimes or misdemeanors, high or otherwise.

All of this is simply the culmination of what we mentioned at the top. The Democrats/progressives simply cannot abide the fact that President Trump won the 2016 election fair and square and that Hillary Clinton was an awful presidential candidate, didn’t. She can’t, either, having recently asserted that the election was stolen from her.

So having lost, the Democrats conjured up, first, the notion that Trump colluded with the Russians to steal it. Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his crew spent two years investigating that and concluded they hadn’t.

Then it was obstruction of justice. Mueller mentioned 17 instances when he said the Trump administration had interfered with his investigation. But he concluded that none was ripe for prosecution. Interestingly, his definition of “obstruction” included Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey.

Only trouble is, under Article 2 of the U.S. Constitution, any president is entitled to fire the FBI director at any time for any reason or no reason. That’s because the FBI director is part of the executive branch. The president heads the executive branch. The FBI director, who is appointed by the president, works for the attorney general. The attorney general works for the president.

If and when House Democrats get around to sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate, there will be a trial. The chief justice of the United States will preside, just as then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist did in 1999. A two-thirds majority, or 67 when all are voting, is required to remove the president from office and make Vice President Mike Pence the president.

So it’s a bit of a puzzler. Why do Democrats spend all this time and treasure when they know they never will get 67 votes, or anything near it, to remove? It’s one definition of a fool’s errand.

Reid Beveridge has covered politics in Texas, Iowa, Wisconsin, Delaware and Washington, D.C. He now resides at Paynter’s Mill in Milton. He can be reached at