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Reich writes: "It's a constitutional crisis all right. So what happens now? An impeachment inquiry in the House won't send Trump packing before election day 2020 because Senate Republicans won't convict him of impeachment."

Former Clinton labor secretary Robert Reich. (photo: Steve Russell/Toronto Star)
Former Clinton labor secretary Robert Reich. (photo: Steve Russell/Toronto Star)

Uphold the Constitution, Impeach - Even If It's Politically Risky

By Robert Reich, Guardian UK

13 May 19

It’s important to uphold the constitution through impeachment – even if it goes nowhere, even if it’s unpopular with many voters, even if it’s politically risky

t’s a constitutional crisis all right. So what happens now? An impeachment inquiry in the House won’t send Trump packing before election day 2020 because Senate Republicans won’t convict him of impeachment.

So the practical political question is whether a House impeachment inquiry helps send him packing after election day.

That seems unlikely.

Probably no more than a relative handful of Americans are still unsure of how they’ll vote on 3 November 2020. An impeachment is unlikely to reveal so many more revolting details about Trump that these voters are swayed to vote against him, and their votes won’t make much of a difference anyway.

Besides, the inquiry probably won’t reveal much that’s not already known because House subpoenas will get tangled up in the courts for the remainder of Trump’s term (even though courts give more deference to subpoenas in an impeachment inquiry).

Worse yet is the chance that an impeachment inquiry plays into Trump’s hands by convincing some wavering voters that Democrats and the “deep state” are out to get Trump, thereby giving him more votes than he’d otherwise get.

Does this mean House Democrats should avoid taking the political risk of impeaching Trump? Not at all.

Another question needs to be considered – not just the practical political effect on the 2020 election, but something more important over the long run.

It is whether an action designed to enforce our constitution is important for its own sake – even if it goes nowhere, even if it’s unpopular with many voters, even if it’s politically risky.

Every child in America is supposed to learn about the constitution’s basic principles of separation of powers, and checks and balances.

But, these days, every child and every adult in America is learning from Donald Trump that these principles are bunk.

By issuing a blanket refusal to respond to any congressional subpoena, Trump is saying Congress has no constitutional authority to oversee the executive branch. He’s telling America that Congress is a subordinate branch of government rather than a co-equal branch. Forget separation of powers.

By spending money on his “wall” that Congress explicitly refused to authorize, Trump is saying that Congress no longer has any constitutional authority over spending. Goodbye, checks and balances.

By unilaterally shuttering the government in order to get his way, Trump is saying he has the constitutional right not to execute the laws whenever it suits him. Farewell, Congress.

By directing the attorney general, the justice department, the FBI, and the secretary of the treasury to act in his own personal interest rather than in the interests of the American people, Trump is saying that a president can run the government on his own. Adios, constitution.

By unilaterally threatening to cut off trade with the second-largest economy in the world, Trump is saying he has sole authority to endanger the entire American economy. (Make no mistake: if he goes through with the threat, the US economy will go into a tailspin.)

By doing whatever he could to stop an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, including firing the head of the FBI, Trump has told America it’s OK for a president to obstruct justice. Goodbye, law.

The core purpose of the US constitution is to prevent tyranny. That’s why the framers of the constitution distributed power among the president, Congress and the judiciary. That’s why each of the three branches was designed to limit the powers of the other two.

In other words, the framers anticipated the possibility of a Donald Trump.

The framers also put in mechanisms to enforce the constitution against a president who tries to usurp the powers of the other branches of government. Article I Section 2 gives the House of Representatives the “sole power of impeachment”. Article I Section 3, gives the Senate the “sole power to try all impeachments”.

Donald Trump surely appears to be usurping the powers of the other branches. Under these circumstances, the constitution mandates that the House undertake an impeachment inquiry and present evidence to the Senate.

This may not be the practical political thing to do. But it is the right thing to do.

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-6 # kyzipster 2019-05-13 09:25
Impeachment is potentially politically disastrous, it might benefit Trump in the long run. The bottom line for me is if a law was broken, it needs to become historical record and that can be done through censure. The Senate would have a hard time not acknowledging any proof of lawlessness, Trump's reputation would be permanently tarnished, it would benefit the Democrats more in the long run. Degrade Trump's reputation over time. It would benefit the country as a whole, holding the office of the President accountable.

I was sold on this approach by a conservative Constitutional scholar I heard give a talk during the Bush years. He was convinced of Bush/Cheney's guilt in lying to Congress to launch the Iraq war. It's a shame that it's not even on the table for debate.
+5 # wrknight 2019-05-13 14:24
No. Impeachment may be politically risky now, but regardless whether Republicans convict him or not, failure to impeach sends a clear message to future presidential aspirants that PRESIDENTS ARE UNIMPEACHABLE. That's an open invitation for every charlatan in the country to run for president; and one of them will end our democracy (what's left of it).

If you don't give a damn about the future of our democracy, then let Trump get away with it for the sake of a few votes and maybe a couple of House seats.
-3 # kyzipster 2019-05-14 13:49
I'd rather see censure than absolutely no action which is what we saw with Bush/Cheney. There were calls for impeachment all through the Bush years, the crimes were far more serious imo. Had crimes been established, it would be history.

I just don't want to see Trump martyred and voted into a second term because of it. My gut tells me that's what could happen if the House impeaches.

If censure were to happen, the Senate might be forced to agree to it and that can impact public opinion over time, the establishment of a crime. Public opinion and bipartisan cooperation is the only thing that might get Trump impeached and removed from office. I see no point to a symbolic impeachment by the House. It would just be viewed as partisan revenge. Facts don't matter, Trump has proven that, even before he won the election.

Censure doesn't rule out impeachment down the road if public opinion finally turns against Trump enough to get Republicans behind it. The way public opinion finally turned against Bush in his final years in office.

"If you don't give damn about the future of our democracy"

I wear a flag pin everyday, it proves I care.
+42 # revhen 2019-05-13 10:28
I'm really scared of this man. He was an incompetent businessman and now an incompetent president. But he is the world's greatest con man. He's an expert at putting others down to promote himself. I fear he is the end of America as "the shining light on the hill." (Reagan's term.). We are fast becoming the garbage pit of the world, the nastiest people on the planet. God save us!
+6 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-05-14 08:19
rev -- "I fear he is the end of America as "the shining light on the hill." (Reagan's term.)."

Reagan was the end of the shining light on the hill. Actually it was a shining city on a hill. He said, "America is a shining city upon a hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere."

America has never shed the light of freedom anywhere in the world. It has brought only tyranny and capitalistic exploitation to every continent on earth. The US has spread war to almost all nations of the earth.

Not long ago Trump called Jimmy Carter to talk about China. He wanted to know why China has been so economically successful. Here's a clip from their conversation:

"Since 1979, do you know how many times China has been at war with anybody?” Carter asked.

“None, and we have stayed at war. . . . China has been at peace with its neighbors and the world."

Carter then said the US has been at peace for only 16 of its 242 years as a nation. Counting wars, military attacks and military occupations, there have actually only been five years of peace in US history. . . . Carter then referred to the US as “the most warlike nation in the history of the world,” a result, he said, of the US forcing other countries to “adopt our American principles.”

Carter referred to China's "peace dividend" and a parallel "waste" of US resources in killing people and destroying nations all over the earth. To most people on earth, China is the shining city on the hill.
+5 # chapdrum 2019-05-16 13:34
Exactly. His heroes are sh*theels like Putin, Duterte, Orban, ad nauseum; he doesn't try to conceal his admiration of them. And we continue to fall for it.
+5 # 2019-05-13 17:14
The framers of the Constitution, unfortunately, worried too much about legislative encroachment on executive powers, and too little about the executive's encroaching on the powers of Congress. They divided the legislature, but did not separate symbolic and political powers of the Presidency. The requirement for 2/3 conviction in the Senate also preempted easy removal of executive leaders.
+4 # SenorN 2019-05-13 22:09
What a shame that Reich is 100% correct and that, nevertheless, it's probably best NOT to follow his advice. Trump's reelection would be catastrophic and would set in stone the destructive changes he's implementing throughout our government and our nation. We cannot take the chance of alienating those voters who really don't know what's going on. Along those lines, it's worth remembering that Nixon was reelected after much of his impeachment inquiry was completed and the evidence against him was already damning. He resigned not long after that. Surely, we could NOT count on Drumpf to do the same.
Republicans have broken the rules so many times they've just about thrown out the rule book: the Caucus Room conspiracy to commit serial obstruction, McConnell's refusal to consider Merrick Garland, the Neil Gorsuch inspired elimination of the filibuster for SC nominees, their refusal to allow an in-depth investigation into Kavanaugh, and their failure to stop Trump from misappropriatin g funds for his f___ing wall, to name just a few of their affronts to democracy, the Constitution, and good government. To follow the rules when your against Republicans is to lose because they have no scruples and no allegiance to our system of government.
+5 # pmargaret7 2019-05-14 15:56
Extremely well put covering many of the important points of the "dilemma" with Orange. I see both sides (impeachment/no n impeachment) very well, and not being a political scholar, I look to them and the wisdom of those who have served (Reich, et al) and those with a great deal of experience who are still serving (Pelosi et al) but there is no clear consensus of what to do about the school bully whose Daddy Warbucks has always gotten him out of trouble and who now thinks he can run roughshod through all established norms and has never read or cared about our sacred constitution!!! He is the cruel and angry bull in the American china shop ("China" shop!!!). What to do, what to do? If he fits the bill for truly impeachable offenses, we should not play games, but I would rather hang him on treason for his behavior and words in Helsinki! We all saw it!!! He is a cruel louse in every way, and the politicians and "citizens" behind him are abhorrent to me. His legacy is negative in all ways, and his recent tariff game is about to sink is all! No happy solutions in any direction...he must be gone gone gone in the most damning and expedient way possible - and make it stick!
+11 # suziemama 2019-05-14 00:06
Cowardice asks the question, "Is it safe?"

Expediency asks the question, "Is it politic?"

Vanity asks the question, "Is it popular?"

But conscience asks the question, "Is it right?"

- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
-4 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-05-14 07:05
Reich is confusing the way electoral politics is now played with constitutional mandates. Since the 90s when Newt Gingrich launched his bid to become president by impeaching Bill Clinton, congress has used this sort of hearing for political purposes. The Benghazi hearings had the sole purpose of destroying Hillary as a political candidate for 2016. Now democrats want to impeach Trump in order to defeat him in 2020.

The use of congressional powers for political electioneering is what is unconstitutiona l and what is trashing the constitutional separation of powers and the system of checks and balances.

If congress thinks Trump has committed serous crimes while president, then impeach him. Stop pissing around. But congress knows Trump has committed no such crimes -- except that war crimes are serious but no one in congress wants to impeach any president for that. It is the pissing around that they want -- it gets them on TV talk shows and makes loser into congressional spokespersons and potential presidential candidates (Eric Swallowell to name one). This is the Newt Gingrich model. It stunk in the 90s and it stinks even now. But Reich seems to love it.
+7 # Street Level 2019-05-14 09:26
Drag him through impeachment proceedings for the rest of his term anyway. We can't remove him but that doesn't mean that we should hammer our thumbs up our butts like Pelosi who doesn't want to waste her time.
The chaos of disruption and stigma created will only be a fraction of the hell he's caused around the planet.
Do the Dem's want to finally show they have the stomach, balls or spine?
+5 # chapdrum 2019-05-16 13:32
If you fail to uphold the Constitution, that alone should be the basis for your removal from matter your party or position.

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