House Democrats laid out their case for impeachment in a report that takes great liberties with US as well as European history. The end result comes off as a lame attempt to hide a lack of evidence behind pomp and verbosity.
Imagine my confusion when I sat down with a hard copy of the ‘Constitutional Grounds for Presidential Impeachment' - the Democrats' legal case for impeachment against Trump - and randomly flipped open to page 32, which began with not only a blast from the past, but from an altogether different country: "Many officials were impeached for non-criminal wrongs against the British system of government," the line began, before naming "the Duke of Buckingham (1626), the Earl of Strafford (1640), the Lord Mayor of London (1642), the Earl of Orford and... Governor General Warren Hastings (1787)."
In case the reader missed the true essence of that quote, allow me to repeat it: "Many officials were impeached for non-criminal wrongs..." In other words, it appears that the Democrats are attempting to build an impeachment case against Donald Trump on the premise that it's perfectly legitimate to oust a sitting President who has committed no real crime. That radical idea weaves its slippery way throughout the text.
For example, the report heavily quotes Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story (1779-1845), who argued that impeachable offenses "are of so various and complex a character, so utterly incapable of being defined, or classified, that the task of positive legislation would be impracticable, if it were not almost absurd to attempt it."
Those words were quoted not once in the text, but twice.
The quote by Story is followed by a telling reminder that, "the House has never, in any impeachment inquiry or proceeding, adopted either a comprehensive definition of ‘high Crimes and Misdemeanors' or a catalog of offenses that are impeachable."
Based on those two paragraphs, the uninformed reader may also get the impression that opening articles of impeachment against a sitting President is a regularly occurring event in the United States. In fact, only two US presidents - Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton - have been formally impeached by Congress, and without success. Richard Nixon, meanwhile, decided to resign rather than face what promised to be an excruciating court battle.
Would it surprise anyone at this point that the Democrats pounced on the dual histories of Nixon and Clinton to fortify their impeachment script, once again, that presidents can be forced out of office for "non-criminal acts"?
"Although President Nixon resigned before the House could consider the articles of impeachment against him, the Judiciary Committee's allegations encompassed many non-criminal acts," the report reads. With regards to Bill Clinton, it argues that lawmakers agreed that "the actions of President Clinton do not have to rise to the level of....obstruction of justice in order to justify impeachment."
Perhaps it could be agreed that the spectacle of Clinton engaged in a lewd sexual act with an intern inside of the Oval Office, while not necessarily criminal behavior per se, was satisfactorily negligent enough to warrant his removal from office.
Trump, at least as we know so far, did nothing more illicit than conduct a phone call with a foreign leader in an effort to investigate possible criminal behavior by former Vice President Joe Biden, who just happens to be running for president of the US. No incriminating blue dress, no juicy Watergate tapes, just a transcript of the Trump-Zelensky conversation that clearly shows the US leader requested no quid pro-quo from the Ukrainians for their assistance.
In order to put some meat on this skeleton of a report, the Democrats are compelled to make allies across time and space with a dizzying number of dead American Framers, as if any of these patriots would have had anything to do with this partisan circus that threatens to bring down the Republic. In fact, the term ‘Framers' - which refers to the 55 individuals who participated in drafting the US Constitution back in 1787 - is mentioned a whopping 123 times in the 52-page report.
Even though not a single Framer was a card-carrying Democrat (the Democratic Party did not formally come into existence until January 8, 1828), nor ever embroiled in a political show trial to oust a sitting President, the reader would never guess that from the amount of times those patriots and their opinions are summoned.
To get a flavor of the Framers' wisdom that was quoted liberally throughout the text, consider this gem early on by Alexander Hamilton, who reminds us that while "the king of Great Britain is sacred and inviolable," the US President could be "impeached, tried, and upon conviction ...removed from office."
The part of the House Judiciary Report, however, that really deserves a congressional medal for going off the rails of reality happens halfway through, when readers are introduced to King Louis XVI of France under the heading ‘Corruption of Office or Elections'.
Here we are told the story of King Louis bestowing upon Benjamin Franklin, in his capacity as American emissary, a "snuff box decorated with 408 diamonds."
"Magnificent gifts like this one could unconsciously shape how American officials carried out their duties," the self-righteous report warns. "To guard against that peril, the Framers adopted the Foreign Emoluments Clause, which prohibits Presidents-among other federal officials-from accepting ‘any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State' unless Congress affirmatively consents."
Now, aside from the absolute absurdity of harking back to the waning days of the Kingdom of France to make its point, the overt assertion here is that Trump was somehow guilty of bribing the Ukrainians for their assistance. Thus far, however, there is no evidence to suggest that any jewel-encrusted emolument had exchanged hands, nor the gifting of kingdoms and fiefdoms had taken place.
Moreover, making frequent references to European royalty (I was half suspecting the ancient Romans would be called upon to testify as well), seems to fit with the Democratic pattern of attributing to Trump the unfettered powers of a monarch.
Just last week, for example, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused Trump of abusing his presidential powers before alluding to Britain's King George III, the monarch against whom the American colonies fought against, saying that in the United States, "the people are the king."
With such heated rhetoric recklessly flying around, it seems the United States may truly be heading for another historic showdown, but this time against itself as opposed to some foreign tyrant.
In conclusion, the Democratic report quoted the American lawyer William Rawle who wrote in 1829 that impeachment might be reserved for men who might be "productive of the most serious disasters." Having perused that line, I couldn't help but wonder if the "disaster" the Democrats are referencing is nothing less than the loss of the 2020 presidential election to Donald Trump. For them, that would truly be disastrous.
Increasingly, and tragically, that's what this latest farce against Donald Trump seems to be all about: the preservation of power in a few hands, even if it means the sacrifice of the Republic.