The moral imperative of impeachment – The Washington Post

Law professor Noah Feldman appears before the House Judiciary Committee during its impeachment hearing at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. (Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)

“Let’s be serious.”

It was not French President Emmanuel Macron’s purpose to provide a slogan for the impeachment effort against President Trump, which entered a new phase Wednesday with the opening of the House Judiciary Committee hearings.

But in offering those explosive words at a news conference with Trump the day before, Macron reminded us of the stakes in this battle. It really is a deadly serious business.

The president’s partisans on the Judiciary Committee tried hard to make it otherwise. “This impeachment is not really about facts,” declared Rep. Douglas A. Collins of Georgia, the Trump hard-liner who is the ranking Republican on the committee.

Sorry. It most certainly is about the facts. There are the facts in the House Intelligence Committee’s comprehensive report released Tuesday. And there are the often-embarrassing events visible for all to see during this week’s NATO summit. Collins’s statement makes sense only for those consciously choosing to avoid the facts — or, worse, to put forward lies, as Republicans do when they weaponize Russian dictator Vladimir Putin’s propaganda to claim falsely that Ukraine tried to influence our most recent presidential election.

The most important charge in the Intelligence Committee’s report is this one: that “the President placed his personal political interests above the national interests of the United States.”

Trump’s other offenses flow from this one. That is especially true of his willingness to press foreign governments to meddle in our elections, as he did with Ukraine’s president, or to issue an open invitation to a foreign government to jump right in. That’s what he did with his infamous “Russia, if you’re listening” comment during the 2016 campaign.

Trump’s narrow, obsessive focus on himself and himself alone is now so widely accepted that it is taken for granted. Thus, the profound threat that this poses to our interests as a nation is routinely ignored or played down.

“Trump being Trump” — or what Republican Reps. Devin Nunes of California, Jim Jordan of Ohio and Michael McCaul of Texas tried to glorify as his “ ‘outside the Beltway’ approach to diplomacy” — can no longer be an excuse for overlooking how much weaker the United States is today than it was 1,048 days ago.

The NATO summit is a prime example of how narcissism-as-foreign-policy is compromising our nation’s role in the world and sowing turmoil and division among our allies. As The Post’s Aaron Blake noted Tuesday, the president had “thrown NATO into a state of chaos, contradicted his own administration on multiple occasions and caused a plunge in the stock market.” Just another day on the job for Trump.

Normally, we remove a bad president through elections. But all three law professors called before the Judiciary Committee by the Democrats — Noah Feldman, Pamela Karlan and Michael Gerhardt — cited William Richardson Davie’s 1787 argument for including an impeachment provision in the Constitution by way of underscoring the urgency of acting now.

Davie, Feldman said, “was pointing out that impeachment was necessary to address the situation where a president tried to corrupt elections.” If a president could not be removed, as Davie put it, “he will spare no efforts or means whatever to get himself reelected.”

The overriding case for impeaching the president is just that: After one election in which Trump welcomed Russia’s intervention, he plainly invited — indeed, “demanded,” as Karlan noted — foreign intervention again, this time from Ukraine. “Our elections become less free when they are distorted by foreign interference,” Karlan said. “But that distortion is magnified if a sitting president abuses the powers of his office actually to invite foreign intervention.” Exactly.

There is a second reason for the House to vote for impeachment: It is time to put Senate Republicans, particularly those who have claimed some independence from Trump, to the Macron test: Are they serious?

Republicans have always said they were tough-minded and serious about America’s interests in the world. They have given countless speeches about “the rule of law,” being “tough on crime” and opposing abuses of presidential authority. Yet my Post colleague (and former Republican) Max Boot expressed an unvarnished view this week of the path Republicans are now pursuing by going all-in for Trump. “By turning into apologists and advocates for a Russian dictator,” he wrote, “the Republican Party has become all that it once despised.”

Does the party want this to be its epitaph? Is it as unserious about the nation’s interests as Trump is? Senators claiming to be above this sort of thing should not be allowed to take the path of evasion.

~E.J. Dionne Jr. 

Source: The moral imperative of impeachment – The Washington Post