Tag Archives: Clinton impeachment

Obstructing justice is an impeachable offense … isn’t it?

Robert S. Mueller III filed a lengthy report that concludes among other things that the president of the United States obstructed justice regarding the lengthy investigation into the Russia Thing.

If a president can be impeached for obstruction of justice in 1998, why is it different in 2019? That’s the quandary with which I am wrestling at this moment.

House Republicans declared in 1998 that a Democratic president, Bill Clinton, should be impeached because he obstructed justice while former special prosecutor Kenneth Starr looked into that sexual relationship with the White House intern. Oh, and he committed perjury while talking to a federal grand jury.

Two strikes against Clinton were enough for the GOP to launch an impeachment proceeding against a Democratic president. The impeachment succeeded, but then the Senate trial produced an acquittal on all the counts.

Therein lies the conundrum that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is facing. The House has the goods to impeach Donald Trump. Mueller’s report cited at least 10 instances where the president sought to obstruct justice. He said it again in testimony before two congressional committees in July. Why didn’t he file a formal complaint? Mueller said the Office of Legal Counsel policy prohibits him from indicting a “sitting president.”

I happen to stand with Pelosi’s decision to go slow on impeachment. She doesn’t want to proceed with impeaching Trump if there is no appetite among Republicans in the Senate to convict him of a complaint brought to them by the House.

I say all this, though, while scratching my noggin. If obstructing justice was enough to impeach a president 21 years ago, why is this instance so radically different that congressional Republicans cannot do so again now?

I think I know the answer. Congressional Republicans are playing politics with a growing constitutional crisis.

Then and now: Clinton and Trump

First, I’ll stipulate that I agree with U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s refusal to proceed with impeaching Donald J. Trump, at least for the time being.

She knows the political consequences can be difficult to overcome if such an event were to occur. The divisions would be deep. An acquittal by the Republican-controlled Senate could be devastating for the country.

Republicans are standing behind the president. They aren’t listening to the evidence that keeps mounting that Trump committed crimes while running for president and while serving as president.

Which brings me to the key point: How is it that Republicans today are so reluctant to proceed with their constitutional duties when two decades ago they were hellbent on impeaching a previous president for a whole lot less than the charges that are piling up against the current one?

In 1998, the GOP-led House impeached President Clinton. The reason was twofold: He lied to a grand jury that asked him about a relationship he had with a White House intern. Clinton took an oath to tell the truth; he reneged on the oath. The GOP said we cannot have a president who is “above the law.” Republicans threw in an obstruction of justice charge for good measure.

The House “manager” of the impeachment proceeding against Clinton was none other than a fresh-faced South Carolinian named Lindsey Graham, who said in effect that the House could impeach the president for damn near any reason it saw fit.

Today, that same Lindsey Graham is now a U.S. senator and he’s saying something dramatically different about Donald Trump. Despite what the special counsel, Robert Mueller III, said that he didn’t “exonerate” the president after his lengthy investigation into collusion with Russian election hackers, Graham keeps insisting that Mueller “cleared” Trump of obstruction of justice.

No. He did nothing of the sort.

Mueller only concluded that he couldn’t indict a sitting president, citing Justice Department policy; he also said such an indictment would be “unconstitutional,” although that terminology baffles me.

There is a huge mountain of evidence that suggests that Trump sought to obstruct justice by getting a former White House counsel to fire Mueller. That he canned FBI director James Comey to stop the FBI”s probe into the “Russia thing.” That he ordered the payment of hush money to a porn actress to keep her quiet about a fling she and Trump had in 2006, even though Trump denies it ever occurred.

I understand Pelosi’s predicament. I agree with her. However, for the life of me I cannot accept the Republicans’ refusal to budge on this president’s conduct when they were so anxious to pull the impeachment trigger on another president.

Oh, wait. Clinton is a Democrat; Trump is a Republican.

Gosh, do you think Republicans are putting their party over what’s good for the nation?

Impeachment fanatics need a serious gut check

Michael Cohen’s testimony this past week in front of the House Oversight and Reform Committee has ignited talk of impeachment.

Many on the far left of the Democratic Party are ready to file articles of impeachment yesterday against Donald John Trump, the Republican president of the United States of America. Cohen, the president’s former lawyer/confidant/friend/fixer offered up a mountain of circumstantial evidence of criminality involving the president.

That’s enough for many on the far left.

Other Democrats, the more seasoned among them, are sounding a warning.

Not so fast. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is among those who argue that impeachment is too divisive an issue to hurtle head first into doing. She is counseling the impeachment fanatics within her caucus to wait a while longer. We’ve got this matter involving special counsel Robert Mueller to conclude.

Of course, Republicans are willing to talk about impeachment. They’re using it as a cudgel to batter their Democratic foes. Trump himself is showing a decided willingness to toss out the “I” word whenever he stands before his adoring loyalists. He recognizes the divisive nature of any action to remove him from office.

I am not yet totally convinced the president deserves impeachment. I want to wait for Mueller to finish his work. I want the results he has compiled to be made available to the public. I want a complete accounting of what he found, what he learned, what he has determined to be the truth.

I believe that’s what I am hearing from seasoned Democratic politicians. They have been down this impeachment road before. Many of them sat in the front row when Republicans yammered for the impeachment of President Clinton in 1998. They succeeded. The House impeached the president, who then stood trial in the Senate, which then acquitted the president of the charges brought against him by the House.

Speaker Pelosi wants no part of a repeat of that fiasco.

The Democratic young guns need to listen to their partisan elders. Hold on. Wait for Robert Mueller. Consume what he offers. Then decide.

House doesn’t need a criminal charge to impeach, however . . .

Donald J. Trump put his cheesy side on full display at the Conservative Political Action Conference meeting today. He hugged Old Glory as he walked onto the stage before delivering a two-hour harangue filled with four-letter words and assorted demagogic statements about his foes.

OK, I say all that as a predicate for what I want to say next.

It is that Michael Cohen’s testimony this week before the House Oversight and Reform Committee opened the door to possible criminal charges being brought against the president of the United States. The president’s former lawyer/confidant dropped the names of individuals who might know a lot about Trump’s financial dealings and whether they involve possible criminality.

Why is that a big deal?

Let’s revisit an earlier inquiry into whether to impeach a president. In 1974, the House Judiciary Committee voted to impeach President Nixon on obstruction of justice and conspiracy charges related to the Watergate scandal.

I want to note that the committee did not impeach the president on the basis of any criminal charges. None had been brought. President Nixon did not break any laws before the House panel approved the articles of impeachment.

Republican lawmakers scurried to the White House and informed the president that he had no support in the Senate, where he would stand trial once the full House impeached him.

Nixon quit the presidency.

Twenty-five years later, the House of Representatives impeached President Clinton largely on the basis of a single criminal charge: perjury. The president lied to a grand jury that asked him about his relationship with the White House intern.

Donald Trump’s troubles appear to eclipse those that ensnared Clinton in an impeachment and a Senate trial (where he was acquitted). As for the Nixon impeachment inquiry, I just want to reiterate that the president was not charged with a criminal act.

This is my way of saying that Donald Trump might be wading into some mighty deep doo-doo.

No amount of flag-hugging is likely to do him any good.

It’s not about Bill Clinton

I got into a testy email exchange with a good friend and former colleague recently about Donald Trump, his behavior and the general state of his presidency.

My friend, a loyal Republican and staunch political conservative, compares Trump’s behavior toward women with what transpired with former President Clinton and the impeachment he endured during his second term in office.

He lambasted Democrats and progressives for giving Clinton a pass for lying about his affair with Monica Lewinsky and for what he allegedly did with her “in the Oval Office.”

I don’t intend make too much of a deal of this, except to say I, who supported Clinton’s election and re-election, never excused his behavior. In fact, I wrote editorials applauding his impeachment in 1998 on the basis of his committing perjury before a federal grand jury that questioned him directly about whether he had “sexual relations with that woman.”

I get that Republicans had a case for impeachment based on his perjuring himself under oath.

Trump likely would never get impeached because of his serial philandering and his admitted groping of women. There quite likely won’t be a grand jury to summon him to testify about any of that hideous conduct.

My issue with Trump and his ghastly behavior simply is that he brought all of that with him into the White House, yet enough voters in just the right states endorsed him and elected him by a narrow Electoral College margin. Yes, he is the president of all Americans and I do not question the legitimacy of his election.

I just question the wisdom of voting for a guy with an acknowledged record of behaving like a sexual predator.

As for Clinton’s impeachment, the founders set the bar high for conviction. The GOP didn’t reach that bar and the Senate acquitted him on all the charges brought by the House.

The U.S. Constitution, therefore, did its job in that case and it lends nothing to the argument over the here and now to dredge up what happened 20 years. ago.

‘Great job’ doesn’t preclude impeachment

Donald J. Trump Sr. was in full rant mode in Billings, Mont., earlier this week.

He went to Montana to stage a campaign rally and then launched into a bizarre riff about the possibility of his being impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives. He mentioned Rep. Maxine Waters, the Democrat who vows that Trump will be impeached. “I’m doing a great job,” Trump bellowed, wondering how he could be impeached even though his presidency — he says — is the most successful in the history of the republic.

Trump seems to assert that a president who does a “great job” shouldn’t be impeached. We can debate until hell freezes over whether Trump is doing anything approaching a great job. We’ll save that one for another day.

However, let’s review a bit of recent history … shall we?

President Bill Clinton also was doing a great job during his second term in the White House. The economy was on fire. We were heading toward a balanced federal budget. Joblessness was low. Times were good.

Then the president committed what Republicans believed was an impeachable offense. Special prosecutor Kenneth Starr was conducting a wide-ranging investigation that turned up a relationship that the president had with a young White House intern, Monica Lewinsky.

Starr summoned the president to talk to a grand jury, which then asked him about the relationship. The president who took an oath to “tell the whole truth” didn’t tell the truth. He committed perjury.

Boom! There you have it! Republicans had their impeachable offense!

The House impeached the president who was doing a “great job.” Clinton went to trial in the Senate. He was acquitted on all charges.

So … for the current president to suggest that he shouldn’t be impeached because he’s doing a “great job” is to ignore recent political history.

Donald Trump well might be found to have committed an impeachable offense. Impeachment, let us remember, has nothing to do with the president’s performance in office. It has to do with conduct.

Impeachment needs to stay on back shelf

Leon Panetta is a Democratic Party wise man and elder whose wisdom needs to be heeded.

The former U.S. representative, CIA director, defense secretary, White House chief of staff — I think that covers it — says Democrats need to cool it with the “impeachment” talk regarding Donald J. Trump.

The 2018 midterm election is shaping up as a good year for Democrats. They well might take control of the House of Representatives when the ballots are counted. I am not going to say it’s a done deal, though; I am out of the political predictin’ business, as you might remember.

Suppose the Democrats take the House. They’ll chair committees. They’ll have subpoena power. They’ll have the numbers to impeach the president if they’re so moved to take that action.

Panetta’s advice is for Democrats to keep a lid on impeachment talk as they campaign district by district for control of the lower chamber of Congress.

As Politico reported: “I think the most important thing that the Democrats could do is allow Bob Mueller to complete his work,” Panetta said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” referencing Mueller’s work as special counsel for the Justice Department and his role in the ongoing investigation into Russia’s part in the 2016 presidential election.

He is right. Impeachment seems a good bet to follow if Democrats manage to wrest control from their GOP “friends.”

However, impeachment is one thing; conviction and removal from office is quite another.

If the House impeaches Trump, the Senate will need a two-thirds vote to convict him of whatever “high crime and misdemeanor” the House chooses to level against the president. President Clinton got impeached in 1998, but the Senate never came close to the two-thirds threshold during the trial it conducted.

Republicans are likely to make impeachment a campaign issue as they fight to fend off the Democratic assault on GOP control of Congress. If I hear Leon Panetta correctly, Democrats need to turn away from any impeachment discussion until — or if — they win control of the House in the midterm election.

I think I’ll root for a House flip.

Hey, did POTUS break a law?

History may be about to repeat itself. I put the emphasis on “may be,” as in “maybe.”

The FBI seized papers and other material from former Donald Trump lawyer/friend Michael Cohen and then discovered a recorded evidence that he and Trump discussed payments to a former Playboy model who has contended she and Trump had an yearlong affair before Trump became president.

How is history repeating itself?

Follow the bouncing ball  …

The U.S. House of Representatives impeached President Bill Clinton in 1998 for committing perjury to a federal grand jury, which asked him about an affair the president was having with a White House intern; Clinton lied when he denied the relationship.

The House then learned about that infamous blue dress. The Republican majority then had its cause for impeachment: The president took an oath to follow the law; he didn’t when he lied to the grand jury. Thus, the impeachment.

Special counsel Robert Mueller now has all the evidence seized in that FBI raid of Cohen’s office. He recorded conversations with the president over the payment to the Playboy model, Karen McDougal.

Did the president, then, possibly violate campaign finance laws when he paid off the model, perhaps to keep her quiet, just as he paid the hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels? Did he break the law by failing to disclose the payment as required by law of those who are running for president?

Is there another law broken here? Are there, um, grounds for impeachment? It might sound specious to those who think the Mueller investigation is a “witch hunt.” Then again, there were those on the other side who said the same thing about the Kenneth Starr examination into President Clinton’s behavior.

To be sure, the GOP majority in the House isn’t likely to go along with an impeachment resolution. Democrats most certainly would, which then makes the upcoming congressional election all the more critical. Do you get my drift? Of course you do!

Conviction, quite clearly, is another matter — as the GOP found out in 1998 and as Democrats could learn in, say, 2019.

Yes, presidents can be investigated and indicted

Having offered admittedly muted praise for Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, I now want to challenge an assertion he has made about whether presidents can be indicted.

He has changed his mind on that one. Kavanaugh once worked for Kenneth Starr while Starr was investigating President Clinton, who eventually got impeached for lying to a grand jury and for — that’s right — obstruction of justice.

Kavanaugh was up to his armpits in assisting the counsel’s task of finding criminality in a president’s behavior.

Then he switched gears. Kavanaugh has since written that presidents have too much to do, too much on their plate to be distracted by potentially criminal investigations. Let me think. Is he providing cover for, oh, the guy who nominated him to the Supreme Court?

Here’s my point.

Of course presidents can be investigated. They aren’t above the law. They must be held to the same standard as their constituents, which is the entire country.

President Clinton was able to perform his presidential duties while he was under investigation and, indeed, while he was being impeached by the House of Representatives and tried by the Senate.

The same is true for President Nixon, who was under investigation for myriad offenses relating to Watergate. The House Judiciary Committee passed articles of impeachment and then the president resigned. Was he able to do his job while all of this was occurring? Of course he was!

My strong hunch is that the Senate Judiciary Committee that will consider Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination will ask him directly and pointedly about what he thought while working for Kenneth Starr and what he thinks these days now that Donald Trump wants him to serve on the highest court in the land.

I hope someone on the panel asks him: What made you change your mind, Judge?

Hillary talked for hours; now it’s Trump’s turn

Evan McMullin, who ran for president as an independent in 2016, poses an interesting thought via Twitter.

McMullin wrote: Hillary Clinton testified to the House Benghazi Committee in public for 11 hours and won’t even sit with the special counsel for a minute. Now, why is that?

He might have posed his question rhetorically, but I think I can answer it for him.

I believe it’s because Donald Trump doesn’t want to get trapped into lying under oath, which I believe is entirely possible, if not probable.

You should recall that the U.S. House of Representatives impeached President Bill Clinton in 1998 for lying to a grand jury. He took an oath to tell the truth. He didn’t. The House used perjury as the basis for its impeachment.

Special counsel Robert Mueller might want to summon the president to talk about whether his 2016 campaign colluded with Russians who interfered in our election. Trump, in my view, cannot tell the truth. He is not wired for truthfulness.

It’s dangerous for him to talk to a meticulous lawyer, such as Mueller.