Tag Archives: Founding Fathers

I believe the learned professor is wrong about abuse of power

At the risk of wading into an argument over an issue that ought to be way above my skill level, I want to take issue with a learned law professor’s assertion that “abuse of power” is not an impeachable offense.

With all due respect to the great Alan Dershowitz, it is my considered opinion that presidents of the United States can be impeached over abusing the awesome power of their exalted office.

Dershowitz is going to argue next week in the impeachment trial of Donald John Trump that the Constitution shouldn’t be subjected to this action on the basis of what the House of Representatives has decided. The House impeached Trump on two counts: obstruction of Congress and abuse of power.

The abuse occurred, according to the articles of impeachment, when Trump asked Ukraine for a political favor; he wanted the Ukrainians to investigate Joe Biden and Hunter Biden and, in effect, interfere in the 2020 election because Joe Biden is a possible opponent of Trump. He then withheld military aid to Ukraine, which the Government Accounting Office has said is in violation of the law.

My goodness. If that isn’t an abuse of power, then the term has no meaning.

My reading of the Constitution, which I’ve been doing a lot of lately, tells me the founders were deliberately vague on what constitutes “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Dershowitz seems to suggest that because abuse of power does not fall into a category of a criminal offense, that it doesn’t quality as an impeachable offense. Other scholars have argued that the founders hadn’t yet established any statutes when they wrote the impeachment clause into the Constitution. Therefore, those offenses could be interpreted broadly.

I’ll go with them and not with Dershowitz.

I am not going to say the Harvard law professor emeritus is a dummy. Far from it. I just believe he has concocted a standard that I don’t think exists in the U.S. Constitution.

Of course, this is an academic exercise anyhow, given the Senate’s likely disposition to avoid convicting Trump of what I believe is a “high crime and misdemeanor.” The GOP-led Senate is more prone to protect the president than the document they all took an oath to “protect and defend.”

Acquittal doesn’t necessarily mean exoneration

Given what most of us out here in Flyover Country expect will happen — that the U.S. Senate won’t kick Donald Trump out of office — I want to offer a word of warning to fellow news junkies as to what we’re likely to hear from the president of the United States.

He will shout, scream and holler that the Senate has “exonerated!” him. He will declare that the Senate’s failure to clear the very high — justifiably so — bar set by the nation’s founders means that his impeachment was based on nothing at all.

That’s not how many of us see it.

The House of Representatives impeached Trump on allegations that he abused the power of his office and that he obstructed Congress. They made the case in convincing fashion; their evidence is enough to warrant his removal from office … in my view.

Trump sought political help from a foreign government and withheld military aid to that government until it provided a “favor, though” to him and his re-election team. He has instructed his staff to ignore congressional subpoenas. Abuse of power and obstruction of Congress? Done deal, man. Again, that’s my view.

The Senate won’t find 67 votes to convict Trump. So, he’s likely to say the Senate has “exonerated” him. No. It won’t. His expected acquittal only will signify that an insufficient number of senators saw fit to convict Trump of what I believe are impeachable offenses.

We need to hear from witnesses in this Senate trial. Yes, even if they are provide evidence that clears Trump of wrongdoing. Trump is fighting that idea, which tells me he is hiding something. Someone deserving of “exoneration” doesn’t go to Trump’s lengths to keep witnesses from testifying. Am I right?

The trial begins next week. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has named the “managers” who will prosecute this matter on behalf of the House. Senators will sit quietly in the chamber and listen to what everyone has to say.

Then they will vote. Trump will escape with a narrowly defined acquittal. He’ll holler he was “exonerated!”

The irony? That false claim will be yet another Donald Trump lie.

Oh, the irony of Gov. Abbott’s refugee rejection

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, along with other governors, had the opportunity to “opt in” on an executive order issued by Donald Trump to allow refugees into our state.

He chose to opt out. Gov. Abbott has slammed the door on individuals and families who, by definition, are seeking refuge in Texas as they flee repression, violence, crime, corruption and physical harm in their home country.

I am trying to wrap my noodle around this decision. I am left only to ponder the profound irony of Abbott’s decision, making Texas the first state to opt out of Trump’s executive order.

The irony? Oh, well, we have this historical fact: Our nation came into being in the 18th century because men who had fled religious oppression in Europe had come across a vast ocean to form a republic that would become known as “the land of the free,” the “land of opportunity” and “a beacon of liberty” for the rest of the world.

It looks that in Texas at least, the door has been shut to those seeking freedom and opportunity and that the beacon has been turned off.

Abbott’s decision, quite naturally, has drawn plenty of criticism. As it should. To be honest, the governor’s refusal to opt in to the federal order is disappointing in the extreme. He has sought to say that the state should allow those who already are here to remain as refugees. But what about those who continue to suffer human rights abuses in nations south of us?

This is a very distressing decision by Gov. Abbott.

I cannot prove this, of course, but my hunch is that our nation’s founders would be unhappy beyond measure.

Waiting for the next ‘trial of the century’ … to date

It now appears that Americans won’t have too much longer to wait for the next trial of the century.

Pass the popcorn and the Pepto.

Donald Trump is about to stand trial in the U.S. Senate on grounds that he abused the power of the presidency and obstructed Congress. The House of Representatives impeached him on those grounds. The vote was largely partisan. The vote at the end of the Senate trial figures to be equally partisan. Trump will not be tossed out of office.

Dang it, anyhow! That’s how the system works.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced today she will send the articles of impeachment to the Senate next week. She has instructed House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler to prepare for the selection of House “managers” who will prosecute the case against Trump.

OK, it appears that Trump’s escape from conviction is a done deal. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is going to violate the oath he and his colleagues will take to be “impartial” in their deliberation, has declared his intention work hand in glove with the White House. He’s taking his cue from Trump’s legal team.

There might be witnesses called. I say “might,” because it’s not assured. It damn sure should be required.

Trump sought a political favor from a foreign government, Ukraine. He wanted that government to announce an investigation into Joe Biden, a potential 2020 presidential campaign foe. If it did as he asked, Trump said he would send military hardware to Ukraine to assist in its fight against Russia-backed rebels.

Abuse of power, anyone?

Trump also has instructed his key aides to refuse to answer congressional subpoenas to testify before House committees during their “impeachment inquiry.” He has usurped Congress’s constitutional authority to conduct oversight of the executive branch.

Obstruction of Congress? Anyone? Hmm?

I believe he has committed both acts. They are impeachable. They have earned him an early exit from the Oval Office. Except the nation’s founders set the bar quite high for that to occur: Two-thirds of the Republican-controlled Senate needs to agree with yours truly; the Senate will fall short of that high standard.

But … at least the trial will be over. Then our attention can turn to the election. It will be a barn-burner.

I am ready to rumble.

Might POTUS be acquitted … on a technicality?

Let’s play out this impeachment saga for a brief moment.

The U.S. House of Representatives appears nearly certain to impeach Donald Trump along partisan lines; there might be one Democrat who’ll vote “no” to impeach the president. A former GOP House member will vote “yes” on the issue.

Then it goes to the Senate, which will conduct a trial. The Senate needs 67 out of 100 votes to convict the president. Republicans currently occupy 53 seats; Democrats have 45 seats, but two independents caucus with the Democrats.

So, what do you suppose might occur if, say, a lame-duck GOP senator or three or four decides to convict the president? Donald Trump would still be acquitted of any high crime and misdemeanor brought to the Senate.

Think of it, though, as an acquittal based on a “technicality.” There is an outside chance that most of the Senate could vote to convict Trump. The technicality occurs because there won’t be enough of them to result in the president’s ouster from office. The closest President Clinton came to such an event was a tie vote on one of the counts brought against him in his 1999 Senate trial; the other count ended up with a 55-45 vote to acquit.

I know it’s a long shot. Those of us who think Trump has committed impeachable offenses are wondering if there are enough Republican senators with stones who will toss aside any threat the president might level against them. Those individuals who have decided against running for re-election next year, thus, might decide to vote their conscience.

I mean, there’s nothing Trump can do to punish them. They’re on the way out the door.

Hardline conservatives generally detest verdicts based on “a technicality.” How might they respond if the president of the United States benefits from the technicality the nation’s founders created when they set the high bar for removal of a president?

Founders had it right when they set POTUS removal bar so high

The nation’s founding fathers did a masterful job of laying out a two-step process for removing a president of the United States from office.

Impeachment is the easy part. It requires a simple majority in the House of Representatives to effectively indict the president for crimes against the nation. The current House appears poised to impeach Donald Trump on at least two counts involving abuse of power and violating his oath of office.

Conviction in the Senate is the hard part. The founders decided that two-thirds of the Senate need to convict a president who stands trial in the upper legislative chamber. The current Senate appears set to keep Trump in office. Why? Because two-thirds of its members won’t vote to convict Trump of the charges that the House will bring to them. And why is that? Because Republicans occupy 53 of the 100 seats; a conviction would require a flip of about 20 GOP seats to convict Trump. It won’t happen.

But here’s another scenario that appears quite possible if not likely.

Most of the senators might actually vote to convict Trump. There might be, say, 51 or 52 Senate votes to remove Trump from office. That’s not nearly enough to force him out of the White House. It is, though, enough of a stain on Trump’s term as president to persuade votes in November 2020 to cast him aside.

There actually might be enough voters in key states who would say, in effect: I cannot support a president who has been found guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors by most of the members of the U.S. Senate. 

Now, Trump likely will be able to say he avoided conviction in the Senate. A majority vote to convict him — even one that fails to clear the high bar the founders set — does not allow him to declare himself “acquitted.”

The drama well could produce a nail-biter and set up the most astonishing presidential campaign theme in our nation’s history.

What if Senate provides a majority to convict Trump?

Let’s ponder for a moment the raw politics of impeaching the president of the United States.

It appears to be a near certainty that the House of Representatives is going to impeach Donald J. Trump on grounds that he violated his oath of office by seeking foreign government assistance for personal political gain.

I stood with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s initial reluctance to impeach Trump. Then came that phone call with the Ukrainian president that revealed a clear violation of the presidential oath. It has gotten even worse for Trump since then. Pelosi changed her mind, launching an impeachment inquiry.

I now endorse the inquiry. I also believe Trump has committed impeachable offenses.

But what will happen when Trump gets impeached, where Democrats hold a significant majority in the House? It goes to trial in the Senate, where Republicans command a narrow 53-47 majority. The House needs a simple majority to impeach; the Senate needs a two-thirds super majority to convict the president.

Do I believe the Senate will kick the president out of office? No.

However, consider this: Three GOP senators are bowing out after 2020. They won’t seek re-election. They are Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Mike Enzi of Utah and Pat Roberts of Kansas. What happens to these men’s conscience when they are freed from the pressure of seeking re-election in states that voted for Trump in 2016? Is it possible they could decide that Trump has committed an impeachable offense? These men flip and we have a 50-50 split in the Senate. But wait a second!

There are other senators who are expressing grave concern about Trump’s conduct. Enzi’s junior partner in Utah, Mitt Romney, is one. How about Susan Collins of Maine, who has spoken critically of the president from time to time? Might there be one or maybe two GOP senators willing to vote to convict, knowing that their votes won’t result in Trump’s removal?

Yes, there is a chance — although it’s still small, but it could be growing — that a majority of senators vote to convict the president of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” but he remains in office by virtue of the high bar the founders set when they wrote the U.S. Constitution.

Furthermore, what about the House vote? A significant number of Republican House members have decided to step aside after 2020. They, too, might be motivated to vote their conscience rather than worry about retribution from a president who is known to retaliate against those who cross him.

The number of Republicans set to leave both congressional chambers very well might provide Democrats some measure of cover as they prepare to impeach Donald Trump.

If he is impeached, he will go down in history as an impeached president. If he clears the Senate trial, there might be a qualifier if more senators vote to convict him than acquit him. And how in the world is Donald Trump going to spin such an event?

Hey, strange things can — and do — happen atop Capitol Hill.

Mr. POTUS, there’s nothing ‘phony’ about the Emoluments Clause

Pay attention to me, please, Mr. President.

Your White House rant today about the “phony Emoluments Clause” compels to defend what the nation’s founders had in mind when they wrote that item into the U.S. Constitution.

They intended to prohibit the president from profiting during his time in office. Your initial decision to host the G7 summit of industrialized nations at your glitzy Trump Doral National Country Club was in direct violation of the Emoluments Clause.

You see, you cannot award yourself a government contract, which is what you sought to do. You cannot direct government business onto your privately owned, for-profit property, where foreign governments are going to pour millions of dollars into your pocket.

Good grief, Mr. President! There can be no clearer violation of the Emoluments Clause than that.

And yet your blaming of the media and Democrats and your insistence that President Obama somehow profited from a book deal while he was in office steers the discussion away from your own responsibility to do right by the office you occupy. While I’m at it, I need to wonder out loud whether you’ll ever get over your “hate affair” with your immediate predecessor.

And just to be clear, Barack Obama signed his book deal after he left office. It’s a non-starter, Mr. President.

We have a big country out there, Mr. President. It is endowed richly with many fine resorts to play host to the G7 summit. None of them has a single thing to do with your business interests.

Why in the name of presidential due diligence can’t you get your “fine-tuned” White House staff to find a spot that would serve as a fitting venue for this event next year? Moreover, why can’t you just do the right thing without making a mess out of it?

The Emoluments Clause isn’t “phony,” Mr. President. It is real and it is a legitimate hedge against presidential corruption … which I am certain is why you’re in such trouble at this moment.

‘Good government’ is about to take some time off

I consider myself to be a “good government progressive.”

Government should do the most good possible but it takes individuals on both sides of the political aisle to make it work as I believe our nation’s founders intended.

So … having laid that out, I fear we are about to enter an era of “no government” action aimed at helping Americans.

Impeachment now is clouding it all in Washington, D.C. Donald Trump is enraged at Democrats who want to impeach him for violating his oath of office. He says a phone conversation he had with the Ukrainian president was “perfect,” even though he asked his counterpart for foreign government assistance in getting re-elected and in digging up dirt on a potential 2020 opponent, Joe Biden.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has launched an “impeachment inquiry.” Trump is spending his days now firing off Twitter tirades and tantrums at his foes.

What does all this do for the cause of good government? It throws it into the crapper.

Democrats are enraged at Trump, too. The president, who doesn’t work well with Democrats under the best of circumstances, isn’t likely to work with them on anything now that House Democrats appear intent on seeking his ouster from office.

So, we’re going to pay our lawmakers a six-figure salary ostensibly to enact legislation, cast votes and send bills to the Oval Office for the president’s signature.

Except that none of that is likely to happen as House Democrats and Donald Trump play political chicken with each other.

Therefore, good government will vanish for the foreseeable future.

Trump orders businesses to do what?

I am running out of ways to express my astonishment at Donald Trump’s categorical ignorance of the limits of the office he occupies.

The president of the United States has gotten so damn angry with U.S. businesses that he has actually ordered them to stop doing business with the People’s Republic of China.

Trump has this teeny-tiny problem staring him in his orange-hued face, however. It’s that thing called the U.S. Constitution. I’m pretty sure the nation’s governing document doesn’t give the president the authority to issue such an order.

The president’s power is limited for a reason. The founders who wrote the Constitution did not want the nation’s chief executive to wield dictatorial authority. They were smart in that way, you know. They were the direct descendants of those who fled tyranny in Europe. Indeed, the founders were so angry with England’s King George III that they decided to revolt against him and to form a nation and a government that did not place such ham-handed power in a single individual.

So what’s the deal with the 45th president? He already has declared a trade war with China. He has imposed tariffs that will harm U.S. consumers. China is responding with tariffs of its own on U.S. products. The result of this chaos has sent investors into frenzied, frantic panic.

Now the Goofball in Chief is “ordering” business moguls to stop trading with China?