Impeachment Is Never Happening


Also: the smartest person in America was a black woman

And it’s this one:

Just on this headline alone some Philadelphia Democrats will scream “nazi!!!”, but it’s true.

I’m not being sanctimonious; only a pragmatist (which itself is a hate crime in Philly).  Note: I did not support electing Trump during the 2016 election year.   Of course, that doesn’t matter or hold weight, either.

Realistically-speaking, given that we’re now heading into the nineteenth month of the Mueller investigation there is still nothing solid to secure a conviction of the President of the United States. There’s nothing riding on that statement, either.

But I live in Philadelphia in a land surrounded by people who overshare Occupy Democrats memes and pay scant attention to the underlying fights often lost by headline-readers.

So while they’re getting mad over the headline I put on this post and bloviating about my thoughts without reading them, let’s have a cup of tea and discuss impeachment.

Impeachment 101:  It’s super hard

Basic civics lessons tell you that the U.S. House writes up articles of impeachment, like a criminal indictment.  But only the Senate has the job of deciding guilt.

The bar for securing a Senate conviction and removal from office is very, very high. If you remember Bill Clinton, he was impeached.  But impeachment is a technical term. Removal from office requires a 2/3 vote in the United States Senate.

Anyone who hates Donald Trump wants him *gone*.   And for a man with loose morals and outdated views about women, impeachment is just a label.  The Presidency must go on, and so it will.

Sure, Republicans were able to secure an impeachment of Bill Clinton, another man with moral failings.  But that feeling of achievement felt very hollow to Republican voters, surprised to discover that impeachment doesn’t guarantee removal from office.  Most if not all Democratic voters are similarly clueless about how impeachment works and the Senate trial.  They will be similarly disappointed in the same failure.

Can you see the twitbookgram posts that would follow a Senate conviction failure?   “Wut?  He was impeached why is he still President???”    You get to the job of explaining to your disappointed relatives how it really works, or let Rachel Maddow do it.    Rush Limbaugh had to break it to his listeners in 1996.

Impeachment requires bipartisan cooperation

It was Barbara Jordan during the House Watergate hearings who put it bluntly when she read out her speech documenting the impeachment provision in the Constitution:

“Indignation so great as to overgrow party interest MAY secure a conviction… but nothing else can.”Barbara Jordan, Representative of Texas, House Judiciary Committee

That was actually Woodrow Wilson’s words, but in the voice of Barbara Jordan those requirements ring as true today as they did when she said them to a fascinated American public fixated to their console televisions in 1973.

Our constitution doesn’t allow for political Robspierre-style executions; it expressly forbids it.   Also: no impeachment happens without partisanship having to be overcome.

Even worse: it takes cooperation between Republican and Democrat voters to give Congress the mojo to allow for a conviction.   Why? For articles of impeachment to survive the House floor vote the whole public needs to be behind trying the president for a crime.  Without that it becomes purely partisan and it will never work.

Both parties must conclude the President must go

In plain language: you need both parties to conclude the President must go. We have not removed a President in office using the impeachment provision in the Constitution. Richard Nixon is the only person who came dangerously close to this even with what we know about Trump right now.  Nixon resigned only after it was quite clear to him that there were enough votes in the Senate to remove him.

Any student of Watergate will know the timeline of how Nixon went down. The Watergate burglary happened in June of 1972. By the time impeachment hearings started in the House Judiciary Committee began it was May of 1974.

That timeline was during an era when the press was very hesitant to attach the White House to anything so odious and base as sending Cubans out to bug telephones of political opponents. It was also the days of the typewriter, rotary telephones, linotype machines and a slow news cycle that ended at 11pm each night.

The Mueller investigation is about to outstretch all of this in an area of lightening-fast news cycles and digital media. What has it yielded so far? Prosecution of some Trump campaign aides of various acts; one who had direct dealings with Ukrainian and Russian agents that are provable. Yet none of whom have implicated the President as their careers have gone down in flames.

The Mueller investigation is going down a bad way right now

We have learned that the FBI installed a plant inside the Trump campaign, so the prospect of an impeachment, much less a conviction, seems as remote as ever.  There’s a strong debate–mostly fruitless and comical–over whether or not the person was a “spy” or an “informant”.

Also: the FBI probe was being monitored from inside the Obama White House and President Obama was given briefings of the probe as late as the evening before Trump’s inauguration.  This is not a good look in a hyper-partisan world.

And if you peek over at #NeverTrump conservatism for a moment and read their reaction; they’re just as convinced as are fervent Trump supporters that the entire FBI probe had political motivations.

Once again: you need both parties, and their voters, to secure an impeachment conviction.

Not to be outdone: there’s the origin of the Steele dossier, the document that describes Donald Trump colluding with Russian oligarchs and agents of the Kremlin.   Congress has learned that wealthy donors in New York and California paid for the partisan research, as well as an anti-Trump conservative publisher as well as the Hillary Clinton campaign. Everyone who gave Fusion GPS money for this research had a political stake in it.

This is nowhere near similar to the Washington Post reporting and uncovering of the facts surrounding Watergate.  Not even close.  A sure sign that the 1972 FBI was more believable: the Post had uncovered more facts and at a faster pace than the FBI.  Moreover, Watergate was built off detectives tracing money and linking together the White House, the Committee for the Re-Election of the President, and the Watergate burglars together.   This took enormous work spanning a year to discover.   Instead what Republicans see are Democratic political operatives–and it’s 100% Democrats after the Republican Primary–trying to shop around this document between the FBI and the Justice Department hoping to undermine the President with it.

That’s a partisan game, and pure partisan dirt-digging isn’t enough to bring down the President.   Only damning evidence and large bipartisan popular rejection of the President’s criminal behavior are.

Also: FBI failed to tell the secret FISA court that the dossier it had was a piece of political opposition research when it took out wiretaps on Carter Page, a Trump campaign advisor.  Congressional Republicans have already made it clear that this will be a keystone feature of any possible impeachment proceeding, including exposing the FISA warrants themselves.

If that’s not a direct hint that Republicans are ready and poised to torpedo any impeachment exercise, I don’t know what is.

Lastly, there is hope among TV pundits that Trump tripping himself up in a Muller deposition will be his downfall.   To juice this theory up, they have put forth a theory that if Democrats win enough seats in the midterms then the prospect of Trump being removed from office becomes real. That claim is specious at best, or completely ignorant of recent history much less all of U.S. history.

Because… hello… Bill Clinton shut the door on lying.

Lying to the FBI or to Mueller is a crime for you and me, but not the President

It was Senate Democrats who insisted during the impeachment trial of Bill Clinton that the charges of perjury and obstruction of justice would open a can of worms.   The theory goes like this: any misstatement or recitation of facts by the President would give rise to a clown-car show trial of the president lying if he got anything wrong.

But all presidents misstate facts. All of the time. They’re politicians, and this is normal and how they operate.  It’s also nothing new. The Pentagon Papers revealed a chain of drastic lying stretching back over five successive presidents.  Lying that killed men who were conscripted to fly to the other side of the world to be left to die.

Bill Clinton trying to lawyer his way out of the Paula Jones deposition and caught lying under oath is not sufficient enough to remove the President and–if you believe the 1996 theory–not risk damaging this country with constant impeachment show trials. It would paralyze the Office of the President, possibly turning our president into a Wizard of Oz character; too afraid to come outside and speak.

This is why Bill Clinton survived impeachment. The vote to convict him in the Senate wasn’t even close. It fell down partisan lines. And if you remember Barbara Jordan’s lesson: removing the President requires that both parties participate in the deed.

What’s tragic about all of this is that it is mostly Democrats whose exposure to politics consists entirely of memes who are ignorant of all these facts. Impeachment isn’t in the cards in 2018 anymore than they will be in 2020.

What would it take for TrumpRussia™ to blow up and remove Donald Trump?

The Constitution and history provide an easy guide:

Direct evidence is discovered of Trump directing campaign staff or money to carry out campaign espionage.

While Russians did approach Trump’s oldest son, there is yet no connection that Trump acted on the Trump Tower meeting with Russians. Quid pro quo is a two way street. Taking a meeting is not enough to ensnare Donald Trump Jr., much less his father.

Trump was found to be collecting stolen documents.

CBS News at first believed they had evidence on their hands that Trump was collecting Hillary campaign emails when a hacker emailed the campaign proffering to disclose a document dump. But CBS News did not pay attention to the date of the email, which was a full day after the documents were dumped on the Internet and the public was combing through them.

One of the Trump aides being prosecuted right now gives Trump up and provides testimony and (hopefully) documentation to support charges.

So far none have.  Out of all the different ways TrumpRussia could blow up, this is the quickest and easiest path to making impeachment start.

This also occurred during Watergate when indicted Watergate conspirator James McCord wrote a letter to Judge Sirica explaining that he was instructed to plead guilty and say as little as possible in his prosecution… because people close to the President of the United States were involved.

This one letter immediately changed the public’s perception of Watergate and laid the foundation for the public turning its back on the Nixon Administration.

Stormy Daniels is found to have been paid off with Trump Campaign cash, which would arise a claim of a FEC violation.

Impeaching Trump doesn’t work even if Trump gave Daniels cash from his own personal accounts. It may implicate the Trump Organization if they didn’t bookkeep it correctly, but corporations pay settlements all the time; so this isn’t new, and doesn’t arise to criminality in and of itself.

Also: Trump’s various affairs with women were legendary long before he ran for office; so this isn’t enough to make Republican voters rise up. Remember, you need both parties (and their voters) to remove a president from office.

Entrapment and lying

The only hope that’s left is to trap Trump in misstating the facts of the various angles of the Mueller investigation, or any of the various lawsuits against President Trump in various stages right now. Yet again Bill Clinton was caught in the very same trap in the Paula Jones deposition and that didn’t rise to the level of a conviction in the U.S. Senate, not even close.

The chasm between all of the various investigations of Trump have yet to bridge a large gap, a gap that will only be filled if direct damning evidence can be found. We all know Trump is not the harbinger of truth. But there *is* a separate standard for lying by the President of the United States and the rest of us. Congress set this standard. Little white lies, mistruths and “lawyer-answers” in a Federal grand jury deposition is not enough to convict. And even then the actual truth could wind up being quite boring and something we already know: Trump has a habit of picking crappy advisors who are inattentive to the law (and morals), and then having to clean up the damage later because he was oblivious to what they were doing. That implicates his advisors, but not him.

Low-information Democrats here in Philadelphia are still being fed a pack of lies by the DNC, by pundits and by activists about what the real chances are of impeaching the President. It won’t be successful even if the blue wave is a blue tsunami, or a blue tidal pool.

Simply lying isn’t enough.

Barbara knows best

What kills me about all this is that Barbara Jordan, one of the greatest American orators of the 20th Century on-par with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., understood all of this.  She also put the prosecution of Nixon in clear and certain terms that burned the eyes of partisans.

Her simple yet harsh speech made her famous and secured her as a keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention in the summer of ’74 as the first woman, the first black woman, and the first woman from Texas, to ever address the party. Her lifelong best friend Ann Richards finally got the podium in 1988, the second woman to do so.

The motive for her speech was to reassure America that prosecuting Richard Nixon was anything but a show trial; that evidence Congress had has risen to the level that impeachment is not only probable, but a necessary exercise.

There is no one in Congress today who can give any of us a rock-solid believable assurance that the evidence Congress has is worthy of an impeachment trial now.

If we get to 2020 with no realistic prospect of impeachment, are all my Democratic-party neighbors in my own neighborhood going to pretend they didn’t pray openly and frequently on social media for a solid four years? That none of that bulk of wishful thinking didn’t happen, even when the chances of it happening were as remote now as they perhaps will be by the time Trump’s term ends? That’s not healthy, or productive.

It’s true: impeachment articles could be introduced now or later and that’s already happened and was thwarted by Nancy Pelosi who knows what the chances are of achieving removal as well as anyone else are.

Honestly, I just don’t think it’s healthy to hold out the same kind of hope you have for removal of Donald Trump which has about the same chances of actually happening as paying off your mortgage with lottery scratch-off ticket winnings.