Thursday, January 30, 2020

Final Impeachment Post

The impeachment of President Trump is about to come to a rapid and unspectacular close.  As previously noted, it has been a foregone conclusion that the Republican Senate is not going to remove a sitting Republican president without indefensible criminal activity.  However, the process chosen by the Democrats has been short-sighted and self defeating.  Victory: Trump.

Democratic Mistakes:

For the record, here are the mistakes made by the Democrats, and the likely ramifications.

First, the Democrats should have made a case for Bribery, which is a crime named in the Constitution as impeachable.  The case would have been at least as strong as Article 1, Abuse of Power, and would have eliminated a prime Republican defense/debating point about high crimes and misdemeanors. 

Second, the Democrats in the House needed to seek Judicial (Supreme Court) enforcement of their subpoena power.  It seems they were afraid of two things: that the trial would spill over into the Democratic primaries - with Iowa next week; and that the Republicans would in turn subpoena Joe Biden, Hunter Biden, and the whistleblower.  These fears are unfounded, and destructive to their case.  Article 2, Obstruction of Congress, can only be proven after the subpoena has been ordered in appeal at the Judiciary.  By side-stepping this, they undermined that article of impeachment.  Trump didn't just say "no," he made a legal claim that he had a right to say "no."  Only the courts can establish that legal argument's validity, and the House Democrats didn't pursue it. 

So, the Democrats missed the boat on both articles of impeachment, and unwittingly provided Republicans every inch of wiggle room they would need to make the Arlen Spector move from the Clinton impeachment: "not proven."  They made it easy on the Republicans, to their own detriment.

Now What:

The Ukraine issue has now been de-fanged politically for President Trump.  He will have been declared "not guilty" of the accusations, and as a result he will be largely immune in the fall on this topic.  Echoes of "Gore/Lieberman=Sore/Loserman" are sounding in the background for any Democrat who continues to harp on the Ukraine issue after acquittal.

Moreover, his exoneration will actually embolden the President to continue to do what he did: use foreign policy and resources of the United States to solicit and coerce their aid in his electoral politics. After all, if he "did nothing wrong," and was "fully exonerated," then it has been firmly established that it is fair game.  His defense team is clear: "even if" he did it [read: he did it], it is not impeachable.

Today, on the edge of the Senate vote to dismiss the articles of impeachment, Secretary of State Pompeo is traveling to the Ukraine to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky.  The Senate vote will give the Secretary absolute permission to begin the conversation: "Now Mr. President, with that unpleasantness behind us, let's talk about what you can do to investigate Hunter Biden.  We would like everything you have or can find that will hurt Joe Biden this fall." 

President Trump and his team are being told, "Yes.  Yes you can absolutely pressure foreign leaders - using American resources - to harm your domestic political opponents.  Feel free to proceed in any obvious and open manner that you wish, because - 'even if' - you will have done nothing wrong."

The End.

This inevitable conclusion is very different than a legal accusation of bribery, and a thwarted subpoena ordered by the Supreme Court.  Neither of those occurred, and the weaker and quicker case will have only emboldened the President.  It is highly unlikely that they will successfully make hay on the topic with moderate voters in the Fall. 

Conclusion: Democratic incompetence has given the President an unmitigated victory, and legitimized what they were trying to accuse him of.