Opinion | This Impeachment Folly

House Democrats voted Wednesday evening to impeach

Donald Trump

but, media high-fives aside, what have they accomplished? They have failed to persuade the country; they have set a new, low standard for impeaching a President; Mr. Trump will be acquitted in the Senate; and Democrats may have helped Mr. Trump win re-election. Congratulations to The Resistance.

Democrats

Nancy Pelosi

and

Jerrold Nadler

have said in the past that impeachment must be bipartisan to be credible, and they have achieved their goal—against impeachment. In the actual vote, two Democrats voted against both articles and a third voted with them against one. New Jersey Rep. Jeff Van Drew voted no and may switch to the GOP. All Republicans voted against impeachment.

The impeachment press will deride the GOP as either afraid of Donald Trump or moral sellouts. But note that even the 20 GOP Members who are retiring from the House and not running for another office voted against impeachment. GOP Members like

Peter King

(N.Y.),

Jim Sensenbrenner

(Wis.) and

Will Hurd

(Texas) have been unafraid to break with party leaders or Presidents in the past.

***

The problem isn’t GOP consciences, it’s the weak and dishonest Democratic case for impeachment. One issue is the unfair House process. Democrats refused GOP witness requests in the Intelligence Committee, denied the GOP a hearing day in the Judiciary Committee, and rushed the impeachment debate and vote. They claim impeachment is a serious, solemn moment but then sprinted to judgment to meet the political needs of swing-district Members who want it over fast.

On the substance, Democrats have taken an episode of Mr. Trump’s reckless foreign-policy judgment and distorted it into broad claims of bribery and extortion. The evidence of weakness is that their own articles of impeachment include no allegations of specific crimes.

Instead they watered them down to “abuse of power” and obstruction of Congress. The first is so general that the majority can define it to be anything. Impeachment doesn’t require a criminal offense, but the virtue of including a violation of law is that specific actions can be measured against it. That is why every previous impeachment included charges of specific violations of law.

This time Democrats have pulled a legal bait and switch. First they alleged an illegal quid pro quo. After doing focus groups with voters, they switched to bribery and extortion. Then they dropped those in the formal articles of impeachment, only to reassert them again on Monday in a 658-page Judiciary Committee document justifying impeachment. Can’t they at least be honest enough to charge Mr. Trump with the specific acts they claim he committed?

In their other Judiciary staff document on the history of impeachment, Democrats cited with approval the Republican impeachment of

Andrew Johnson.

They claimed that while the articles of impeachment cited Johnson’s violation of the Tenure of Office Act, Republicans were really impeaching him for undermining Reconstruction.

This is a giveaway that Democrats are impeaching Mr. Trump not for Ukraine, but because they believe he is simply unfit to be President. Democratic

Rep. Adam Schiff

has been explicit in justifying impeachment to prevent Mr. Trump from being able to “cheat in one more election” in 2020—a pre-emptive impeachment.

Where is that in the Constitution? Democrats are defining impeachment down to a tool of Congressional ascendancy that will threaten any President of the opposite party who becomes unpopular.

The second article—resisting Congressional subpoenas—boils down to impeaching Mr. Trump because he has gone to court to protect the powers of his office. Every modern President has done that on some issue, including

Bill Clinton

and

Barack Obama.

The article of impeachment claims Mr. Trump has gone to court “without lawful cause or excuse,” but Democrats won’t even give the courts the chance to define what is a lawful cause.

All of this is reason enough for House Republicans to vote no and for the Senate to acquit. Chuck Schumer, the Senate Minority Leader, is demanding to hear from witnesses like

John Bolton

whom the House refused to subpoena.

Mr. Schumer

wants to feed the impeachment maelstrom as well as prevent Republicans from calling Hunter or

Joe Biden.

The GOP is under no obligation to play along and, based on the House evidence, Senators are justified in voting to acquit without hearing anyone.

***

As for the politics, Mr. Trump is now likely to be the first impeached President to run for re-election. Democrats clearly hope the Scarlet “I” will work against him, but Mr. Trump will tout the partisan vote as illegitimate and his Senate acquittal as vindication. He will also argue that Democrats and the media never accepted his 2016 victory and tried to overrule the verdict of voters. He will be right.

How this argument will play out is impossible to predict, but note that Mr. Trump’s approval rating has been improving amid the impeachment debate. Support for impeachment hasn’t increased. Millions of Republicans who dislike Mr. Trump’s character and behavior are nonetheless repelled by the attempt to oust him months before another election.

Removing Mr. Trump from office outside of an election won’t banish Trumpism or reduce political polarization. Mr. Trump’s voters would see it as an elite coup, and Mr. Trump would not go quietly into exile. A more rational opposition would understand this, accept his victory in 2016, and focus on defeating him at the ballot box. The Ukraine intervention could be part of that electoral indictment.

Instead Democrats want to overrule the electorate’s vote in 2016 and pre-empt it in 2020. If Mr. Trump wins re-election, the folly of this impeachment will be a major reason.

Potomac Watch: Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham tears apart the “Clinton” or “Steele” dossier, following the release of Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report. Image: Reuters/Erin Scott

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