House Democrats have finally vouchsafed to deliver their impeachment articles to the Senate, a month after they claimed their rushed votes were essential to save the republic. The Senate can now do better by the Constitution by holding a trial that judges President
without validating the partisan House process and its weak case.
delay in appointing House managers further exposes how Democrats have defined impeachment down. The House hearings blocked GOP witnesses and limited cross-examination. Despite selective leaks and a pro-impeachment media, they failed to move public opinion or persuade Republicans that Mr. Trump committed impeachable offenses.
And now the Speaker admits she withheld the articles to intimidate Republicans into calling witnesses that the House wouldn’t call. “We think we accomplished in the past few weeks is that we wanted the public to see the need for witnesses, witnesses with firsthand knowledge of what happened, documentation which the president has prevented from coming to the Congress,” Mrs. Pelosi said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “Now the ball is in their court to either do that or pay a price.”
In other words, having failed to make an adequate case to remove Mr. Trump, Democrats are trying to drag out impeachment to further tarnish his reputation and mousetrap Senate Republicans running for re-election. She demands what she calls a “fair trial” after preventing a fair impeachment probe in the House. This is an abuse of the impeachment power.
Mrs. Pelosi said on the House floor Wednesday that her month delay allowed new “evidence” to emerge. But if that’s true, why did the House rush its votes before the holiday? In any case the new evidence she cites is merely more detail about what we already know. She is hyping ex post facto justification for the House failures to help Democrats retake the Senate in November.
Given all this, we can understand the impulse in some Senate quarters to dismiss the articles outright. But the trivialization of impeachment by the House shouldn’t be compounded in the Senate. The electoral politics matter but doing well by the Constitution counts for more. The Senate can do its duty with a trial by hearing the House managers and then voting to acquit Mr. Trump on grounds that these charges aren’t close to impeachable.
The fundamental question is whether Mr. Trump committed “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” These should be defined as either exercising powers a President does not have, or violating some statute or constitutional prohibition. The former could be spending money not appropriated by Congress or quartering troops in the Capitol. The latter could be, say, lying under oath or using the IRS to punish political opponents.
In our view the facts of the Ukraine imbroglio don’t qualify as impeachable on either grounds. Mr. Trump exhibited poor judgment in unleashing
to ask Ukraine to investigate Joe and
He did the same in undermining his own Ukraine policy by delaying the delivery of military aid.
But both efforts were resisted by his advisers and Members of Congress. The aid ultimately flowed and there was no Ukraine investigation. Mr. Trump broke no law, and other Presidents have tried to use foreign policy to serve domestic political ends. Voters may conclude these are grounds for denying Mr. Trump re-election. But if they are enough to short-circuit a presidential term, then many more Presidents will be impeached.
The second article—obstruction of Congress—is even weaker. Democrats want to oust Mr. Trump simply for defending his powers as President to have confidential discussions with his top advisers.
made similar privilege claims but lost in court. The House could have gone to court against Mr. Trump to see how its claims played out. But Democrats wanted to rush to meet their own arbitrary political calendar, and now they want the Senate to do what the House wouldn’t.
Democrats nonetheless say that these acts are impeachable in Mr. Trump’s case because he had a “corrupt motive,” as the House Judiciary Committee staff report puts it. But the acts are either impeachable or not. If the House can divine the motive of Presidents for foreign-policy actions and use it for impeachment, then that too is an invitation to make impeachments far more common.
Contrary to Mrs. Pelosi, the Senate’s job now is to convict or acquit Mr. Trump based on the facts at hand, not to continue the House’s investigation so more facts can dribble out. We doubt former national security adviser
has anything shocking to disclose since this is the most porous Administration in history. He would also still be limited by Mr. Trump’s claims of executive privilege.
At this stage we don’t see what good would be done by calling Senate witnesses. If Mr. Bolton is called, then Republicans may call Hunter or
or both. This would be a circus, and it would pay too much homage to the flimsy House evidence and rigged process.
The Senate may not even need to hear from the President’s defense team. Let the House managers make their case. If a majority of Senators believe the evidence is as inadequate as we do, then repudiate this impeachment with votes to acquit on both articles.
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