Hasan writes: “It was a major moment in this car crash of a presidency – and a major achievement for House Democrats. Still, I couldn’t help but be disappointed that there were only two articles of impeachment passed against this president. Two? That’s it?”
Jennifer Nellans of Des Moines holds a sign reading Impeach Now during an impeachment rally outside of the Iowa state capitol building in Des Moines, Iowa, on Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2019. (photo: Bryon Houlgrave/The Des Moines Register)
19 December 19
urrah! On Wednesday evening, Donald Trump became only the third president of the United States to be impeached. The House of Representatives voted 230-197 to charge Trump with abuse of power and 229-198 to charge him with obstruction of Congress.
It was a major moment in this car crash of a presidency — and a major achievement for House Democrats. Still, I couldn’t help but be disappointed that there were only two articles of impeachment passed against this president. Two? That’s it? Why were other Trumpian offenses not included? For context, it’s worth recalling that there were a whopping 11 articles of impeachment passed against Andrew Johnson in 1868. With Richard Nixon in 1974, the House Judiciary Committee considered five articles of impeachment, before passing three of them. With Bill Clinton in 1998, the House of Representatives voted on four articles and approved two of them.
Are we expected to believe that House Democrats really think Trump has only committed two impeachable offenses? Even the president himself seems to have been caught off guard by the Democrats’ very narrow approach to impeachment. “Frankly, I think he’s a little surprised it’s the Ukraine thing that’s done it,” a White House official told CNN.
The harsh reality, of course, is that Trump commits impeachable offenses on nearly a weekly basis. So here is an A to Z of such offenses — by issue and/or by crime — that were inexplicably overlooked or ignored by the House of Representatives.
Trump has personally and repeatedly instructed the Postmaster General to double shipping rates for Amazon, in an attempt to inflict billions of dollars of new costs on founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post. “Some administration officials,” reported the Post in May 2018, “say several of Trump’s attacks aimed at Amazon have come in response to articles in The Post that he didn’t like.”
This is a president who has referred to African countries as “shitholes;” to Mexicans as “rapists;” to neo-Nazis as “very fine people.” To be clear: bigotry, racism, and white nationalism are impeachable offenses. Ask Andrew Johnson.
In the summer of 2017, Trump personally intervened to try and block a merger between AT&T and Time Warner — in order to try and punish CNN, which is owned by Time Warner, for its unfavorable coverage of him. Per the New Yorker, Trump told aides: “I’ve been telling [then National Economic Council director Gary] Cohn to get this lawsuit filed and nothing’s happened! I’ve mentioned it fifty times. And nothing’s happened. I want to make sure it’s filed. I want that deal blocked!”
Over the past 12 months, six migrant children aged between 2 and 16 — five from Guatemala and one from El Salvador — have died in federal custody. Over the previous ten years, not a single migrant child died in custody. Is this not impeachable? It gets worse: as BuzzFeed News reported recently, “immigrants held in Immigration and Customs Enforcement jails around the US received medical care so bad it resulted in two preventable surgeries … and contributed to four deaths.”
From pitching his struggling Doral resort as a venue for the next G7 summit, to making more than 400 lucrative visits to his own properties and businesses, to having Saudi royals bail out his under-performing hotels, Trump has been violating both the domestic and foreign emolument clauses of the Constitution from day one of his money-making presidency. His response to such criticisms? “You people with this phony emoluments clause.”
The president of the United States is a fraudster. Don’t take my word for it. In November 2016, less than two weeks after he was elected, Trump settled three different fraud lawsuits related to his Trump University for $25 million. Earlier this month, as the New York Attorney General Letitia James formally announced, the president was “forced to pay $2 million for misusing charitable funds for his own political gain” and his Trump Foundation was “shut down for its misconduct.” Trump isn’t fit to run a university or a charity, so how is he fit to run the country?
GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION
As the New York Times reported in October 2018, the General Services Administration, which manages real estate for the federal government, had planned to turn the FBI’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. “over to a commercial developer” — until, that is, the president intervened to veto the sale. As a group of Democratic lawmakers pointed out, Trump was “‘dead opposed’ to the government selling the property, which would have allowed commercial developers to compete directly with the Trump Hotel” only a block away. Is this not worthy of further investigation and, possibly, impeachment?
We know that Trump’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, who is serving a three-year prison sentence for campaign finance violations, tax fraud, and bank fraud, made illegal hush money payments to two women — Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal — who claimed to have had affairs with Trump. We also know, thanks to federal prosecutors, that Cohen “acted in coordination and at the direction of” the president himself. How is this brazen violation of campaign finance laws not an impeachable offense?
INCITEMENT OF VIOLENCE
The president is a threat to law and order. As New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait has observed: “On at least eight occasions, he has encouraged his supporters — including members of the armed forces — to attack his political opponents.” In addition, a bevy of domestic terrorists arrested since 2016 have cited either Trump’s name, his inflammatory rhetoric, or both.
Trump demanded that his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, be granted a security clearance, despite objections from intelligence officials who warned that Kushner could be compromised by his business ties to foreign governments. The president may have the right to give anyone a security clearance and yet, as House Judiciary Committee chair Jerrold Nadler explained in March, “You can do things that are within your power that are abuses of power and that are crimes.”
KIDS IN CAGES
The Trump administration, as a matter of policy, separated more than 5,400 children — including babies and toddlers — from their migrant parents at the Mexico border. Hundreds of those kids were locked up in cages. This was a clear violation of international law, and experts with the UN’s Human Rights Council also said the policy may have amounted to “torture.”
LIES, LIES, AND LIES
Trump has told more than 15,000 falsehoods since coming to office. To quote presidential historian Douglas Brinkley: “There is no president that lied as if they were a form of breathing, except Donald Trump.” But lying isn’t an impeachable offense, right? Wrong. The very first article of impeachment against Nixon accused him of “making or causing to be made false or misleading public statements for the purpose of deceiving the people of the United States.”
Trump, as even Fox News host Chris Wallace observed last week, “is engaged in the most direct, sustained assault on freedom of the press in our history.” The president has asked the FBI to jail reporters who publish leaks, has threatened to revoke the broadcast licenses of media organizations that criticize him, and relentlessly attacked and demonized journalists as “scum,” “slime,” “sick people,” “fake news,” and “the enemy of the people.” Members of the press have received death threats from people echoing the president’s vile language.
Local officials in Puerto Rico have blamed presidential negligence and incompetence for the deaths of nearly 3,000 people in Puerto Rico, in the wake of Hurricane Maria in 2017. Trump’s response? He falsely claimed that 3,000 Americans didn’t die. He also tried to “illegally withhold” much-needed and congressionally appropriated disaster relief money. According to the Washington Post, Trump told White House officials that “he did not want a single dollar going to Puerto Rico… Instead, he wanted more of the money to go to Texas and Florida.”
OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election identified 10 instances of possible obstruction of justice by the president. More than 1,000 former federal prosecutors agreed that Trump’s conduct, had he been a private citizen, would have resulted “in multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice.”
We know Trump lies all the time — but how about the lies he tells under oath? The president told the Mueller inquiry: “I do not recall discussing WikiLeaks with [former adviser Roger Stone], nor do I recall being aware of Mr. Stone having discussed WikiLeaks with individuals associated with my campaign.” In November, however, his former deputy campaign manager, Rick Gates, said in court that Trump had been aware in advance of Wikileaks disclosures in 2016, based on his conversations with Stone. The response of conservative lawyer George Conway, husband of Kellyanne? “Perjury.”
You’ve heard of QAnon, right? The batshit crazy group of online conspiracy theorists obsessed with a Deep State plot against Trump? The president has retweeted QAnon supporters on multiple occasions; invited them to speak at his rallies; and hosted them at the White House. Why does this matter? The FBI has warned that QAnon will “very likely” drive extremists “to carry out criminal or violent acts.” So how is it okay for the president to endorse or promote such a dangerous group?
Trump has not only been accused of sexual assault and harassment by dozens of women but, in June, the writer E. Jean Carroll also accused him of raping her in the dressing room of a luxury department store. “I haven’t paid much attention,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters, when asked to comment on Carroll’s shocking claim. But why not? Shouldn’t rape be an impeachable offense? “I wish there had been a third Article of Impeachment against Donald Trump,” Carroll tweeted last week. “The Abuse Of Women.”
Less than three months after entering office, in April 2017, Trump launched airstrikes against Syria, without a vote in Congress. Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu, a former attorney in the Judge Advocate General Corps of the U.S. Air Force, called the strikes “FRICKIN ILLEGAL.” And remember: as former Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes has acknowledged, the lack of congressional authorization, and threat of impeachment from House Republicans, “was a factor” in the controversial decision by the Obama administration not to bomb Syria in 2013.
In October 2018, a blockbuster 13,000-word investigation by the New York Times found that Trump “received at least $413 million in today’s dollars from his father’s real estate empire, much of it through tax dodges in the 1990s.” What kind of dodges? “He and his siblings set up a sham corporation to disguise millions of dollars in gifts from their parents.… Records indicate that Mr. Trump helped his father take improper tax deductions worth millions more.”
Remember how Trump declared a fake “national emergency” in February, to circumvent Congress and fund his border wall? Well, Trump himself bluntly admitted that there was no emergency or even urgency: “I didn’t need to do this. But I’d rather do it much faster.” His critics, therefore, argue that the president acted “ultra vires” — a Latin phrase meaning “beyond the powers.”
The Mueller report may have ruled out a criminal conspiracy between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, but we know that Trump welcomed Russian help during the 2016 campaign and later suggested he wasn’t bothered by Moscow’s interference in the election. We also know that Trump handed over classified intel to the Russians in the Oval Office. As Harvard law professor and former Bush administration official Jack Goldsmith co-wrote, “Questions of criminality aside…. If the President gave this information away through carelessness or neglect, he has arguably breached his oath of office” and there is “thus no reason why Congress couldn’t consider a grotesque violation of the President’s oath as a standalone basis for impeachment.”
In January, Michael Cohen announced he was postponing his public congressional testimony because of “ongoing threats against his family” from the president and his attorney Rudy Giuliani. In November, Trump attacked former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch as she was testifying in front of the House Intelligence Committee, prompting committee chair Adam Schiff to accuse the president of “witness intimidation in real time.” This is the behavior not of a president but of a mob boss.
Why is there no mention of the Chinese president Xi Jinping in either of the two articles of impeachment? Why only the Ukrainian president? If the Democrats’ argument is that involving foreign governments in U.S. elections is an impeachable offense, as well as a threat to national security, then why stop at Ukraine? What about China? Listen to the president himself, speaking to reporters outside the White House in October: “China should start an investigation into the Bidens, because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine.”
In Syria, Trump dropped bombs without congressional approval. In Yemen, the scene of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, Trump has helped Saudi Arabia to continue to drop bombs despite explicit opposition from both chambers of Congress. As an analyst in the Guardian argued, Trump’s decision to veto a bipartisan bill calling for an end to U.S. military involvement in the Saudi air war amounted to “flagrant defiance of the 1973 War Powers Act that checks a president’s ability to engage in armed conflict without express consent of Congress.”
The president of the United States didn’t just abuse his power in attempting to pressure the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden; he tried to bribe him. Pelosi accused Trump of bribery and so too did the House Democrats’ 169-page impeachment report. Yet, as Vox noted, “when Democrats actually unveiled their articles of impeachment last week, bribery was MIA.” Why?