May 31, 2019
President Donald Trump wants to be impeached. In fact, he is taunting the Democrats in the House of Representatives to move forward with articles of impeachment.
That sounds counterintuitive for a man who has literally been campaigning for re-election since the day he took office. For one thing, he knows that although presidents have been impeached in the past - Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton - no president has been removed from office. Richard Nixon was on the verge of impeachment when he resigned in 1974.
Trump and his advisors know how impeachment works. The U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 3, Clause 5, provides that the House of Representatives shall have the sole power of impeachment. Article I, Section 3, Clauses 6 and 7, provide that the Senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachments. No person shall be convicted in the Senate without the vote of two-thirds of the members present.
Trump knows he can do just about anything and, with a Republican majority in the Senate, there will never be enough votes to convict him and remove him from office.
Does that mean the House should not move forward with impeachment? I spent two terms as a county prosecutor in western Pennsylvania. When my office evaluated a case we considered the likelihood of proving the accused guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If we believed that we could not meet that burden we did not proceed. Most prosecutors, especially on the federal level, take the same approach.
A trial, in the Senate or a county courtroom, is not about proving a political point. Trial should not be about embarrassing the accused or sullying his or her reputation. Can you imagine the uproar if a local prosecutor said “I know I can’t convict him, but I wanted to embarrass and annoy him?”
Impeachment is not a political tool. If it becomes a political tool then the Democrats are no better than a guy that would flirt with the Russians to win an election; or cozy up to a ruthless, murderous dictator; or wants to “lock-up” his political opponents.
Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller issued a statement this week upon closing the special counsel office. Mueller highlighted his investigation into possible obstruction of justice by Trump, which arose out of actions the president undertook while the investigation was ongoing. Mueller reiterated, ”(I)f we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said that.”
In the aftermath of Mueller’s statement, several members of the House called for impeachment, including Justin Amass (R-MI), Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). Several Democrats in the Senate have called for impeachment as well, including Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), each a candidate for president in 2020.
House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler said he is committed to holding the president accountable, stating that all options, including impeachment, are on the table but, according to Jurist, refused to commit to impeachment at this time.
Why would the Democrats give Trump what he wants?
Articles of impeachment might embarrass Trump, if that’s possible. On the other hand, as pointed out by veteran political analysts Terry Madonna and Michael L. Young in The Pennsylvania Capital-Star, “Trump’s hard-core constituency of a third or more of the electorate are more likely to be galvanized by impeachment then abandon Trump.”
Trump wants a forum to portray himself as the victim of overzealous political opponents out to get him. He gets that before Election Day with an exoneration in the Senate.
Impeachment would be a disaster. It would be a disaster for both the Democrat and Republican parties - and a disaster for our nation.
Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book The Executioner’s Toll, 2010 was released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at www.mattmangino.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino.
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