Tuesday, December 17, 2019

750 historians sign statement supporting impeachment of President Trump

Sean Wilentz, a professor of American history at Princeton, working with Brenda Wineapple,
the author of a recent book on President Andrew Johnson’s impeachment, drafted a statement regarding the impeachment of President Trump and sent it to a long list of historian.
The resulting text — which they shared for the first time with this newsletter tonight — now has over 750 signatures from historians across the nation, including some of the field’s most well-known figures: Robert Caro, Ken Burns and Ron Chernow, reported the New York Times, Impeachment Briefing.
“President Trump’s numerous and flagrant abuses of power are precisely what the Framers had in mind as grounds for impeaching and removing a president,” the statement says. “The President’s offenses, including his dereliction in protecting the integrity of the 2020 election from Russian disinformation and renewed interference, arouse once again the Framers’ most profound fears that powerful members of government would become, in Hamilton’s words, ‘the mercenary instruments of foreign corruption.’”
The statement “is a form that historians and others have used over the decades to express collective opinions. It’s a kind of petition to the public,” Mr. Wilentz said. “We have a civic role, as keepers in some ways of the nation’s heritage, as people who have devoted our lives to studying this country.”
Ms. Wineapple said the text is also a reminder of how much a scholar can influence how others think about current events.
“If a historian is an educator, that person walks into a classroom and faces questions from young people. If a historian is a writer, one is talking not just to other like-minded historians, but to the public,” she said.
The idea has company: Over 850 legal scholars signed a letter earlier this month arguing that the president had engaged in “impeachable conduct.” But Mr. Wilentz said that a historian has a role at this stage of impeachment that no other figure in American life does.
“American culture is not a terribly historical culture,” he said. “We’re much more forward-looking than backward-looking."
The attention to a meaningful record, Mr. Wilentz said, “becomes deeply important when you come to this kind of crisis. That’s something that only historians can provide.”
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