The Boston Globe writes their editorial lament about President Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate and of course gets its facts completely wrong. Even their headline is wrong. Voters are not the “last line” of defense, they are the first line. The act of voting is the single most important role in our democracy because voting gives legitimacy to our elected officials.
This is why removing an official is so difficult and should be so difficult, and why such removal should be bipartisan, with overwhelming evidence of misconduct.
Before I get into the specifics of the Globe’s editorial, let me comment on the fact that destroying our norms isn’t just Trump’s doing. Here is an example of the Boston Globe participating. We had an impeachment by the House that took almost three months. We had a trial in the Senate that took a couple of weeks. We have reached the end of the process and President Trump was acquitted. How about the Boston Globe accept the verdict and move on for the good of the country? No. They want to re-litigate the whole thing and delegitimize Trump’s acquittal. This isn’t helping heal our partisan divide or have the country move on and focus on the upcoming election. I am not surprised the Democrats are taking this approach since they face a stunning defeat in the presidential election and that may not bode well for their members in Congress. So I expect them to stick to their plan. But why isn’t the media able to get over this and allow us as a country to move on?
We got several great Constitutional history lessons by the White House lawyers during the Senate trial. We learned, for example, that the framers rejected the parliamentary model of our chief executive, which would have had the president serve at the pleasure of the legislature. Instead, we got a strong executive, with one-third of the government in his or her sole command. And while the Congress can remove the president, this does not mean they “oversee” him. They are co-equal branches of government. And that is why the House’s second impeachment article should and did fail. The President’s impeachment based on not following the orders of Congress and providing witnesses and documents as demanded by the House is nonsense. The way such a dispute can and must be settled is by going to court, which the House chose not to do. When they decided that speed rather than accuracy (or fairness) was the goal, they lost any chance of their second impeachment article being approved. It would have meant the subjugation of the presidency and my guess is that had president Trump been impeached under the second House article, he could have gone to the Supreme Court and had it reversed. What a trial that would have been!
The Globe’s subhead is that no future president need to fear Congress because Trump wasn’t impeached. Did the Globe not see the vote which was almost entirely along partisan lines? Did they not listen to all the Democrats who have said in the past that impeachments must be bipartisan? Doesn’t the vote tell them something about the illegitimacy of the process? No lessons learned there, obviously.
The Globe rationalizes Republicans voting together as they are all fearful of President Trump. No, that isn’t it at all. The evidence was simply not there. And the facts the Globe recounts as to why Trump should have been found guilty are incorrect.
The Globe says the Senate held a trial without witnesses. Again, this is nonsense. There were 17 witnesses (none of which were subject to cross-examination by the Trump lawyers, nor did they get to call any of their own witnesses during the House investigation.) In the Senate trial, had the evidence been close, perhaps additional witnesses would have been allowed. But this wouldn’t be the John Boltons. No. Witnesses in the Senate trial would have been people who had already testified. The Senate’s job wasn’t to redo the investigation. If it agreed to do so, we would have had a several-months-long process which would have probably continued past the election. The Senate could have chosen to do that, but I don’t see why they ever would. The burden of proof is on the prosecution and they simply failed to meet it. That doesn’t mean the Senate should keep digging until it finds something to impeach and remove the president over. That isn’t how our justice system is supposed to work.
We know what the two charges were, and the Globe falsely asserts that “The president’s defenders did not mount any serious factual defense against either charge.”
I’ve already dispensed with the second charge, which was completely bogus. The defense, of course, is that the president has executive privilege and using that privilege isn’t impeachable.
As to the first charge, put aside the rigged process which deserves an acquittal right there. Let’s assume the facts that are in the transcript. The Democrats alleged that Trump asked for an investigation into the Bidens in order to hurt his rival in the 2020 election. But we don’t know Trump’s state of mind. Yes, he did ask for an investigation, and yes, Biden is considered a rival. But what the House managers failed to prove is the “in order to” part. They don’t know Trump’s motive.
Trump knows his motive, and he has not admitted he asked for the Bidens to be investigated because Biden was running against him in 2020 and he wanted to badly wound him so he could defeat him at the ballot box. So besides the assertion that this was Trump’s motivation (made by Adam Schiff and then picked up by everyone on the Left), how do we know what he meant to do? How would we ever know?
Well, one way to know is there is no other explanation for his actions. If someone goes to rob a bank, and they show up with a mask on, a gun, and an empty sack to carry money, we know what they intended. If someone is driving toward the bank and gets stopped with those items, the police may suspect they have a possible bank robber, but the crime hasn’t yet been committed and there is no way to know if this was going to happen. This is why cops don’t arrest people until the crime has been committed. Trump actually committed no crime because the aid was released and no investigation was announced.
More importantly, there is another very good, and more likely, explanation for Trump’s request to Zelensky. He wanted to get Joe Biden. He was mad at him because the Obama-Biden administration may have authorized spying on the Trump campaign. Another explanation is he saw the Joe Biden video which seems to support massive corruption by the Biden family, and he wanted to have Ukraine look into it because it looks corrupt. Remember, his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was targeted for shenanigans he committed in Ukraine as well. Maybe Trump wanted payback for Manafort.
Or maybe he wanted to let Zelensky know that nobody gets a pass for corruption, even former US Vice Presidents and their families.
By not proving what Trump’s motives were, the Democrats could not tie him to a bad intent. Yes, Trump wanted a rival investigated, but if it was for non-corrupt reasons, it was nowhere near impeachable. Maybe it had “bad optics,” maybe it was ill-advised, maybe it was stupid, maybe it was unreasonable. But none of those reasons are impeachable.
Let’s say the evidence clearly showed that what Trump did was solely to hurt Biden in the 2020 race. Let’s say we had a tape recording of Trump talking to Giuliani and admitting to the whole scheme. Maybe if he said what Adam Schiff originally alleged during his first televised hearing, that type of talk would have been evidence of an impeachable offense. If that had happened, I think many Republicans would have crossed the Party line and voted to convict Trump of the first Article. But you would need very strong evidence of intent, and all the Democrats had was a theory and allegations, no proof. And since there are several other theories that are equally if not more plausible (none of which are impeachable, but several may be unseemly and perhaps good reasons to vote for Trump’s opponent in 2020), then Trump’s conduct cannot lead to removal from office.
In my view, it was the “appearance of a conflict of interest” that President Trump violated. This is nowhere near impeachable conduct much less removal from office, yet the House voted along partisan lines to impeach after conducting an illegitimate inquiry.
That the Democrats voted as they did is mystifying. But I guess in our hyper-partisan country today, this is to be expected. “Party-affiliation” is thicker than water.
Let me close with this quote from the Globe editorial: “Even some Senate Republicans conceded that Trump did what he was accused of.” If that were true, then they would have voted to convict. So either the Globe is mischaracterizing what these Republicans said, or the House impeachment managers made a case of “misconduct” which wasn’t worthy of “impeachment and removal from office.” Which is it, Boston Globe?
Allen Nitschelm is publisher of PublicEditorMA.com. He critiques the Boston Globe, mostly focusing on the bias in their news reporting. News articles are graded for bias, and the website has a listing of the average bias ratings for all reporters reviewed. See our website for more information and the four categories of articles we publish.
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