History shows it’s harder than it looks to remove a president from office.Trump’s reported hush payments to women during the 2016 campaign: “It may be an impeachable offense if it goes to the question of the president procuring his office through corrupt means.”
.. Democrats would investigate Trump’s retaliations against media sources that have reported news about him that he doesn’t like as abuses of “instruments of state power.”
.. three-quarters of self-identified Democratic voters in this month’s elections support impeachment
.. they may well be right that Trump’s actions — on several fronts — could clear the threshold of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” But no one should suffer illusions about the likely result of any impeachment attempts.
.. Being deemed unfit for office — the condition intended by the Founding Fathers to trigger impeachment in the House — has never been enough to get the Senate to remove a president.
History suggests that there wouldn’t be a successful conviction by two-thirds of senators without two other conditions in place:
- A chief executive must also be deeply unpopular. And
- booting him from office must seem more advantageous for the opposition in the next election than letting him remain there.
.. “High crimes and misdemeanors,” he says, “ought to be held to those offenses which are rather obviously wrong, whether ‘criminal,’ and which so seriously threaten the order of the political society as to make pestilent and dangerous the continuance in power of their perpetrator.”
Lawmakers laid a trap. In February 1867, they overrode Johnson’s veto of the Tenure of Office Act, which required the Senate’s consent for the president to fire and replace identified executive branch officers, including the secretary of war — at that time Edwin Stanton, a strong advocate of U.S. military occupation of the South. On Feb. 21, 1868, Johnson removed Stanton, who refused to leave his office even to go home or to Cabinet meetings.
.. if impeached, Johnson’s successor would have been Ohio’s Benjamin Wade — the Senate’s president pro tempore — who was, to put it mildly, unsuited for the presidency. (For years, he dared challengers to attack him in the Senate, having prominently placed two loaded pistols on his desk when he came into the chamber.)
President Trump’s constant, relentless, remorseless lying is a central feature of his presidency, an unprecedented threat to our democracy and — in my view — an impeachable offense.
.. I also realize it is not always possible to draw a bright line between untruths Trump knows are untrue and conspiratorial nonsense he might foolishly believe. But never before have we had a leader who so pollutes the national discourse with garbage that he at least ought to know is false — and I fear the consequences will be with us long after Trump is gone..
.. Other presidents have lied — Lyndon B. Johnson about Vietnam, Richard M. Nixon about Watergate, Bill Clinton about Monica Lewinsky. But never have we had a president who lies about everything , who invents his own fake facts, who continues to trumpet patent falsehoods even when confronted with the actual facts.
.. At a roundtable with a group of workers in Duluth, Minn., in June, Trump said, “The head of U.S. Steel called me the other day, and he said, ‘We’re opening up six major facilities and expanding facilities that have never been expanded.’ ” A few days later, at the White House, Trump said, “U.S. Steel just announced they’re expanding or building six new facilities.”
Reporters called the company for details and learned that U.S. Steel has not announced plans to open any new domestic steel mills, period. Not six new plants; not even one.
.. Wrong. More than a month later, at one of his campaign-style rallies, Trump declared that “U.S. Steel is opening up seven plants.” At another rally around the same time, he told supporters that “U.S. Steel just announced that they’re building six new steel mills.”
.. In June, Trump’s claim might have been called a “misstatement” or a “falsehood” or an “untruth.” A month later, after the truth had been clearly established, that same claim could only be called a bald-faced lie.
.. Trump clearly understands the benefit of flooding the zone. If, during the course of a rally or a news conference or an interview, he tells one glaring lie, that’s where all attention will be focused. But if he tells a dozen lies, or two dozen, it is all but impossible for critics to keep up. By the time all those lies have been called out, Trump will have spewed a few dozen more.
.. Lesley Stahl offered a valuable lesson in how to pin Trump down. At one point, he was trying to leave the false impression that there is serious scientific debate about whether human activity has contributed to climate change. “They say that we had hurricanes that were far worse than what we just had with Michael,” Trump said.
“Who says that?” Stahl interjected. “ ‘They say?’ ”
.. “People say,” Trump responded. “People say . . .” Finally he claimed, without offering a shred of evidence, that “scientists . . . have a very big political agenda” — a dodge amounting to an admission that Trump had no factual basis for the claims he was making.
.. When Stahl turned to Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, and Trump said, “I think China meddled also,” Stahl again called him on it: “You are diverting the whole Russia thing. . . . You are, you are.”
.. Trump finally got so flustered that he said, “Lesley, it’s okay. In the meantime, I’m president — and you’re not.”
And that is the point.
.. When Trump insists on his own invented “facts,” he makes reality-based political dialogue impossible. His utter disregard for truth is a subversion of our democracy and a dereliction of his duty as president. The founders considered themselves men of honor whose word was their bond. They left us the vague, encompassing phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors” for just such an emergency.
leads to only one conclusion: Donald Trump is either an asset of Russian intelligence or really enjoys playing one on TV.
.. There is overwhelming evidence that our president, for the first time in our history, is deliberately or through gross negligence or because of his own twisted personality engaged in treasonous behavior — behavior that violates his oath of office to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
.. Every single Republican lawmaker will be — and should be — asked on the election trail: Are you with Trump and Putin or are you with the C.I.A., F.B.I. and N.S.A.?
.. It started with the shocking tweet that Trump issued before he even sat down with Putin this morning: “Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!” The official Twitter account of the Russian foreign ministry — recognizing a useful idiot when it saw one — immediately “liked” Trump’s tweet and later added: “We agree.”
I’ll bet they do.
.. And in a bit of shocking moral equivalence, Trump added of the United States and Russia: “We are all to blame … both made some mistakes.” Trump said that it was actually the American probe into the Russian hacking that has “kept us apart.”
.. To watch an American president dis his own intelligence agencies, blame both sides for the Russian hacking of our election — and deliberately try to confuse the fact that there is still no solid proof of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia with the fact that Russia had its own interest in trying to defeat the anti-Putin Hillary Clinton — actually made me sick to my stomach.
.. I completely endorse the former C.I.A. director John O. Brennan’s tweet after the news conference:
“Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes & misdemeanors.’ It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???”
.. the fact that he may not have colluded with the Russians doesn’t mean he does not, as president, have a responsibility to ensure that the Russians be punished for interfering in our last election on their own and be effectively deterred from doing so in the future. That is in his job description.
.. Listening to Trump, it was as if Franklin Roosevelt had announced after Pearl Harbor: “Hey, both sides are to blame. Our battleships in Hawaii were a little provocative to Japan — and, by the way, I had nothing to do with the causes for their attack. So cool it.”
.. In the past few years what has Putin done to deserve an American president sucking up to him for an “extraordinary” relationship?
- Putin has seized Crimea,
- covertly invaded Ukraine,
- provided the missiles that shot down a civilian Malaysian airliner over Ukraine,
- bombed tens of thousands of refugees out of Syria into Europe, destabilizing Europe,
- been involved in the death of a British woman who accidentally handled a Russian nerve agent deployed to kill ex-Russian agents in England and
- deployed misinformation to help tip the vote in Britain toward exiting and fracturing the European Union.
Most of all, Putin unleashed a cyberattack on America’s electoral process, aimed at both electing Trump — with or without Trump’s collusion — and sowing division among American citizens.