By Paolo von Schirach –
WASHINGTON – The Democrats who hold the majority in the US
House of Representatives did their best to present their vote leading to the
start of an impeachment process, potentially leading to the removal of
President Donald Trump from office, as a solemn and sad moment dictated by the
gravity of the charges and the urgency of the constitutional crisis created by
a criminal president.
With solemn voices accompanied by serious demeanor they told the nation that
while impeaching Trump is the last thing they wanted to do, they simply “had
to”. The gravity of the situation left them no choice. They recognize
the profound implications of this move. They are fully aware that the US
Constitution contemplates impeachment as an extreme remedy for extreme
circumstances in which a president must be removed from power, without waiting
for the end of his four years mandate. But they had no choice.
Guardians of the Constitution
As they told America, in their constitutional role as guardians of our
institutions, the House Democrats could not ignore a president who has
deliberately and consciously broken his Oath of Office. On this Ukrainian
matter, he clearly abused his power as president, this way acting in open
disregard of the Constitution. And so the Democrats in the House, conscious of
their solemn constitutional obligations as public servants, simply had
Furthermore, they had to act swiftly; because the evidence shows that this
president is busy engaging in unconstitutional conduct on a daily basis. He is
such a menace that he needs to be stopped, now, lest he
destroys the entire fabric of our cherished democratic institutions.
Well, this narrative presented by the House Democrats is outlandishly
exaggerated. By inventing this notion of Trump as a monstrous creature living
in the White House, intent on shredding our American Constitution, the House
Democrats have turned this impeachment process into a farce. Many Americans
(may be most) have seen through this manufactured drama and concluded that this
impeachment process is nothing but “politics”, and not a
serious constitutional crisis, and so they have tuned out.
Real charges against Trump
Let me be clear. This is not an invented story. Ample evidence, now
corroborated by multiple witnesses who have first knowledge of the “Ukraine
military and economic aid matter” conclusively proves that President
Trump tried to twist the arm of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, (by
threatening to withhold aid for Ukraine already voted by Congress), so that
Zelensky would commit to dig up dirt on Hunter Biden, Joe Biden’s son, this way
helping Trump’s to get re-elected.
All this is beyond dispute. And it is bad. Really bad. It is most
inappropriate for any US President to mix the foreign policy of the United
States with personal electoral politics. President Trump acted most
inappropriately; and in so doing he tarnished his office.
So, something bad happened and the president did it. However –and this is
the critical question– is this an “impeachable offense“?
The country is deeply divided on this. Most Democrats hate Trump as a matter of
course, and so they would like to see him gone, whatever it takes. Most
Republicans believe he is OK. The independents are divided.
That said, notwithstanding the anti-Trump media hype, most Americans who
live outside of the Washington, DC bubble do not care much about the complex
constitutional arguments dished out by legal experts appearing non stop on
The charge of “abuse of power” against this president for
most people is an abstraction that few are willing to dig into in order to
determine whether or not this particular instance of abuse rises to the level
of an impeachable offense that warrants removing a president from office,
especially when president Trump can be removed from office via regular
elections scheduled to take place this coming November. “You want to get
rid of Trump? Well, vote for the other candidate come November”.
For sure, most Americans would agree that they do not want “a
criminal” in the White House. However, the “crime”
the president is accused of has to be something most people can relate to.
There is no clear majority that would agree that Trump’s conduct regarding the
whole Ukraine messed up affair clearly constitutes “criminal
behavior”. Bad behavior, most probably; but not something that rises
to the level of an impeachable offense.
Inflated case against Trump
In other words, it is not that the House Democrats “invented”
a case against Trump. Far from it. There is plenty of evidence that there is a
case. Their political miscalculation has been to inflate the
dimensions of the “Ukraine story” up to ridiculous proportions.
Yes, President Trump behaves in an erratic, often bizarre fashion. He says
plenty of outlandish things. And in this Ukraine case he tried to use the
considerable power of his office to obtain from another head of state something
that would probably benefit him politically by threatening to withhold a large
package of economic and military aid duly approved by Congress that the
Executive Branch was obliged by law to deliver to Ukraine.
But to assert that Trump needs to be removed from office, RIGHT
NOW, as opposed to allowing the voters decide in the upcoming November
elections, because the future of America as a viable constitutional republic
hangs in the balance, is silly.
No, we are not about to fall into an abyss. You may have plenty of reasons
to dislike Trump; but he is not in the process of dismantling the US
The end result of this rushed impeachment process based on significant
evidence of serious misconduct which however does not jump at you as obvious
criminal behavior is to have trivialized impeachment. Impeachment should be
viewed by all as an extreme remedy for truly extreme circumstances. And this is
not the case right now.
By labeling Trump’s abuse of power as an impeachable “high
crime”, the Democrats ended up with the unintended consequence of
trivializing impeachment. Do not be surprised if in the future, whoever will be
in the White House, a hostile House majority will threaten to impeach another
president whom they profoundly disagree with.
I do not believe that the Founders decided to include impeachment provisions
in the US Constitutions as just another tool to fight inevitable political
battles. For that purpose we have free elections held at regular intervals.
Paolo von Schirach is the Editor of the Schirach Report He is also the
President of the Global Policy Institute,
a Washington DC think tank, and Chair of Political Science and International
Relations at Bay Atlantic University, also in