Elizabeth Olsson | 19 December 2019
Last night, U.S. President, Donald J. Trump, was impeached by the House of Representatives. The House voted on two articles of impeachment: 1) Abuse of Power and 2) Obstruction of Congress concerning Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. Both articles received a simple majority of votes, mostly along party lines.
If you missed the debate on the House floor, here’s a recap of the principal arguments made by Republicans and Democrats— along with my armchair commentary because, let’s face it, I can’t help myself.
The Republicans’ Arguments
There is no evidence that Trump abused power.
If true, that’s probably because Trump obstructed Congress and barred key figures from testifying. Oddly enough, no Republican mentioned why there is no evidence that Trump abused power, dismissing the claim out of hand.
Democrats have been trying to impeach Trump since his inauguration.
I don't think this is universally true. To the extent that it is true, it’s because Democrats were doing their jobs. You see, everyone in the House has a constituency of voters. A Representative’s job is to serve their constituents needs and desires in Congress. Since Trump lost the popular vote, the majority of voters in the 2016 election have good reason to want him removed from office. If Democrats in the House listened to their constituents, they are compelled to investigate and act any wrongdoing by Trump.
Democrats hate Trump.
This is not a great argument because it doesn’t matter when considering high crimes and misdemeanors. Also, it’s mutual. Perhaps Trump should be removed from office because he hates Democrats.
Trump was democratically elected.
Ummm…debatable. Yes, he did receive the majority of votes cast in the Electoral College, no he did not receive the majority of votes cast by actual voters. Also, who cares? No one is disputing Trump’s election. They are claiming that he abused his power to pressure a foreign leader to investigate his political opponent. They are also claiming that he obstructed justice by barring high-level officials from testifying during the House investigation. The 2016 election is not relevant to either article of impeachment.
There is no evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors.
Really? Okay, what then, constitutes high crimes and misdemeanors? It’s stipulated in the Constitution that Congress must define these terms. Please do that before you dismiss the evidence. Also, jaywalking is a misdemeanor in some U.S. jurisdictions. There does seem to be a very low threshold. Just saying.
The aid in dispute was eventually released.
Yes, but that isn’t evidence that a crime wasn’t committed. Here’s an analogy to clarify the situation: When the mob threatens a hit if someone doesn’t pay them off, the absence of a dead body floating in the Hudson doesn’t clear the mob of wrongdoing. The threat, or in this case, the act of extortion, is a crime in and of itself.
There were many comments made by Republicans characterizing Democrats as extreme, anti-patriotic, godless, socialist, baby killers, but I’m not going to respond to any of that here. The people who made those statements made themselves look absurd; they don’t need my help.
The Democrats’ Arguments
There is irrefutable evidence that Trump abused of power.
I gotta say, I’m a little uncomfortable with this argument. Compelling evidence, sure. Irrefutable, I don’t know. After all, you’re also charging Trump with obstruction of Congress. So, my guess is, the best evidence of abuse of power was never presented. Let’s talk about sufficient evidence so we can also talk about obstruction of Congress and the implications of that.
I am here to protect the future of the U.S. constitution and the U.S. presidency.
This is a weak argument. Yes, there are high stakes but, no, those high stakes shouldn’t compel a vote in either direction. What both parties should be considering is--- say it with me!--- abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
President Trump poses a “clear and present danger” to our country/constitution.
Okay, great. I’m with you. Wait, you have nothing else to add. Hmm, that’s disappointing. It is, after all, your job to provide evidence in support of your claims.
The president violated his oath of office.
Yes, but again, please tell me exactly how and why. This isn’t so difficult people!
I didn’t come to Congress to impeach a sitting president, but I have no other choice.
Great, tell me how Trump engaged in abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Oh wait, you yield the rest of your time? Yeah, you’re not the first.
Trump is not above the law.
Yes, finally, tell me why! Oh, your time is up. Maybe someone else can help us out here?!
Bribery is an impeachable offense.
You’re absolutely right. Bribery is explicitly listed as an impeachable offense in Article 2, section 4 of the U.S. Constitution. The question is did Trump commit bribery, abuse his power, or obstruct Congress? No comment? Come on!
All snarky political commentary aside, Trump really was impeached, and that’s historic. He is only the third president in U.S. history to be impeached. The first was Andrew Johnson in 1868 and the second was Bill Clinton in 1999. (Many erroneously believe that Richard Nixon was impeached. He was not. He resigned before articles of impeachment reached the House floor.) Of course, those well versed in American history know that neither Johnson nor Clinton were removed from office and both finished their terms. The reason for this is what happens next in the Trump Impeachment: a trial in the Senate.
The only way that a U.S. president can be removed from office is if Senators vote to convict him (or her) of high crimes and misdemeanors. Congress has never successfully removed a president from office in U.S. history and it is unlikely to occur now. The exceeding unlikelihood of Trump’s removal has little to do with his guilt or innocence and everything to do with the Senate Republican majority. What does this have to do with an impartial trial? It turns out, an awful lot.
Conviction in the U.S. requires a two-thirds super-majority. With the Senate currently consisting of 53 Republicans and 47 Democrats that means every Democrat plus approximately 20 Republicans would have to cast a guilty vote. The chance of this occurring is virtually zero. Senators, in general, and Republicans, in particular, have historically voted along party lines. There is no indication that they would vote differently during the upcoming Senate trial.
Given the sometimes shocking and always deeply partisan politics currently at play in the U.S. Congress, there are only three things we can be sure of in January 2020: Trump will still be president, Congress will still be a circus, and I will still be a proud ex-patriot.
Elizabeth Olsson is a Ph.D. student at SGS. She was born and raised in the United States and studied U.S. politics at the University of California, Berkeley, from 1998-2002. She relocated to Sweden permanently in 2007.