May 24, 2019

The Pros and Cons of Impeachment

“The announcement last week that Representative Jerrold Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, was demanding documents from eighty-one agencies, companies, and individuals with knowledge of the Trump Administration’s behavior, or misbehavior, was, in its way, momentous. Though properly classed as the kind of oversight that the see-no-evil-even-when-you’re-staring-at-it Republicans in Congress avoided for the past two years, it seems clear that Nadler is planning what amounts to pre-impeachment impeachment hearings.

Nadler himself cautioned that, regarding the potential eviction of the Trump family from Pennsylvania Avenue, “we don’t have the facts yet,” but the committee’s demand appears designed to assemble as much of what can be known about any potential Trump family depredations as possible, and see where it all leads. Trump called the demand nothing but “a big fat fishing expedition,” provoking the reflection that you are rarely scared of big fat fishing expeditions unless you know that there are big fat fish lurking somewhere in your pond.

There is, however, a real and reasonable argument among congressional Democrats—and, indeed, among the public—about whether pursuing Trump’s impeachment, even assuming that we get the facts, is a wise idea. The arguments against it range from the hyper-practical point that a President Mike Pence would be worse, to the procedural-minded one that, since impeaching Trump would mean that two of the four most recent Presidents would have been impeached, and since articles of impeachment can be passed by a simple majority in the House, every President from now on would risk facing it the moment the opposition has a majority. This would create perpetual governmental paralysis, and, while Trump might not care about safeguarding democratic institutions, the country should.”

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