Should U.S. President Donald Trump be impeached before he leaves office on Jan. 20? In one word, “no.”
The reason for my position is neither personal nor political. Since he came down the escalator at Trump Tower on June 16, 2015 and announced his candidacy, I’ve been middle-of-the-road about this President. I’ve praised him when he deserved praise, and criticized him when he deserved criticism. I’ve liked some of his political ideas, economic policies and foreign policy positions, and disliked others.
While this stance has never satisfied either Trump supporters or NeverTrumpers, it’s allowed me to take (I believe) a more balanced approach to this strange and fascinating period in American political history. This includes the storming of the U.S. Capitol which took place on Jan. 6.
Trump will be facing an Article of Impeachment for the second time in his presidential term. On Jan. 11, Congressional Democrats introduced a single Article alleging the sitting President caused an “incitement of insurrection” and “willfully made statements that, in context, encouraged – and foreseeably resulted in – lawless action at the Capitol.”
The Article suggests “President Trump repeatedly issued false statements asserting that the Presidential election results were the product of widespread fraud and should not be accepted by the American people or certified by State or Federal officials.” This includes controversial remarks like “we won this election, and we won it by a landslide” as well as “willfully made statements that, in context, encouraged – and foreseeably resulted in – lawless action at the Capitol, such as: ‘if you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore.’”
It also highlights Trump’s leaked Jan. 2 phone call with Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state. The Article notes his inappropriate suggestion – or threat, if you wish – that the state should “find” enough votes to overturn the result from last November’s presidential election. (President-elect Joe Biden beat Trump by 11,779 votes in Georgia, or 0.26% of the total vote.)
The Article claims Trump “gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of Government.” There’s also the suggestion that he “threatened the integrity of the democratic system” and “betrayed his trust as President, to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.”
Is this a fair assessment of what happened, or another political stunt to impeach a President they’ve disliked for years? Let’s flesh this out a bit further.
I’m a wordsmith. I know that words matter. Many others do, too.
Trump’s words had a powerful effect. His allegations of widespread electoral fraud and that the presidential election was stolen from him may remain unfounded, but millions of Americans either believe him or believe it’s possible. That’s helped mobilize Trump’s defenders to consistently claim he won the election by a landslide. Even though no legislative body or court of law has agreed with this interpretation.
Falsely claiming you won an election that you lost is very different from storming an important historical landmark such as the Capitol Building.
Trump never wrote or said a single word, sentence or phrase that endorsed the horrific attack on the Capitol. This goes from his loss to Biden on Nov. 3, 2020 all the way to his Jan. 6, 2021 speech at the Save America March in Washington. He’s rejected the result, told his supporters to defend their votes and country, and said he would never concede the election. That’s as far as he’s ever gone.
While Trump isn’t blameless, he can’t be directly held responsible for the violent actions of domestic terrorists. Indeed, he didn’t march alongside this angry mob. He didn’t brandish a pitchfork, or cause any destruction with his own bare hands. It’s also highly unlikely he would have even wanted people to do something as terrifying and chilling as what we saw in his nation’s capital. Not if he desires a future in politics, that is.
This brings us to the terrible precedent that a presidential impeachment could potentially have in U.S. politics.
Trump’s personal frustration and inability to absorb a loss shouldn’t lead to him being turfed out of office and barred from ever running for elected office again. If Democrats – and a few Republicans, truth be told – are only going to move forward with an indirect association as a basis of this single Article of Impeachment, and establish an imaginary direct link that’s highly suspect, it’s an improper conflation of ideas. This could have detrimental effects on the U.S. political system going forward.
And besides, every previous U.S. president from George Washington to Barack Obama has said or done something controversial. Yes, their words and actions may not have specifically led to an uprising such as what we witnessed last Wednesday. But if that’s going to be the bar going forward, don’t expect good people to ever run for politics again.
There are other ways to condemn Trump, and that process has already started.
He’s been banned from Twitter (his greatest political tool), Facebook and Snapchat. Many businesses, including Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley have permanently cut ties. The 2022 PGA Championship will no longer be held at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in New Jersey.
That’s a much better way of handling this difficult situation than impeaching Trump with a false narrative and faulty logic.
Michael Taube, a long-time newspaper columnist and political commentator, was a speechwriter for former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper.
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