Impeachment is about criminalizing policy

One thing is very clear and has been since the summer: The impeachment drama was never serious. This was always about “Orange Man Bad,” but it is also about criminalizing differences in policy. That is a dangerous precedent for the future. This will make impeachments more common, and this will be used against future Democratic presidents.

It would help President Trump’s case if he was not so defensive about the call with Ukraine’s president, instead of insisting it was a “perfect call” and demanding that other Republicans repeat the same line. It was not a perfect call. Had Trump gone through proper channels within the diplomatic apparatus, and not mentioned Joe Biden at all, none of this would be an issue.

Trump is clearly very bitter about the 2016 election , the implication that he “cheated” and what he feels is the malfeasance of Democrats that was not properly addressed. From the beginning, the primary question surrounding the call was Trump’s motivation: Was it to ensure Ukraine was fighting corruption, and Biden was just a part of that concern? Or was this really about using U.S. power to get a foreign government to meddle in the 2020 election?

I am convinced it was the former, especially given Trump’s tendencies to embrace conspiracy theories. But with any criminal offense, the “mens rea” is everything. The best case argument for impeachment is the “mens rea” is in doubt, and that is just not enough to remove a President less than a year before an election.

Furthermore, it is striking how many of the arguments for impeachment are made on policy grounds, that Trump withholding aid is bad for our interests and for both global and regional stability. But arguments over policy are decided in elections, not impeachment trials. This should have been litigated in the 2020 general election, not in the House Judiciary Committee. Even if I agreed that Trump is wrong on policy, it is not an impeachable offense.

Finally, the political nature of this impeachment is obvious. Speaker Pelosi and the rest have always known there is no chance Trump will be removed by the Senate. This is about appeasing the Democrats’ base and putting a black mark on Trump’s record as only the third President who has ever been impeached. This is about casting a permanent cloud over Trump’s legacy and his policies. But by doing this and impeaching on such weak grounds, Pelosi is setting a precedent that will be used against her party, and the country will be roiled by more impeachment trials on similarly weak grounds. This is very bad for national unity, and should never have been allowed to proceed.

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