That President vs Our President!After the House Judiciary Committee voted to approve articles of impeachment, the president strode to a White House microphone, declared “profound remorse” for his actions and begged forgiveness.“What I want the American people to know, what I want the Congress to know, is that I am profoundly sorry for all I have done wrong in words and deeds,” he said. The year was 1998. The president was Bill Clinton. A banner headline in The New York Times the next day read “Panel, on party lines, votes impeachment; Clinton voices remorse, invites censure.”Twenty one years and one day after that print edition, the same committee again voted along party lines to impeach a president. But this time, the man in the Oval Office sent a different message.
“It’s a scam,” President Donald Trump told reporters. “It’s something that shouldn’t be allowed and it’s a very bad thing for our country. … I watched the Democrats and the committee make fools out of themselves.”
The bizarro world approaches by Clinton and Trump to their impeachment proceedings has exposed a weakness in the House’s ultimate weapon against presidential misconduct. Rather than serve as a deterrent, in Trump’s case it appears to be an accelerant for the conduct that is almost certain to lead to his impeachment next week, the third time the House has ever sought removal of a president from office.Trump’s political quest in Ukraine is decidedly still in progress. He even welcomed Rudy Giuliani, his personal lawyer and a central figure in Democrats’ impeachment case, to the White House on Friday morning, just days after Giuliani returned from Kyiv. Soon, though, Democrats will be out of tools to punish the president. And Trump won’t even acknowledge the legitimacy of the one they’re about to deploy.
“We are in uncharted waters. I don’t know what happens now,” said a Democratic member of the Judiciary Committee. “If impeachment is no longer an effective deterrent… it fundamentally reorders the constitutional order.”
For now, Trump appears emboldened to seek foreign dirt on his political rivals, including former Vice President Joe Biden.During Giuliani’s recent trip, which came at the height of Democrats’ impeachment effort, the former New York City mayor consorted with former Ukrainian prosecutors deemed bad actors by the State Department and mined them for information to justify investigating Trump’s adversaries.These former prosecutors, Viktor Shokin and Yuriy Lutsenko, were portrayed as villains by the 17 witnesses who testified in the impeachment inquiry, ousted for sanctioning corruption and willing to exact revenge on the U.S. officials — like Biden — who endorsed their removal.Giuliani’s brazen excursion baffled even some of Trump’s fiercest allies on Capitol Hill, who wondered why Giuliani would draw attention to the very effort for which Trump is about to be impeached.
“It is weird that he’s over there,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said on ABC News’ “This Week,” adding that it’s “odd having him over there at this time.”
House GOP Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) told reporters last week that he too didn’t know why Giuliani was in Ukraine. Trump himself seemed untroubled. He told reporters last weekend that he expected Giuliani to present his findings to the Justice Department and Congress. “He says he has a lot of good information,” Trump said. In fact, when House Democrats impeach Trump as soon as Wednesday, it will be over his partnership with Giuliani to enlist Ukraine’s leaders in an effort to tarnish Biden and the Democratic Party. House Democrats say Trump preyed on a vulnerable ally at war with Russia to extract a personal political benefit. He empowered Giuliani to meet with senior Ukrainians and lean on leaders there to announce investigations of Biden as well as a debunked theory that Ukraine, not Russia, hacked a Democratic server in 2016.Trump directly asked Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to conduct those probes during a July 25 call. Democrats say their evidence suggests Trump also refused to grant Zelensky a White House visit — meant to show solidarity in the face of Russia’s aggression — to the newly elected leader until he pledged to launch the probes and they say he held up $391 million in military aid to Ukraine for weeks to use as leverage. House Democrats have distilled the episode into two articles of impeachment: one for abusing his foreign policy power for personal gain, another for blocking Congress’ effort to expose it.
Republicans have sought to throw Democrats’ opposition to Clinton’s impeachment back at them, but Democrats say the allegations confronting Trump are far graver than the ones that faced Clinton — lying and trying to cover up an affair with Monica Lewinsky andd unlike Clinton, Trump has no interest in contrition or even countenancing the notion he’s done anything wrong. To Democrats, that’s the reason they had to impeach him.
“If we didn’t move forward with articles of impeachment the message would be to President Trump and to any future president, if you’re facing a tough reelection, reach out to a foreign power — Iran, China, Russia — and seek assistance,” said Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.)
Yet sending that message only to see Trump acquitted in a Senate trial could worsen their plight, he and other Democrats say. And it’s why lawmakers are nervously awaiting the next phase of impeachment even as the House appears readier than ever to move forward.For now, the Judiciary Committee — its immediate job complete — has little to do but marvel at the whiplash of the last 20 years. Back then, the Times also reported that despite intense constitutional disagreements and some sharp-elbowed jousting, the Judiciary Committee Democrats and Republicans met each other with comity and understanding.The article notes that during one intense moment, a Republican consoled an “agonizing Democrat” with a hastily handwritten note: “Don’t worry, this is a strong country.”Today, not even that veneer of comity could be found.Republicans erupted in anger when Democrats after 11 p.m. on Thursday night postponed the final vote on articles of impeachment until Friday morning, a bid to head off complaints that they tried to cloak their impeachment push in darkness. After the vote on Friday, members quickly withdrew to their own quarters before scattering to catch planes and trains they had hoped to take the night before.When they return on Monday, the impeachment of another U.S. president will be at hand as we hope their efforts prove abortive.Please leave your comments below.