On the use of impeachment as an election strategy.
The subject of impeachment has always been accompanied by solemn pronouncements that it must be invoked sparingly, never for narrow partisan or political purposes, and used in extreme cases to preserve the Constitution and the rule of law against a president who has violated his oath of office. This has been the accepted view throughout our constitutional history: only two presidents (Johnson and Clinton) have been impeached by the House of Representatives, and neither was removed from office by trial in the Senate. (Richard Nixon resigned before he was impeached.) This was the political consensus across the board: impeachment must only be invoked “in extremis.”
Speaker Pelosi has said, with respect to impeaching President Trump, that it is “a painful duty,” and that no member of Congress goes to Washington with the thought of impeaching a president. Representatives Schiff and Nadler, the leaders of the impeachment campaign against President Trump, have expressed regret at having to carry out this constitutional duty. These are the talking points of congressional Democrats trying to assure the public that they are pursuing impeachment only because it is necessary to preserve the constitutional order.
It is hard to accept these reassurances since a majority of Democrats in the House of Representatives have been clamoring for impeachment since the day Donald Trump was elected president. All of their charges so far have either been trivial or disproven by investigations. The Mueller Report in regard to Russian collusion turned out to be a dud. Later, nearly a hundred Democrats in the House signed a petition to impeach the President over his derogatory tweets about “the Squad.” The charges do not matter; it is the result they want. In their Alice in Wonderland world, it is “verdict first; charges later.”
James Piereson is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.
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