How impressive were the law professors who testified yesterday that President Trump should be impeached? This impressive: The Washington Post’s front page story about the hearing doesn’t get to their testimony until page A-4. Fewer than half of the story’s 36 paragraphs (written by four reporters) even mention the law profs or what they opined.
From the anti-Trump perspective, the less said about the anti-Trump “scholars” testimony, the better.
The three anti-Trumpers argued that our very democracy is at stake in this impeachment. To be sure, our democracy is implicated, inasmuch as the Democrats are trying to remove the democratically elected American president.
However, the notion that Trump’s actions threaten our democracy or resemble those of a dictator is laughable. Trump tried for a little while to gain a very small advantage over one potential political opponent in a democratic election.
He shouldn’t have. But to claim that his abortive (and aborted) stunt threatens our democracy — as if our elections have ever been pristine — or that it represents the act of an aspiring dictator is preposterous.
Dictators don’t throw a banana peel in front of a political opponent (as Trump did), much less pick up the banana peel because of rumors about a whistleblower or because he realizes Congress will override him. Dictators arrest political opponents and shut down Congress if it demurs.
Dictators also don’t resist congressional subpoenas, thereby inviting Congress to take the matter up with the courts. If anything, Congress is acting like a dictator by threatening to remove the president over a subpoena dispute, rather than following the legal process for resolving this kind of dispute.
Even more absurd than the talk about democracy and dictators is the claim that, in the words of Michael Gerhardt, “if what we’re talking about is not impeachable, then nothing is impeachable.” This statement is obviously false.
If the House doesn’t impeach Trump because of his Ukraine stunt, presidents could still be impeached for a multitude of offenses — e.g., selling state secrets to a foreign power or shutting down the Supreme Court (or, arguably, simply refusing to comply with one of its final orders). For that matter, and I’m not taking a position here on whether President Clinton deserved to be impeached, a president could still be impeached for the crime of perjury, which is a direct threat to our judicial system.
Noah Feldman will, no doubt, be a hero back at Harvard for topping Gerhardt in law profs’ race to the bottom. Feldman testified that “if we cannot impeach a president who uses his power for personal advantage, we no longer live in a democracy, we live in a monarchy or a dictatorship.”
Does this mean we have to impeach a president who uses his power to get a good table at a restaurant or a great seat at the World Series? Does it mean we have to impeach a president who, as President Obama admitted doing, uses his power over foreign policy to take a stance he doesn’t believe in towards Russia for the sole purpose of aiding his reelection effort?
Pamela Karlan is taking the most heat of the three profs because of her lame joke about Barron Trump’s name.* There’s nothing in this.
Karlan didn’t attack or criticize Trump’s son. Trump’s backers are using this as a gotcha — as, of course, his enemies would do if the shoe were on the other foot. All Karlan’s weak attempt at humor really shows is how impolitic those who exist in an academic bubble can be.
The real problem with the “baron vs. Barron” line is, as argued above, the attempt to make Trump seem like a would-be king or dictator.
In the end, the testimony of the three lefty law profs — distorted as it was by their hatred of Trump — added up to nothing. That’s why the Washington Post treated as an afterthought.
* Karlan said, “The Constitution states that there can be no titles of nobility. So while the president can name his son Barron, he can’t MAKE him a baron.”