Commentary: Will Republicans ever take a stand against Trump?
AP

Commentary: Will Republicans ever take a stand against Trump?

  • Updated
{{featured_button_text}}

Republicans have been engaging in some interesting contortions in conjuring a defense for President Donald Trump's attempt to get Ukrainian officials to investigate the family of political rival Joe Biden. The most plausible approach is one Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey signed on to last month, saying that he is keeping an open mind but that even if Trump asked Ukraine for a favor, the offense may not rise to a level that demands impeachment.

That's a debate worth having, and it will likely underlie the arguments if and when the House sends articles of impeachment to the Senate for trial.

My short answer: Yes, what Trump did is an impeachable offense. And yes, it is sufficient to require his removal from office, especially when placed within context of his other actions.

There are precious few policies that this administration has pursued that I agree with. And there are precious few Trump backers who accept that one can oppose Trump on policy grounds, yet also not reflexively back impeachment.

I've swung back and forth on impeachment primarily because, as Toomey and others have argued, it is such a drastic step. In fact, no president has ever been removed from office through impeachment, and this is only the fourth serious effort.

Impeachment should not be done because of policy differences, even though the Constitution sets up the process as a political one. It should only be done when the president has committed one of those ill-defined "high crimes and misdemeanors" and the resulting removal of the president is in the best interests of the nation, and of the democracy.

We are at that juncture, much as we were with Richard Nixon 45 years ago. But it's complicated.

When Trump fired FBI Director James B. Comey and said publicly that he did so because of the investigation into possible Russian collusion with Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, and also sought to fire special counsel Robert S. Mueller III (while warning him to keep the investigation away from Trump's family), the blatant abuse of power and attempt to obstruct the investigation were grounds for impeachment on principle.

Any president who abuses the power of his office to obstruct investigations into himself or his people must be held accountable. To not do so is to invite further, and potentially worse, abuse. With someone like Trump, who puts the "emperor" in "imperial presidency" and who believes the Constitution gives him unbridled authority "to do whatever I want," this check is of vital importance for the preservation of the balance of power.

But at the time of Comey's dismissal, the Republicans controlled both the House and the Senate, and fealty to party (and incumbent power) meant the possibility of Congress fulfilling its constitutional obligation to be a check on the executive died before it could draw a breath. That was a damaging failure.

The Democrats won control of the House in 2018, and impeachment became slightly more possible. Absent some new outrage, however, the effort would have rightly been seen as a partisan maneuver, rather than a defense of the democracy. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was right to hold in check the members of her caucus who wanted to forge ahead because the likely result would have been a stronger and more emboldened Trump.

But then the president called Kyiv, and the responsibility to check became an issue of primacy.

This is the internal wrestling Toomey and other Republicans will have to contend with. If a president pressuring a foreign government to investigate a political rival for his own political gain and then obstructing congressional efforts to conduct oversight doesn't cross the line into impeachment territory, then where is the line?

In fact, is there a line that this president could cross that would lead Republicans to put national interest ahead of party loyalty, and vote for his removal?

This is the crisis that looms larger than Trump's abuses. The Constitution creates the process to hold a rogue president in check, but that check disappears if Congress won't use it.

Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com

1
0
0
0
0

Get Breaking News delivered directly to you.

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

On Nov. 1, presidential candidate and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) announced a proposal billed as a financing plan for "Medicare for All." Unfortunately, it does not even acknowledge, let alone finance, the costs of Medicare for All. There is an analytical consensus on the approximate costs of Medicare for All, to which my 2018 study for the Mercatus Center has contributed - as have studies ...

  • Updated

There's a good reason that most political debates are so frustrating: They often present us with false choices. Take how some in the media reacted to the news that President Donald Trump wants another tax cut. Pointing to the growing budget deficit, they labeled the prospect of another cut as sheer folly. Concerns about the deficit are well-placed. But the answer isn't to abandon plans for Tax ...

What can we make of Tuesday's tight and contentious election results? "Words matter," pundit Steve Robertson said. And he's right. They mattered in the voting booth. And they'll matter in the days ahead. Attorney General Andy Beshear appeared to win the Kentucky governor's office Tuesday by about 5,100 votes in unofficial totals, but Gov. Matt Bevin refused to concede, citing numerous ...

Katie Hill's farewell speech after less than a year as a member of Congress from California's 25th district was apologetic, to the people she said she let down, and it was defiant, to the people she said had set her up, who practiced the "gutter politics" of a "misogynistic culture," and who exploited and punished her with a double standard about sexual conduct whose male transgressors, she ...

President Trump has offered multiple lines of defense against House Democrats' allegations that he appeared to abuse the power of his office in his dealings with Ukraine's new government. Some are situational and temporary, such as his argument that the process was illegitimate because it hadn't been authorized by a vote of the full House (which it now has been). But one that we are likely to ...

  • Updated

It's hard not to be reminded, on a daily basis, that racism in America is alive and well. One recent instance to make the news took place on Oct. 26 at a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant near Chicago. A group of about 20 family members and friends, including several children, were approached by an employee who purportedly asked group member Justin Vahl, "What race are you?" When Vahl asked the ...

In Washington, it is an article of faith that "the cover-up" is always worse than the crime. President Trump has upset that notion. Up to now, the conventional wisdom had a lot of empirical grounding: There is no evidence, for example, that President Nixon knew of the Watergate break-in in advance. He resigned from office because he covered up a "third-rate burglary" that he had no role in ...

The Fourth Amendment prohibits "unreasonable searches and seizures." But the Supreme Court has interpreted that protection pretty loosely when it comes to traffic stops, for which the police need only "reasonable suspicion" that the law is or has been broken. (The same indulgent standard applies when police stop and frisk a pedestrian.) Last week the justices heard arguments in a case that ...

The cost of health care continues to grow, creating serious hardships for patients and families. In 2017, health care spending accounted for almost 18% of U.S. gross domestic product, or $10,739 per person. It increased an additional 4.4% last year, nearly twice the inflation rate, according to government estimates. What can be done to bring these costs under control? And who's best equipped ...

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.

Topics

News Alerts

Breaking News