As the impeachment hearings proceed, two things are becoming clear.
First, it is clear that President Trump attempted to use appropriated military aid as a lever to get President Zelensky to pursue investigations into the allegation that Ukraine had intervened on the side of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, and into any malfeasance committed by Hunter Biden as a director in the Burisma gas company. Both of the investigations demanded were to benefit Trump in his reelection campaign. Since the investigations were of value to Donald Trump, and had nothing to do with established US policy toward Ukraine, using the military aid to leverage the investigations amount to bribery, one of the specific offenses cited by the Constitution as grounds for impeachment.
It is also clear that the testimony to date has not moved a single Republican representative or senator to announce support for impeachment of the president, nor has it significantly moved national public opinion on this matter , which remains closely divided.
Second, it is also clear that the testimony to date has not moved a single Republican representative or senator to announce support for impeachment of the president, nor has it significantly moved national public opinion on this matter , which remains closely divided. As a result, if the House votes to impeach, the Senate, after a trial, would likely not reach a 2/3 vote to remove the president from office. Indeed, it is not even clear that there would be a simple majority (51 votes) in the Senate for conviction.
Impeachment and removal of a president ought to be backed by a national, bipartisan consensus: it is for that reason that the Constitution requires 2/3 of the Senate for removing the president from office. It is clear that we do not have, and are not likely to have such a consensus. And yet we have a president who is opposed by a durable and substantial majority of voters, for a wide range of offenses that go beyond those that the impeachment hearings are addressing. Here are just a few examples of actions by the president that render him unfit to hold that office:
- Willful refusal to recognize that global climate change poses an existential threat to millions of Americans and people in other parts of the world;
- Undercutting allies and cultivating adversaries in foreign policy, especially with regard to President Vladimir Putin of Russia;
- impulsive, inconsistent and changeable foreign policy decisions, such as the abrupt withdrawal of American forces from Syria to permit Turkish ethnic cleansing of the Syrian Kurds;
- Actively working to weaken or end regulation of air and water pollution, and to undermine protection of America’s national parks and forests;
- Gratuitous cruelty toward refugee families, including forced separations of children from parents and failure to adequately care for detained children;
- Everyday corruption involving the mixing of Trump family interests with those of the United States;
- Inflammatory racist and sexist rhetoric that serves to rally his base and divide the country.
Since the Senate is unlikely to convict and remove, the president would then be able to argue before the country in next year’s campaign that he had been exonerated. To block that move, I suggest that rather than vote to impeach, the House should pass and send to the Senate a resolution of censure, which could include the above points along with his misdeeds in the Ukrainian matter. There might even be enough Republican Senators who would vote for censure (but not impeachment) to get a majority in that body. But in any case the House would be on record censuring the president’s unacceptable behaviors. Trump would not be able to assert his exoneration: the censure would stand as background to campaign.
And the voters will decide his fate.