An op-ed by David Leonhardt in the New York Times argues convincingly for the removal of Trump prior to the 2020 election without even mentioning Russia, by simply demonstrating his breaking the law and violating his constitutional oath. If only Republicans would confront the truth of Individual-1’s incompetence. Leonhardt argues that the more effective move would not be impeachment but hearings on Trump’s conduct without impeachment charges.
The negligence and perfidy of President Trump — his high crimes and misdemeanors — can be separated into four categories.
This list is conservative. It does not include the possibility that his campaign coordinated strategy with Russia, which remains uncertain. It also does not include his lazy approach to the job, like his refusal to read briefing books or the many empty hours on his schedule. It instead focuses on demonstrable ways that he has broken the law or violated his constitutional oath.
Trump has used the presidency for personal enrichment.
Trump has violated campaign finance law.
Trump has obstructed justice.
Trump has subverted democracy.
Whether the House of Representatives, under Democratic control, impeaches Trump is not the big question. The question is whether he loses the support of a meaningful slice of Republicans.
Democrats won’t persuade them by impeaching Trump. Doing so would probably rally the president’s supporters. It would shift the focus from Trump’s behavior toward a group of Democratic leaders whom Republicans are never going to like. A smarter approach is a series of sober-minded hearings to highlight Trump’s misconduct. Democrats should focus on easily understandable issues most likely to bother Trump’s supporters, like corruption.
Finally, there is the hope — naïve though it may seem — that some Republicans will choose to act on principle. There now exists a small club of former Trump administration officials who were widely respected before joining the administration and whom Trump has sullied, to greater or lesser degrees. It includes Rex Tillerson, Gary Cohn, H.R. McMaster and Jim Mattis. Imagine if one of them gave a television interview and told the truth about Trump. Doing so would be a service to their country at a time of national need. It would be an illustration of duty.
Throughout his career, Trump has worked hard to invent his own reality, and largely succeeded. It has made him very rich and, against all odds, elected him president. But whatever happens in 2019, his false version of reality will not survive history, just as Nixon’s did not. Which side of that history do today’s Republicans want to be on?