Impeachment

How Did Impeachments Become So Partisan?

Alas, the precedent for partisan votes on impeachment was set before Donald Trump.

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The second impeachment trial of Donald Trump begins this week. Alas, the outcome seems foreordained. While a handful of Senate Republicans may join Senate Democrats in voting to convict, the vote is virtually certain to fall short of the required two-thirds majority.

Public opinion and political alignment on Trump's impeachment is almost a pure party-line affair. Despite the seriousness of Trump's offenses—those for which he was impeached this time, for which he was impeached before, and those for which he was never impeached—relatively few are willing to cross party lines. This is a problem. As we noted in a recent statement of Checks & Balances and like-minded Republican lawyers and former government officials:

A political party that permits its President to violate his oath of office and the rule of law without serious consequence will have little basis to ask the American people to entrust it with governing responsibly again.  Our country needs two serious political parties, each capable of governing, for our democracy to remain strong.

Alas, partisan willingness to excuse Presidential misconduct is not new. It's just been getting worse. How did we get here?

My fellow co-founder of Checks and Balances co-founder Paul Rosenzweig, who worked in the Independent Counsel's office, offers some thoughts in USA Today:

while the Republicans who choose to ignore Trump's attempt to subvert an election will bear the majority of the blame for this unfortunate decision, spare a thought for the Democratic Party and the role it has also played in bringing us to this place in history. For the seeds for this error were sown more than two decades ago by the Democrats during the impeachment of President Bill Clinton.

To be clear, the two cases are not in any way substantively comparable. Clinton's impeachable acts were tawdry and violated criminal law, but they pale in comparison with the egregious anti-democratic insurrection that Trump incited. That having been said, it is nonetheless the case that in rejecting Clinton's impeachment, the Democratic Party set an important precedent — the precedent of partisan disregard for presidential misconduct. If one reaps what one sows, then today the Democratic Party is reaping the bitter harvest of the crop it planted back in 1999. . . .

to say that Clinton did no more than lie about a private affair is to trivialize his conduct — a trivialization that is both false to fact and whose consequences have echoed down the corridors of American history to today's events. . . .

Clinton did not merely lie about an affair — he did so under oath during court proceedings on at least two occasions. He did not merely seek to hide the fact that he was cheating on his wife — he attempted to obstruct justice and tampered with witnesses to do so. These are not solely acts of personal misconduct but also fundamental violations of legal norms that bind all Americans.

Far from being dismissed as private errors, they are crimes. And when committed by the chief law enforcement officer of the United States, they are crimes of national significance, even when the background of those crimes lies in personal peccadillo. If the Clinton impeachment was about anything, it was about holding a president to the same standard we hold an average citizen.

Part of the reason that principles matter in politics is that once a line is crossed, even just a little, it becomes successively easier to cross it again. The willingness to excuse "small" misconduct begets a willingness to excuse ever larger transgressions. The hyper-partisan nature of our current political environment only magnifies this trend, and makes things get worse. When one side points to the other's misdeeds, the other scoffs at the blatant hypocrisy, and we slide a bit further into the downward spiral. At some point, political leadership requires saying "enough is enough," even if–indeed, especially if–that requires taking action against members of one's own party.

NEXT: Litigator Openings at the Institute for Free Speech

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  1. Ummm…do you really need an answer to your question??? I’m sure others will provide some insight and clarity below if you really do…

    1. Jimmy, logic like his has plagued academia for at least 3 decades now. It’s the mentality that the concept of “free” speech only applies to “good” speech and that political ends should be achieved “by all means necessary.”

      For example, there is this: “…but they pale in comparison with the egregious anti-democratic insurrection that Trump incited.”

      Like you steal an election and *shouldn’t* expect people to be a tad upset? Even if it hadn’t been preceded by four years of coup attempts?

      Sadly, Addler is too clueless to comprehend this….

      1. There was no “insurrection” so that whole line of reasoning is plain stupid.

        And, as a “squad” member aptly observed with the St. Louis prison uprising, when turn the screws enough people react. If we are going to put anyone on trial it should be Big Tech and the media that has censored and marginalized probable voter fraud and those who seek to get some transparency into it.

        1. No incitement either. You would think that a law professor would not make such basic mistakes as assuming facts not yet proven.

          1. There was plenty of excitement, but no incitement. Just a bunch of happy people who wanted to make their collective voices heard. That is as American as apple pie.

    2. So do you bother to read or even skim the posts, or just knock out a comment based on the headline? Because your comment does not speak to the post.

  2. How did we get here? Mainly through a systematic takeover of the major media by a one-sided group of liars, who have the unbridled nerve to falsely accuse a president who urged his followers to stay peaceful of inciting insurrection, while themselves deliberately inciting six months of un-called-for burning, looting, and murder and even taking up a collection to help the thugs go free afterward.

    There’s a serious injustice here, all right, but you’re on the wrong side of it.

    1. You might want to cite some evidence of your claims, lest someone call a psychiatric hospital on your behalf.

        1. I know that you’re somewhat of an idiot, Ed, but that story does not support any of the fantasies jdgalt1 has imagined.

          Remedial English teacher my ass.

          1. So that police car wasn’t burning — outside an *occupied* 150 year old *wooden* hotel.

            I understand….

            1. Try reading what he claimed again and listing them out.

              Try hard.

          2. Jason, even if Ed may be a loser in your eyes, you are trying mightily to lower the level of intelligent discourse on this site.

            1. Some people have demonstrated that they don’t deserve reasonable discussion, and I refuse to pander to or coddle delusions and disingenuous bullshit.

        1. You and Ed have the same reading deficiency.

          Try again.

    2. Yeah, but also among the guilty are everyone here continuing to hype normal political speechmaking into a dramatic conspiracy story.

      Beyond trying to muddy the waters and defend suspicious behavior and shut down fraud investigations, do any of these people show any interest in election integrity? They’re happy with any decision that goes their way, even a fraudulent one. Many probably especially prefer fraudulent outcomes, because it gives them more options to ignore Americans’ preferences and substitute their own.

  3. I agree Clinton should have received a formal bipartisan rebuke from Congress, but impeachment went too far because his motivations for his conduct did not threaten our democracy.

    Similarly, while it is likely Trump obstructed justice during the Comey and Mueller investigations, that too didn’t rise to the level of impeachment. Trump’s motivation, his man-baby petulant insistence that he had to quash any notion that Russian interference was instrumental in his win (including denying such interference happened) did not threaten our democracy. And, there was bipartisan agreement his conduct was not impeachable.

    1. “his motivations for his conduct did not threaten our democracy”

      Our democracy has spent the last 20 (?) years struggling with the concepts of due process in sexual misconduct allegations.

      1. Clinton had a consensual affair. There is in fact a difference.

        1. Oh no he didn’t! Boss-employee relationships are almost universally condemned as non-consensual. Bosses are routinely fired for it, employees routinely get big payouts, and sometimes it has been deemed criminal.

          1. Exactly right. Besides the offense was lying under oath in a formal inquiry.

        2. His affair with Lewinsky might have been consensual, but he wasn’t impeached over the affair. He was impeached for perjuring himself in testifying about it, in a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by Paula Jones.

          Suppose Trump had been sued over shooting somebody on 5th avenue, to pick something at random. And in order to win the lawsuit had lied under oath about having been on 5th avenue that die, and had encouraged others to lie to give him an alibi.

          Would you later claim he’d been impeached for being on 5th avenue?

          1. I’m not following how Clinton’s lie was relevant to the underlying truth or falsity of Jones’ claim. In contrast, Trump’s hypothetical lie directly claims he didn’t shoot anybody.

            1. As others have related, Clinton himself had signed a law making the alleged assailant’s past sexual history admissible evidence in court.

              He not only committed perjury to evade the law, he was the guy who signed the law he was evading. Making him one of several hundred people in the entire country foreclosed from complaining about the injustice of being required to testify on that topic.

              1. Breaking the law is not sufficient to establish an impeachable offense. If he had told the truth, that wouldn’t have helped Jones’ case.

                It’s comparable to Trump’s obstruction of justice in the Comey and Mueller investigations. Trump broke the law, but in doing so didn’t thwart the eventual findings of the underlying charges (Clinton’s lie didn’t affect the outcome of the Jones case) and wasn’t motivated by trying to impede the investigation (Clinton wasn’t motivated by winning the Jones case).

            2. “I’m not following how Clinton’s lie was relevant to the underlying truth or falsity of Jones’ claim”

              One issue with serial sexual harassers is a pattern of behavior. In this case, a pattern of behavior of sexual behavior with government employees in a subservient position.

              Jones was demonstrating that Clinton had a pattern of this type of behavior, and that pattern continued with Miss Lewinsky. Clinton lied under oath in order to deny the pattern existed.

              1. I do not equate a consensual relationship with an underling to the assault Jones alleged. Thus, I don’t see the relevant pattern.

        3. 1: The suit was brought by Paula Jones, Monica was only evidence of his behavior.

          2: Which was admissible under a new sexual harassment law.

          3: That William Jefferson Clinton had signed into law a few years earlier.

  4. Of course it started with Clinton, but it was the hatred of Republicans for him and their attempt to destroy him using his affair as an excuse that led to where we are now. Notice that in the 1998 midterms, during the impeachment, his approval rating was 65% and Democrats gained seats in the House, the first time this had happened to a sitting party in a midterm since 1934.

    Republicans have been illegitimate since Nixon, and no more so than now. That is why the Trump impeachment will be a party-line vote. Because Democrats will vote for good and Republicans will vote for evil.

    1. Your answer merely pushes the partisanship back one step to the other side. You do nothing to explain your side’s partisanship, or even recognize it. You do nothing to explain how it started.

      1. You didn’t read his comment did you?

        1. You can’t process words, can you? He blames Republicans only.

          1. And he cites facts to support his argument.

      2. Al Franken was discarded for a joke photo. The partisanship is along the lines of having principles vs not (GOP).

        1. Right, because defending Hillary, who lied about his affairs, is principled.

        2. I concluded at the time that they must have had something much more dire on Franken, and simply offered to keep it quiet if he resigned over something, anything. Because what he did resign over was absurd.

        3. Saying that the Dems have principles and the Reps don’t is ignorant.

          Look at every impeachment (and include Nixon) in the last 100 years. There’s four, Nixon, Clinton, and two Trumps.

          In every case at least one, and usually more than one, Republican has crossed over to vote with the Democrats. No Democrat has crossed to vote with the Republicans. So tell us again how much relative integrity the Democrats have?

          1. Your argument is like saying the judge never ruled in my favor on anything so therefore he must be biased.

            1. No. It’s not really an argument. It’s a statement of fact.

              It refutes the point that Dems are virtuous when it comes to this and Reps aren’t.

              1. But you’re still assuming that on the merits there ought to have been some Democrat support for GOP initiatives, and it’s not self-evidently obvious that that’s the case. Maybe Democrats really do lack virtue, or maybe the Republicans just had bad arguments. You can’t infer anything based on the mere fact that no Democrats joined the Republicans.

                1. Then you should refute his argument instead of just making a bad comparison.

                  1. There’s no argument to refute. No Democrats sided with the GOP so the Democrats must all be biased? That seriously passes for argument?

                2. You can’t infer anything based on the mere fact that no Democrats joined the Republicans.

                  It’s doubly dumb since his argument is based on literally one data point.

                  1. Nixon. Clinton. Trump. Trump.

                    That’s not one data point. You’re not even trying to pay attention.

                    Krychek – I’m not saying that Rs or more virtuous than Ds. Some one above said that the GOP had no principles, unlike the Ds, who do. I was just pointing out that the data suggests otherwise.

                    A handful of Rs flipping over FOUR processes (sorry David) doesn’t necessarily suggest that the Rs are any better. But it certainly suggests they’re not worse.

                    1. Clinton is the one data point about Democrats not voting to impeach a Democrat.

        4. Al Franken was disgarded because Democrats knew that he would be replaced with another Democrat and since his likely replacement would be a woman, it was expedient to do so.

        5. “Al Franken was discarded for a joke photo. The partisanship is along the lines of having principles vs not (GOP).”

          The Lt Gov of VA is still in office, no?

    2. Hyman — do you remember the 1994 landslide?

      1: The Dems may have gained seats in the 1998 election, but relative to what they’d had in 1993, they’d still *lost* seats under Clinton.

      2: There are always seats lost after a prior landslide election, and I think you will find that the seats lost in 1934 were ones that had been gained in the 1932 landslide.

      1. They basically regained some seats in 98 because the Republicans who took control of Congress in 94 had demoralized their voters by proving they wouldn’t DO anything with the majority if it was given to them.

    3. “Republicans have been illegitimate since Nixon”
      with that line you undermine your entire argument, making it merely the screed of a hack partisan

  5. Obviously, holding a (former) President to the same standard we use for private citizens (incitement of an imminent lawless act) or even for career politicians (explicit encouragement of rioting) is exactly why Donald Trump should be acquitted by the Senate.

    It is shameful that Democrats are, with a tiny number of possible exceptions, not willing to cross party lines to apply that simple logic.

    1. Your answer merely pushes the partisanship back one step to the other side. You do nothing to explain your side’s partisanship, or even recognize it. You do nothing to explain how it started.

      1. It’s turtles all the way down.

      2. Your lame cut-and-paste “both sides are bad” argument ignores that the Democrats impeaching Trump spent most of the last four or five years saying worse things. Grow up. I don’t have to detail the history of Democratic double standards in order to point out that it’s still wrong.

  6. “Public opinion and political alignment on Trump’s impeachment is almost a pure party-line affair. Despite the seriousness of Trump’s offenses”

    You realize you just outed your political affiliation, right? Basically only Democrats and NeverTrumpers think Trump committed any serious offenses.

    1. “Basically only Democrats and NeverTrumpers think Trump committed any serious offenses.”

      One of your many issues, Brett, is that you think any Republican who stands against Trump’s behavior can be ignorantly called a “NeverTrumper” and dismissed as not having real conservative values.

      1. Alder doesn’t make any secret of it, you know: He was among the founding members of Checks and Balances, a lawyers’ NeverTrump organization.

        1. There are many conservatives who don’t support Trump’s behavior, and yet you ignorantly claim they’re all “NeverTrumpers,” because it’s inconceivable to you that they’d actually have enough principle to put morality and ethics above allegiance to a political party.

          It’s really no wonder why you’re such a delusional cultist. You lump everyone into your little categories to avoid having to face the reality that your perceptions are completely and utterly wrong.

          Speak out against Trump’s behavior: NeverTrumper or Democrat.

          There’s no room in your brain for anyone to be anything other than that. It’s pathetic.

    2. only Democrats and NeverTrumpers think Trump committed any serious offenses.

      Only cultists think he didn’t.

      1. There’s a classic circular definition.

    3. You realize you just outed your political affiliation, right? Basically only Democrats and NeverTrumpers think Trump committed any serious offenses.

      Sure, whatever, Brett.

  7. Impeachment of Bill Clinton was a monumental mistake. Yes, he lied on a deposition on a matter that never should have been litigated while he was in office. He should have been censured by the Congress and probably disbarred after leaving office. But never impeached.

    And, yet, here we are. Since Clinton, there have been attempts to impeach every president since, with democrats making the most serious threats against Bush and actually doing it twice with Trump.

    The first Trump impeachment was an absolute fabrication and a total joke. There were reasons to impeach trump – mainly for fighting illegal wars. But the cited reason of the Ukraine call was utter nonsense.

    The second reason to impeach Trump is potentially more serious. But, as more facts emerged, it’s difficult to say Trump incited an insurrection that was already planned. He didn’t help and he certainly encouraged protesters to protest at the capitol, albeit peacefully. But, he also didn’t mobilize aid for the Congress when the insurrectionists were let into the capitol by capitol police. Of course, he tried to send aid to cities like Portland, Washington DC, and Minneapolis this summer and was called a tyrant. Who, it might have been confusing for someone still operating with post Covid brain fog and who is already a bit batty.

    But, here’s what will happen going forward. The Senate will make him a martyr regardless of outcome of the vote. He’ll run for Congress in 2022 (and will win) and if the GOP captures the House, he’ll likely be Speaker. And we’ll have another round of politicized impeachment for Biden and Harris. And the joke that is our federal government will continue.

    1. The best thing the Democrats could have done was leave Trump alone, as an albatross around the GOP’s neck. The dumbest thing they could do is turn him into this martyr you mention. Of course, being politicians, they chose the dumb thing. It would have been a little dumber if their impeachment actually had barred him from office; then the GOP would have him as a toothless martyr and would have had four years to sort out new leaders paying lip service to Trump.

      1. They’d been telling their base that Trump was Literally Hitler.

        How can you refrain from impeaching Literally Hitler? You can’t, because if you do you’re either in league with Literally Hitler, or were lying about him literally being Hitler.

        If you routinely use that sort of hyperbole, you have to act as though it were real, or else your own people either figure out you were lying, or decide you’re just as bad. You trap yourself relying on that sort of rhetoric.

        1. Oh, I don’t think Trump is Hitler. Hitler was articulate. Hitler was intelligent. Hitler could form a coherent sentence. Hitler did not have attention deficit disorder. No, I don’t think Trump was like Hitler at all.

          NOTE: That does not mean I agree with the merits of anything Hitler ever said; I’m just pointing out some of the obvious differences between him and Trump.

          1. That you think in some ways Trump is worse than Hitler hardly refutes my point: You can’t publicly claim somebody is that awful, and then refrain from moving against them. Democrats trapped themselves into impeaching Trump by their own rhetoric.

            1. Sure you can. Being awful, and committing impeachable offenses, are not the same thing. I think George W. Bush was a pretty awful president too, but so far as I know he didn’t do anything impeachable.

            2. They also made sure only deranged people would listen to their nonsense. And preempted any possibility of any sort of meaningful dialogue.

      2. The best thing the Democrats could have done was leave Trump alone, as an albatross around the GOP’s neck

        Didn’t work for Nixon, won’t work for Trump. This shows that the GOP are all in to not have him be accountable.

        All Dems can do is make sure those who want to bury this are on the record, no buried at all; the electorate will do the rest. Or not, in which case we are getting the government we deserve and there’s not much we can do about that.

        1. S0,
          A show trial will not do anything for accountability. Prosecution in an Art. III Court will.

          1. An impeachment trial and a criminal prosecution are not mutually exclusive, per the express language of the Constitution.

          2. I think you assume your question when you call it a show trial.

            1. When the presiding judge is a juror who has already said he’s guilty…it’s almost an insult to show trials.

    2. “But, he also didn’t mobilize aid for the Congress when the insurrectionists were let into the capitol by capitol police.”

      He didn’t have the authority to do so — and should have been impeached had he tried to.

      Capitol Hill belongs to Congress — the Executive Branch has no authority there, by design. Neither the USSS nor the FBI can go in there without permission, and his sending the National Guard in (without prior permission) would rightly been viewed as a coup attempt.

      There is a very interesting line in the former USCP Chief’s “not my fault” letter: “On Monday, January 4, I approached the two Sergeants at Arms to request the assistance of the National Guard, as I had no authority to do so without an Emergency Declaration by the Capitol Police Board (CPB).”

      https://static.foxnews.com/foxnews.com/content/uploads/2021/02/Letter_to_Congressional_leaders_02012021.pdf

      1. I’d remind the poster that Bush’s DoJ got tons of heat for sending the FBI into the House to get evidence from a House member who stole hundreds of thousands of dollars.

        The President is not even allowed to enter the House unless the House invites him.

        But he is, somehow, in charge of security there.

  8. Become? When has it ever been different?

  9. The question in the headline falsely assumes that impeachments were ever not partisan. The first presidential impeachment attempt was against John Tyler in 1842, launched by political opponent John Botts. The first actual presidential impeachment was Andrew Johnson in 1868 and was every bit as partisan as the current mess.

    1. I came here to say exactly that. (Except I wasn’t aware of the Tyler story.)

    2. Exactly. We’ve had three impeachment trials in the Senate, all have been largely partisan affairs. Thus far the only senator to vote to convict a president of his own party has been Mitt Romney.

      1. Though if Nixon hadn’t resigned, there probably would have been a number of GOP senators voting to convict.

  10. Trying to equate Clinton’s acquittal for getting a blowjob after years of searching by Rs trying to find *anything* they can hang him on and Trump’s pure criminal actions would be laughable if not so stupid. They could’ve easily censured him if they so chose.

    There was never any good reason to remove Clinton (at least for that) and acting like that kind of hogwash matters now is just pure imbecility. Rs are the true pure partisan players and it shows time and again. Look at how Dems shuffled Franken off without so much as a fuss. One side holds their own to task, the other doesn’t and never will so long as their voters remain in the cult.

    1. Clinton was not impeached over a blowjob, that’s just the usual effort to minimize the actual charges: That he perjured himself in a court of law, and suborned perjury by others, and utilized government resources in the latter effort.

      And that’s just the abbreviated bill of impeachment the House went with after Clinton took out Livingston, making good on his threat to destroy them if they dared go after him. There were far more serious charges available, the House impeachment managers were just too dirty to not take a dive.

      1. Yes, we need to remember the stuff hew wasn’t impeached for.

      2. The best explanation for the Clinton impeachment came from Newt Gingrich: ¨We impeached him because we could.¨

        1. “The best explanation for the Clinton impeachment came from Newt Gingrich: ¨We impeached him because we could.”

          And they could because he committed a bunch of felonies in office.

          1. Felonies? Citation needed.

      3. “suborned perjury by others, and utilized government resources in the latter effort”

        Citation needed. And also tell me how this is worse than leaning on the Georgia Secretary of State to falsify election returns.

  11. I have to say this: I think Trump is guilty and should be convicted, but even so, I’d be just as happy if this trial weren’t happening. The sooner Trump fades into well deserved oblivion, the better, and the trial is having the unfortunate side effect of keeping him in the news. Make it short and sweet, take a vote, and then let him finally be out of the news.

    1. I hope Trump fades away. But, the Republicans’ unwillingness to vote against him is likely because they fear his political power. If their judgment is correct, he will at the least be back when the 2022 campaign begins.

      1. Republicans have the issue of having, literally, zero issues they believe in. At all. Not a single one.

        Trump provided some and, therefore, got more votes than any Republican ever received.

  12. The impeachment is Putin style lawfare against political adversaries. You Democrats should be ashamed of yourselves. Same should be done to Biden, then to that tech billionaire agent, Harris in 2022, after the Congress changes hands.

    1. Your answer merely pushes the partisanship back one step to the other side. You do nothing to explain your side’s partisanship, or even recognize it. You do nothing to explain how it started.

      1. You think people are going to post a grand history of partisanship?

        Here’s a theory for why we have so much partisanship:

        http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=260

        Like any historically-based opinion, there’s no way to know if any historical actions had long term indirect influence or to what extent past actions are responsible for any current events.

  13. The root cause here is the same as for most of our modern political pathologies: The constitutional limits on federal power having been systematically defeated, the stakes of elections have become monstrously high.

    It’s easy to play by the rules and laugh off defeats when the stakes are low. But if losing an election can mean a cherished civil liberty being abolished, (HR 127) or the very election rules being altered to make sure you lose all future elections, (HR 1), things become very different.

    1. Thank you for saying so clearly what takes me more words to say less clearly.

      Government has just gotten too big. It steps into things which need not be handled by government.

    2. Brett…The closest historical analogue I can find for what we have now is 1852-1880. A very long series of tragic miscalculations, and subsequent recriminations.

      1. Blood on the Field is an interesting look at violence on the floors of Congress in the 30 years prior to the Civil War. There are a lot of similarities: the slavocracy had backed itself into a corner for a losing proposition, and the woke socialists today have similarly backed losing propositions (man-made global warming, gender studies, school renaming). Both times Democrats, and they dare not back down on for fear of losing credibility with their compatriots. The first led to actual warfare. This second one won’t, but it cannot end in Democratic victory because their goals are logically and physically impossible. Whatever reckoning arises this second time will not be in the left’s favor.

        1. Oops, book name is The Field of Blood.

    3. the very election rules being altered to make sure you lose all future elections, (HR 1)

      You mean, the Republicans are going to lose because they won’t be able to stop voters from actually voting?

      Take your “fraud” claims and cram them. The GOP just wants to suppress votes. They are doing that in a number of states now, like GA, despite a compete lack of evidence that there was any fraud there. It’s undemocratic BS, and you know it.

      To complain the it’s the Democrats who are trying to make sure they never lose is laughable.

      1. Multiple states have ruled that the voting rules arbitrarily changed by the Democrats to remove voter security (such as signature verification, or ID checks) were illegal, and all the ballots that were allowed only under the new rules should have been disallowed.

        Do you not include illegal changing the rules to allow illegal ballots to be counted as ‘fraud’? If not, then what do you call it?

        1. Multiple states have ruled that the voting rules arbitrarily changed by the Democrats to remove voter security (such as signature verification, or ID checks) were illegal, and all the ballots that were allowed only under the new rules should have been disallowed.

          Exactly no part of that sentence happened.

    4. Obama made things immeasurably worse:

      – DACA and the idea that laws will simply be ignored instead of negotiating a compromise that Americans can live with
      – The ACA passage on a partisan vote with procedural tricks and sold based on a campaign of lying
      – using the IRS against political opponents
      – calling everyone who doesn’t loudly agree with every policy item a racist
      – Paris agreement ignored the constitutional requirement that a treaty must be ratified
      – letting the New Black Panthers off the hook for intimidating voters because they have the approved skin color
      – the Dear Colleague letter to threaten colleges into abusing students’ rights

      The list goes on. If Obama had decided to govern for more Americans instead of against so many Americans, there might be some hope.

  14. This is a no-brainer for anyone except statists. Government has gotten too big. Almost everything you do in daily life is affected by government, and it’s gotten to the point that it is more profitable, in every sense of the word, to influence government than to mind your own business. It is more advantageous to sic government on your neighbors, competitors, and enemies before they sic government on you.

    This has divided the population into the woke statists who are full time aggressors in the siccing-government business, and everyone else, who is mostly content to get on with their own lives.

    And that has percolated into politics.

    The woke statists are mostly Democrats right now, but the impeachment of Clinton shows it is by no means one-sided.

    The only solution is scaling back government. But that won’t happen, because too many people get benefits, whether monetary like Social Security and Medicare, or in power and corruption. Even if a great majority, 90%, were willing to scale back if everybody got scaled back, it is impossible to scale everybody back fairly, defined as having a bare 50%+1 majority.

    Government never shrinks.

      1. Brett said it better, a minute before me 🙂

        1. Another joint meeting of Libertarians For Authoritarian, Bigoted, Cruel Immigration Policies And Practices; Statist Womb Management; Torture: Official Gay-Bashing; Big-Government Management Of Ladyparts Clinics; Massive Military Spending; Abusive Policing (Targeting The Right People); and Government-Subsidized Superstition is convened — at the Volokh Conspiracy, as usual.

          1. Verbal vomit in all its glory.

    1. It will shrink (or otherwise become a complete totalitarian dictatorship) when it can no longer borrow money.

    2. Calvin Coolidge shrunk it.

  15. “A political party that permits its President to violate his oath of office and the rule of law without serious consequence will have little basis to ask the American people to entrust it with governing responsibly again.”

    And that is why the Democratics had to rig this election — AO (After Obama) the American people have little basis to trust them.

    Throw in four years of subversion and what history will conclude was a rigged election and they are toast. As California goes (recalling Newsom), so will go the nation.

    Remember one other thing: the most dangerous bear is a wounded bear — if you do ban Trump from running in 2024, he will have nothing to lose and this is someone who can put a million-person flash mob any place he wants to. He has the Constitutional right to stand on the corner of First and something streets and scream for Pelosi and Schmuer to be tried for treason.

    There actually is a court precedent from the GW Bush days of a right to protest across the street from the White House as long as the protesters (themselves) stayed below a certain dB level.

    Or he could call for a French-style National Strike. You don’t want to think about what a 10-day trucker’s strike would do to Blue America.

    1. We’re not France. Not yet in any event.

      1. No. We are a nation of cowboys. And I don’t think the dems really know how much is smouldering in the underbrush.

        The issue is not that Trump attempted subversion but that he didn’t — because he could have and it would have been successful.
        See, for example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EuYd6hXznNg

    2. he could call for a French-style National Strike

      He could call for anything.

      Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.

      Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man; But will they come when you do call for them?

      You and your fucking truckers’ strike. I thought it was supposed to happen right after the election.

      No sign of it yet.

      1. Of course not, bernard. The US does not have the tradition of the one day annoyance strike that is prevalent in France and Italy.

        1. You’re right of course, Don, but Ed keeps announcing that it’s imminent.

  16. Prosecutions and politics are inherently adversarial. It’s fundamental to our legal system.

    The only difference with impeachment is that the jury vote is also adversarial.

  17. Orin Kerr put it much better than I could:

    “If I understand the history correctly, in the late 1990s, the President was impeached for lying about a sexual affair by a House of Representatives led by a man who was also then hiding a sexual affair, who was supposed to be replaced by another Congressman who stepped down when forced to reveal that he too was having a sexual affair, which led to the election of a new Speaker of the House who now has been indicted for lying about payments covering up his sexual contact with a boy.

    Yikes.”

    1. Pretty much. You can’t clean up DC because it’s filth all the way down.

      I guess the lesson of the Clinton impeachment is that Trump really should have spent as much time as Clinton did collecting blackmail files. Filegate really paid off in the end.

        1. If you were a disaffected, bigoted, autistic, superstitious clinger in modern America, you might see this differently, bernard11.

    2. No, the President was impeached for getting caught lying about….

      For getting caught….

      1. Is the lesson to hold out for a girlfriend who swallows?

  18. To be clear, the two cases are not in any way substantively comparable. Clinton’s impeachable acts were tawdry and violated criminal law, but they pale in comparison with the egregious anti-democratic insurrection that Trump incited. That having been said, it is nonetheless the case that in rejecting Clinton’s impeachment, the Democratic Party set an important precedent — the precedent of partisan disregard for presidential misconduct. If one reaps what one sows, then today the Democratic Party is reaping the bitter harvest of the crop it planted back in 1999. . . .

    Whataboutism on stilts. Made worse by what comes after. I say that as someone who thought Clinton ought to have been convicted and removed, and still think so. But I think that not because I would have seen any conceivable analogy with Trump’s conduct now. I say that as someone who was ready to be a curmudgeon about setting a high personal standard for holders of high office. I would have had a hard time relating that Clinton conduct to anything I thought of as a high crime. Instead, I wanted to go the extra mile on personal standards, without bothering at all with the high crimes political standard.

    At the time, I thought that was reasonable. I gave up thinking that years ago, after I had read more of the founders’ views regarding sovereignty.

    The term “high crimes and misdemeanors,” if it is to mean anything ascertainable and distinguishable from other criminal terms—and it must be ascertainable and distinguishable, or everything in an impeachment becomes a muddle about which criminal law violations count, and which are not serious enough to count—must mean specifically political offenses. Those are of two kinds. First, offenses against American constitutionalism. Second, affronts to the sovereignty of the People.

    Neither kind of offense is ordinary criminal conduct. Both kinds are indeed political offenses. That sets them apart from the two other enumerated grounds for impeachment, treason and bribery, which are ordinary criminal offenses. Thus, classifying the offenses as criminal or political provides logic to support the distinction the Constitution makes in its text. Understood that way, it also suggests that perhaps the only ordinary criminal offenses which justify impeachment are meant to be treason and bribery—but undoubtedly precedent is against that interpretation now.

    If Clinton’s misconduct was not of either the first or second political kinds—and it was not of those kinds—then it was evidence of bad character, or of ordinary criminal offense, but not at all evidence of the distinguishable political offenses for which impeachment and removal is constitutionally warranted.

    So to say this, “The willingness to excuse “small” misconduct begets a willingness to excuse ever larger transgressions,” may be supportable as a statement of practical social or political consequences, but it assumes serious violation of what ought to be intelligible norms for impeachment.

    Trump’s conduct strikingly examples the political crimes—the high crimes and misdemeanors—which create justifiable political grounds for impeachment. His crimes were of both kinds, first against constitutionalism in his encouragement of an insurrection which targeted completion of the election. Second, even more so, against the sovereignty of the People, in his months-long-campaign to falsely discredit the People’s election results, long after it became clear beyond doubt what the outcome had been. There is far more, of course, but those two will do.

    There is no comparison of that politically criminal conduct by Trump, with Clinton’s non-political but still criminal misconduct. They are of two different classes, Trump’s justifying impeachment under the “high crimes and misdemeanors,” standard; Clinton’s not related at all to “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

    To drag the Clinton case into the discussion is to open the door on the boundless, foggy, and arbitrary question of ranking ordinary crimes to say which are, and which are not impeachable. Down that road lies spurious justification for unprincipled retaliation, which of course is what Adler has managed to suggest with regard to the Trump case, whether he intended to say that or not.

    1. A well-instructed, studious true believer in a one-sided partisan narrative.

      1. Simpler reaction: A total of 669 words….of gibberish.

      2. Once you assume that Trump committed a terrible offense against the Republic and the American people, it becomes wrote obvious — and even indisputable — that Trump committed a terrible offense against the Republic and the American people.

        Unfortunately, these people never get beyond that assumption.

  19. It seems almost everyone is “certain” that Trump is guilty-of something, anyway. Do federal officials have a right to a presumption of innocence, either in House impeachment proceedings or the Senate trial of any impeachment? No one seems to use the word “allegedly” in connection with Trump.

    1. No, he doesn’t have a right to a presumption of innocence outside a courtroom. But even if he did, it has been overcome. If you’re sitting on your front porch and you watch your neighbor walk over to your driveway, swing a baseball bat, and repeatedly smash your car, you’re not obliged to describe that as your neighbor “allegedly” vandalizing your car; you know it happened.

      Almost everything Trump is accused of happened in public. The part about him being gleeful when he watched the insurrection — you can use allegedly for that if you want; it relies on secondhand reporting. But we don’t need to use “allegedly” for his two month long campaign of incitement.

  20. Um, impeachments (of Presidents) has ALWAYS been partisan. Mitt Romney was the first Senator in history to vote against conviction of a member of their own party. And only a tiny number of Representatives (interestingly, all Republicans) have ever voted in favor of impeaching a member of their own party.

  21. Impeachments have always been partisan, including judicial impeachments (except for the most egregiously misbehaving judges, and not always then).

    The good thing about the 2/3 requirement for Senate conviction is that it stops a bare partisan majority from establishing, in effect, Parliamentary rule and Congressional supremacy.

    Getting to 2/3 is supposed to ensure that the defendant actually did something bad – a bare majority of the opposite party can be relied on to say the defendant was wrong just for existing, so it’s the more thoughtful swing voters who count.

  22. “in rejecting Clinton’s impeachment, the Democratic Party set an important precedent — the precedent of partisan disregard for presidential misconduct.”

    Hardly. The Democrats wanted a censure resolution. Weren’t you around then?

    Nobody in the Republican Party believed that what Clinton did (lying under oath about sex in a private lawsuit) was impeachable, then or now. Nobody in the VC believed that what Clinton did was impeachable, then or now. And before 1998 they all would have admitted it publicly.

    1. I’ve always found the, “My political opponents agree with me, and just lie about it to be obnoxious” genre a bit boring. Of course plenty of people thought what Clinton had done was impeachable; That’s why House Republicans couldn’t afford to refrain from impeaching him, despite the risk to themselves: Too many Republicans DID think he should be impeached, for refraining from doing it to be politically survivable.

      Most people who wanted Clinton impeached were concerned with a much longer list of charges than the House leadership settled for, though. We thought he should be impeached over things like Filegate. The House leaders just settled on the easiest to prove charges, where there wasn’t any question at all he was guilty.

      1. “Filegate”?

        1. Clinton had so many scandals people had trouble keeping track of them. That was the one where he was caught collecting blackmail files on Republicans. What’s less reported is that after Filegate was exposed, he hired a private investigator to continue digging up that sort of dirt.

          Like I said, it really paid off.

          1. There is nothing in that article about any “Filegate”, nor is there anything there about Clinton doing anything illegal. All it says is that he used private investigators to look up things on his political opponents. Republicans were doing that also at the time, if you recall.

            1. He had HUNDREDS of FBI files in the WH.

              Chuck Colson, mind you, went to jail for having one.

  23. Adler writes a very partisan piece asking why everyone is so partisan.

  24. There’s no reason to think that the reaction to the Clinton impeachment caused the reaction to Trump’s impeachment, but they are both manifestations of the same phenomenon, that people will cut their own guy a ridiculous amount of slack.

    Remember that Gloria Steinem wrote an op-ed in the NYT saying that it wasn’t harassment for a boss to grope or expose himself to his employees.

    1. “Remember that Gloria Steinem wrote an op-ed in the NYT saying that it wasn’t harassment for a boss to grope or expose himself to his employees.”

      Citation needed.

      1. Here

        “The truth is that even if the allegations [of Jones and Willey] are true, the President is not guilty of sexual harassment.”

  25. Out of curiosity, I wonder how many of the types who support the firing of someone like Don McNeil would support the impeachment of Biden for saying “nigger” in a similar context.

  26. “Far from being dismissed as private errors, they are crimes. And when committed by the chief law enforcement officer of the United States, they are crimes of national significance, even when the background of those crimes lies in personal peccadillo. If the Clinton impeachment was about anything, it was about holding a president to the same standard we hold an average citizen.”

    First, the “chief law enforcement officer of the United States” is the attorney general. Even if you want to argue that Trump changed that by declaring himself the chief law enforcement officer, that wouldn’t apply retroactively to the Clinton impeachment.

    Second, the Office of the Independent Counsel (OIC) conducted an extensive investigation into Clinton’s conduct and ultimately declined to indict. Adler is of course free to argue that the OIC was wrong, but he doesn’t. That leaves him in the position of arguing for impeachment and conviction in a case where a criminal indictment is not warranted. It’s hard to see how this would amount to “holding a president to the same standard we hold an average citizen.”

  27. Well, at least the Democrats bent over backwards to be fair to Trump during their House impeachment hearings as they considered this serious matter.

    I’m sure they allowed his defenders in the House to call whatever witnesses they wanted, gave them open access to all of the relevant hearings and transcripts, etc…

    What’s that you say about their first impeachment? They didn’t let them attend all the hearings, nor participate in them? They didn’t allow them to call any of the factual the witnesses they wanted?

    And even worse this time, they didn’t even hold committee hearings in the House at all, just had a quick set of speeches and then a vote to impeach based on no real factual record at all?

    Yeah, I can’t see how anyone would think the Democrats are just after a partisan attack against Trump, as opposed to seriously looking for the truth to come out.

    1. Do you understand what a trial is for?

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