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Ten Reasons Why Impeachment Is Illegitimate

Victor Davis Hanson

#coup has started. First of many steps. #rebellion. #impeachment will follow ultimately. #lawyers https://twitter.com/jaketapper/status/826255624610729985 

“#coup has started. As one falls, two more will take their place. #rebellion #impeachment”

2017 Tweets from Mark Zaid, current attorney for the “whistleblower”

There are at least ten reasons why the Democratic impeachment “inquiry” is a euphemism for an ongoing coup attempt.

1) Impeachment 24/7. The impeachment “inquiry,” supposedly prompted by the president’s Ukrainian call, is simply the most recent in a long series of “coups” that sought to overturn the 2016 election and thus preclude a 2020 reelection bid. The pattern gives away the game.

Usually the serial futile attempts to abort the Trump presidency — with the exception of the Mueller Dream-Team debacle — were each characterized by about a month of media-driven hysteria. We remember the voting machines fraud hoax, the initial 2017 impeachment effort, the attempt to warp the Electoral College voting, the Logan Act, the Emoluments Clause, the 25th Amendment, the McCabe-Rosenstein faux coup, and various Michael Avenatti–Stormy Daniels–Michael Cohen psychodramas.

Ukraine then is not unique, but simply another mini-coup attempt that follows the last failed coup and will presage another coup to take its place when it too fails to remove Trump.

All of these efforts reflect a desperate effort both to reverse the 2016 election and to preclude a 2020 reelection effort, and, barring that, to drive down the Trump polls to the point of making him delegitimized. A week after Trump was elected, the Wall Street Journal reported that intelligence agencies were withholding information from their president. “Anonymous,” in a September 5, 2018, New York Times op-ed, bragged of an ongoing “resistance” of high-ranking government officials seeking to stonewall Trump. As soon as Trump was inaugurated, Washington lawyer and former Obama official Rosa Brooks was publicly raising the possibility of a military coup to remove him. Retired admiral William McRaven recently called for Trump to be gone — “the sooner, the better.”

Mark Zaid, the lawyer for the whistleblower, in his arrogance, long ago at least told the truth when he chose the words “coup” and “rebellion” to characterize left-wing efforts to remove Trump. He admitted that the coups would fail (given their lack of legality), but that they would still be followed by successive efforts. In a sane world, with this “bombshell” disclosure, the entire whistleblower caper would now simply vanish.

2) Whistleblowers Who Are Not Whistleblowers. The “whistleblower” who prompted this most recent iteration of attempted Trump removal is no whistleblower by any common definition of the noun (i.e., “an individual who, without authorization, reveals private or classified information about an organization usually related to wrongdoing or misconduct. Whistleblowers generally state that such actions are motivated by a commitment to the public interest.” — Encyclopaedia Britannica). He has no incriminating documents, no information at all. He does not even have firsthand evidence of wrongdoing, much less proof of suspect conduct within intelligence agencies that alone would prompt a legitimate appeal to the Office of the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community.

Instead, the whistleblower relied on secondhand water-cooler gossip about an illegally leaked presidential call. Even his mangled version of the call did not match that of official transcribers. He was not disinterested but had a long history of partisanship in general, and concerning Ukraine in particular. He was a protégé of many of Trump’s most adamant opponents, including Susan Rice, John Brennan, and Joe Biden. He did not follow protocol by going first to the inspector general but instead caucused with the staff of Adam Schiff’s impeachment inquiry. Neither the whistleblower nor his doppelganger Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, who both professed strong pro-Ukrainian sympathies during their past tenures associated with the Obama administration, were bothered by the activities of the Bidens or by the Obama decision to stop arms deliveries to Ukraine. Their outrage, in other words, was not about Ukraine but over Trump.

It is highly unlikely that there are any plans to call the whistleblower or recall Vindman in person before any committee, because their usefulness as instigators of “impeachment” has already passed, and they are now both rank liabilities. Their inconsistencies and past partisan affiliations only offer vulnerabilities.

3) First-term impeachment. The Clinton and Nixon inquiries were directed at second-term presidencies in which there were no more electoral remedies for alleged wrongdoing. In contrast, Trump is up for election in less than a year. Impeachment then seems a partisan exercise in either circumventing a referendum election or in damaging a president seeking reelection.

4) No Special Counsel Finding. In the past, special counsels have found felonious presidential behavior, such as cited in Leon Jaworski’s and Ken Starr’s investigations.

In contrast, special counsel Robert Mueller spent 22 months and $35 million, and yet his largely partisan law and investigative team found no collusion and no actionable presidential obstruction of that non-crime. We are not just proceeding with impeachment without a special counsel’s finding of wrongdoing, but after a special counsel’s finding of no actionable wrongdoing.

5) No Bipartisanship. There was broad bipartisan support for the Nixon impeachment inquiry and even some for the Clinton impeachment. There is none at all for the Schiff impeachment effort, given its overtly partisan nature.

6) Impeachment without High Crimes or Misdemeanors. There is no proof of any actual Trump crime.

No longer is Nancy Pelosi describing the whistleblower as central to the impeachment inquiry. Asking a corrupt foreign head of state to look into past corruption is pro forma. That Joe Biden is now a candidate for president and Trump’s potential rival does not ensure him exemption from his possible wrongdoing in the past as vice president when his son used the Biden name for lucrative advantage in leveraging Ukrainian money for assumed preferential Obama-administration treatment.

In other words, it is certainly not a crime for a president to adopt his own foreign policy to fit particular countries nor to request of a foreign government seeking U.S. aid, with a long history of corruption, to ensure that it has not in the past colluded with prior U.S. officials in suspicious activity. A president can appoint or fire any ambassador he chooses, all the more so when one has a known record of partisanship. It is not a crime to disagree with House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff that White House officials must testify when he so summons them.

The irony is that while the House politicizes impeachment, the IG of the Justice Department, Michael Horowitz, and lifelong civil servant and federal attorney John Durham are likely to show concrete evidence that the now-exempt Obama administration used the powers of the FBI, CIA, and DOJ, unethically if not illegally, to attempt to destroy the candidacy, transition, and presidency of Donald Trump — still the current object of yet another political coup.

7) Thought Crimes? Even if there were ever a quid, there is no quo: Unlike the case of the Obama administration, the Trump administration did supply arms to Ukraine, and the Ukrainians apparently did not reinvestigate the Bidens. As a matter of general policy, Trump has been far harder on Russia and far more concretely supportive of Ukraine than was the Obama administration. That stubborn fact is ipso facto evidence that if there was any quid pro quo, it was more likely a matter of Biden rather than Trump pressuring the Ukrainians, given the actual quite different results: Again, the Trump administration armed the Ukrainians; Obama and his administration did not. Thought crimes are still not impeachable offenses.

8) Different Standards of Justice. There is now no standard of equality under the law. Instead, we are entering the jurisprudence of junta politics. If an alleged quid pro quo is an impeachable offense, should Vice President Joe Biden have been impeached or indicted for clearly leveraging the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor for dubious reasons by threats of withholding U.S. aid?

Should Barack Obama have been investigated for getting caught on a hot mic offering to be flexible after his reelection on missile defense if Vladimir Putin would give him some space? In fact, Russia did not embarrass Obama during the subsequent 2012 successful Obama reelection effort, and Obama did shelve joint Eastern European missile-defense plans.

So there is no consistency in presidential audits. Would the Obama administration have welcomed or even tolerated congressional requests to turn over all its emails, private phone conversations, and memos concerning covert meetings of U.S. and Iranian officials that surrounded the nocturnal transfer of $400 million in cash for the release of American hostages — with much of such money ending up in the hands of Hezbollah terrorists? Would the Obama administration have complied with requests for texts and transcripts surrounding its decisions to halt Eastern European missile defense?

9) The Schiff Factor. Representative Adam Schiff is now de facto chief impeachment prosecutor. He has repeatedly lied about the certainty of impending Mueller indictments or bombshells. He flat-out lied that he and his staff had no prior contact with the whistleblower. He made up a version of the Trump call that did not represent the actual transcript, and when called out, he begged off by claiming he was offering a “parody.” He has an unsavory reputation as a chronic selective leaker of classified information in the House Intelligence Committee. For weeks he has not allowed Republican members of his House Intelligence Committee to have the same freedom to call and cross-examine witnesses as was extended to the then-minority Democrats during the committee’s 2016–07 investigation of FISA, unmasking, and surveillance abuses.

Tradition and protocol argue that the proper place for impeachment inquiries and investigations is the House Judiciary Committee. Schiff successfully hijacked that committee’s historic role for two reasons: 1) His reputation as a brawling hyperpartisan meant that he would turn the investigation into a proverbial witch hunt and wet the lunatic beak of the progressive base; and 2) he has the ability so far as intelligence chair selectively to block rapid dissemination of transcripts of cross-examinations of witnesses and to use secrecy to massage the conduct of the committee and to selectively release information to the media.

10) Precedent. The indiscriminate efforts to remove Trump over the past three years, when coupled with the latest impeachment gambit, have now set a precedent in which the out party can use impeachment as a tool to embarrass, threaten, leverage, or seek to remove a sitting president for political purposes to reverse an election.

At best, we have turned a uniquely constitutional republic into a European parliamentary system in which heads of states can be removed from power without national elections. At worst, we are now a rank banana republic in which coups are an accepted model of political opposition.

The next Democratic president should be prepared, in his first term, for the real chance of facing the same, and apparently now institutionalized, tactics used against Trump.

We are witnessing constitutional government dissipating before our very eyes.

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