December 22, 2019

Today was a relatively quiet day.

The big(gish) news was that Trump and his surrogates are pushing as hard as they can to get House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate immediately. Relying on an article in Bloomberg by Harvard Law Professor Noah Feldman, who testified before the House Judiciary Committee in the impeachment hearings, Trump and his supporters are arguing that the president has not, in fact, been impeached.

It’s important to remember that scholars argue over things all the time, and in this argument, Feldman stands virtually alone. The Constitution establishes that the House of Representatives “shall have the sole Power of Impeachment” which seems pretty definitive in its awarding of the House the final say about what it means by voting for impeachment.

Nonetheless, the White House has decided to use this as a major talking point to try to force the case into the Senate as quickly as possible, where Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has vowed to push it to an acquittal quickly, without permitting any witnesses. In short, he has promised Trump he will kill it. So Pelosi is taking her time appointing impeachment managers, which is delaying the transmission of the case to the Senate. She is in no rush, while they are. Stories are dropping constantly that look bad for Trump, so why send the case to its doom? Just last night, the release of emails from the Office of Management and Budget clearly showed that one of the witnesses Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wants to testify in a Senate trial was nervous about the legality of withholding aid from Ukraine.

For my part, I cannot see what difference it makes right now if Republicans say Trump has not been impeached. I mean, Trump loves the idea, and is already insisting that’s the case. But what harm does it do to the process? A delay would not hurt Trump if he could produce witnesses to exonerate him; it would help him. There are several outstanding subpoenas his people are ignoring, and they could simply go forward with testifying to clear him while we are waiting on the trial.

A canny observer suggests the real drumbeat for a quick Senate trial is coming from the media, which loves drama. But that means media interests are putting their fingers on the scale in McConnell’s favor, which is entirely inappropriate. McConnell has used parliamentary rules to get what he wants out for years; it seems entirely reasonable to me for Pelosi to wait on sending the case over until she can get McConnell to promise to hear witnesses and to figure out how to deal with the fact so many Senators are already on record saying they will acquit, a declaration at odds with the oaths of impartiality they have to take in the impeachment trial.

I’m also hearing, suddenly, people say that Trump can be elected to a third term because House investigations mean he lost his first term. This is flat wrong. The twenty-second amendment to the Constitution reads: “No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice.” We added this to the Constitution after FDR was elected four times in the 1930s, to codify what had until then just been a practice established by George Washington in which presidents stepped down after two terms. There is no loophole in this amendment. Those suggesting otherwise are directly attacking our Constitution.

There has continued to be fallout from the Christianity Today editorial on Thursday calling for Trump’s removal from office. The backlash has been strong, but CT has stood firm behind the editorial, warning that “this presidency has wrought enormous damage to Christian Witness.” The editorial clearly hit a popular chord. The editor of CT has said that the magazine has lost subscribers, but has picked up three times the number it has lost. “A stereotypical response is ‘thank you, thank you, thank you’ with a string of a hundred exclamation points — ‘you’ve said what I’ve been thinking but haven’t been able to articulate, I’m not crazy,‘” editor Mark Galli told MSNBC.

The power of that editorial showed up today in the Fargo (ND) Forum, which ran its own article entitled “How can Christians be Trump supporters?” It said: “Regardless of one’s faith tradition, Trump stands as a leader who has shredded norms and values and morals. He has undeniably used his office for personal gain — and for the benefit of his sons, daughter and son-in-law — yet the far-right refuses to hold him accountable…. We are supposed to be a nation of laws, not of men. Our Constitution spells out separation of powers as well as checks and balances between equal branches of government.”

The bruhaha over the CT editorial also called attention to the statement from Mormon Women for Ethical Government, released on Wednesday, the day before the CT piece, saying “Any president or leader who forces political support and fails to honor and protect the free and legitimate elections on which our republic rests has lost the moral right to govern. By attempting to compel Ukraine to announce investigations benefitting only his re-election efforts, President Trump forced every American taxpayer to become an unwitting contributor to his political campaign and a supporter of his re-election.” The statement endorsed the House of Representatives’ following of established procedures, and called on the Senate to hold “a full and fair trial with impartial jurors.”

The MWEG went a step further, though, to say that while they were in favor of peace, peace is not an absence of conflict. Rather, they said, “it requires… a courageous defense of truth and justice.”

Republican leaders continue to lie to their base, echoing Russian propaganda as they construct a false story of what happened in 2016. This morning, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who took Russian money from Rudy Giuliani’s associate Lev Parnas, went on the Fox News Channel to claim that “The FBI broke into President Trump’s campaign, spied on him, then tried to cover it up. This is a modern-day Watergate.” Hours later, Trump elaborated: the Democrats and Crooked Hillary paid for & provided a Fake Dossier, with phony information gotten from foreign sources, pushed it to the corrupt media & Dirty Cops, & have now been caught. They spied on my campaign, then tried to cover it up - Just Like Watergate, but bigger!”

The FBI did not wiretap Trump; James Comey, who was the FBI Director at the time, has denied it under oath. It DID wiretap former Trump advisor Carter Page, legally, in October 2016, the month AFTER he left the campaign. It was a Republican operative who initially hired the company that employed investigator Christopher Steele. Once Trump got the nomination, the Clinton camp hired that same company and Steele stayed on the job. He did not know who his client was. When sources told him Trump could be blackmailed, he took his information to former colleagues at the FBI.

Finally, a picture posted on Instagram last night showed that Trump hosted Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher at Mar-a-Lago. Gallagher was convicted of posing with the body of an ISIS captive, but Trump intervened before a review hearing to insist that Gallagher would retire with his rank as a SEAL intact. In the struggle over that order, Trump’s Defense Secretary, Mark Esper, fired Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, who objected to the short-circuiting of the hearing.

Also at the party was Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, suggesting that two are maintaining close ties.

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White House argues that Trump is not impeached: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/is-donald-trump-impeached-white-house-considers-arguing-no-articles-of-impeachment-not-delivered-to-senate/

CT: https://www.cnbc.com/2019/12/22/christianity-today-receives-boost-in-subscriptions-after-call-for-trump-removal.html?__source=sharebar%7Ctwitter&par=sharebar

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/december-web-only/trump-evangelicals-editorial-christianity-today-president.html

North Dakota: https://www.inforum.com/opinion/editorials/4829680-Forum-Editorial-How-can-Christians-be-Trump-supporters

Gallagher:

https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/475687-navy-seal-at-center-of-war-crimes-case-meets-with-trump-at-mar-a-lago

https://www.politico.com/news/2019/11/24/esper-navy-secretary-resign-seal-case-073436

Giuliani:

Mormon women for ethical government: https://www.mormonwomenforethicalgovernment.org/official-statement-from-mormon-women-for-ethical-government-on-the-house-impeachment-vote/

Comey transcript: http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1703/20/ath.01.html