To the extent that facts and logic matter, which is very little, Ramesh Ponnuru breaks down the arguments for and against impeachment. It’s a great piece and you should read the whole thing.
Ponnuru begins with the concept that impeachment is appropriate only when facts show an impeachable “abuse of power or dereliction of duty” by the president, such that removing him is prudent.
Diehard Trump defenders advance the argument that Trump was truly concerned with corruption in Ukraine as a matter of a U.S. national interest. Ponnuru takes this argument head-on, and demonstrates convincingly that Trump’s concerns were purely petty and self-serving:
The argument requires a willful suspension of disbelief. Gordon Sondland, the Trump-appointed ambassador to the European Union, has testified that Trump “didn’t want to hear about” Ukrainian efforts against corruption and that concerns over corruption had not led to the withholding of aid from any other country within his portfolio. The Department of Defense had certified that Ukraine was taking steps against corruption before the administration withheld aid to it.
Fighting corruption would not have required Trump to encourage Zelensky to work with Rudolph Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, who has said that he was working in Ukraine to advance his client’s personal interests; it would have counseled against Trump’s doing that. Nor would the effort have required the secrecy with which it was conducted, or have required dropping around the same time it was starting to attract publicity. Kurt Volker, Trump’s envoy to Ukraine, has testified that Giuliani said that official Ukrainian statements against corruption were insufficient unless they specifically mentioned the investigations touching on the Bidens and on the 2016 campaign.
There is essentially no evidence that either investigation is worth conducting. The theory that Joe Biden acted corruptly holds that he leaned on the Ukrainian government to fire a prosecutor who was looking into a company that had his son on the board. That prosecutor’s former deputy has said that there was no active investigation, and the Obama administration was on record urging the prosecutor to assist a British legal action against the company’s owner.
Ponnuru’s piece is also valuable for debunking the notion that we must be presented with evidence of a statutory crime to impeach a president. Not so. Yes, James Madison argued against the notion of “maladministration” being impeachable.
Madison also said, though, that impeachment is the constitutional protection against a president who would abuse his power to pardon criminals, and that it was an appropriate remedy for “wanton removal of meritorious officers” by the president. . . . Congress has impeached many officials for misconduct not involving statutory crimes, and included non-crimes in its efforts to impeach Presidents Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Clinton.
Ponnuru acknowledges that Trump can’t be removed over the objections of half the country. But:
There are better questions. Would it be good for the country if a large majority of Americans were to be persuaded that it is unacceptable for a president to use his office to encourage foreign governments to investigate his political opponents? Assuming that the necessary level of support to remove a president from office for that offense will not be reached, should we prefer that more elected officials go on record that it is unacceptable — or that fewer do?
FRUSTRATED POSTSCRIPT: This is a post that uses reason and evidence and logic to make an argument about something that 1) people have already made up their mind about, and 2) often can’t discuss rationally as a general rule. So why bother?
Why bother indeed. Arguing politics carries with it the immense frustration of having otherwise sensible and smart people look you straight in the eye and say laughable things that they would recognize as laughable in any other context. I opened this blog post with the words “[t]o the extent that facts and logic matter” while implicitly recognizing that to many, they matter not at all. I’m already pre-irritated by the fact that there are commenters, whom I won’t name (but we all know who they are, and they will identify themselves shortly by behaving in the way I am about to describe) who will read/half read a post like this and treat the arguments therein a nothing more than a springboard for some flippant remark, generally in the form of a whatabout, that they believe is clever. These people continually show that they could not care less about the facts, arguments, and logic offered. Such things are mere foils to make dopey and tired partisan points.
And yet, we have nothing but facts, reason, logic, and argument to fall back on. The alternatives are violence, or rabble-rousing displays of emotion — which the Smart Crowd will patiently explain to you is the only real persuasive tool, and they will attempt to justify that position with … facts, reason, logic, and argument.
I can’t endorse violence, even when people seem to like it, as in Nazi-punching. I leave persuasion through emotive gestures to others. It’s not my strong suit. I am left with reason. I’ll continue to apply it. I’ll continue to mostly ignore and occasionally snap back at people who demonstrate they won’t listen to reason, and I’ll continue to make the reasoned case for my positions to the tiny handful of you for whom such tools are effective.