Would I vote to impeach Trump?

Isaac Saul Dec 18, 2019
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Photo: DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro

Your questions, answered.

Q: If you had a vote, would you vote to impeach Trump?

- Seth, Albany, NY

Tangle: The best argument I’ve seen against impeaching Trump came from Reason Magazine’s Jacob Sullum. He essentially makes the case that, while he believes Trump abused his power and did in fact pressure Ukraine into investigating a political rival, he also thinks Democrats have moved too hastily in impeaching Trump. He runs the gambit of several very compelling legal arguments that Democrats have shot themselves in the foot (legally and politically) by trying to wrap up impeachment before the New Year, and — as a result — have left too many holes in the ground they stand on to impeach Trump.

I found the story convincing, and it briefly made me consider a “no” vote. It’s true that Democrats could have done a lot more to compel witnesses to testify, as I’ve written here, and that by doing so they would have created a much more convincing case of obstruction of justice when Trump inevitably stopped those witnesses from testifying.

But ultimately, the abuse of power by Trump seems plain as day to me. As I detailed yesterday, we have an overwhelming pile of evidence that Trump and his lawyer were working to push Ukraine’s top prosecutor and its president into opening an investigation into the Bidens. The scheme was rather simple, despite how much both sides have muddied the waters. We also have witness testimony that contradicts one common Trump defense (“he was worried about corruption in Ukraine”) and instead points to the political nature of the request: Gordon Sondland said under oath that Ukraine didn’t need to follow through on the investigations, they just needed to announce them.

While Sullum makes a strong case that Democrats have rushed their most powerful tool of checks and balances on the president, I think there is an even stronger case that Trump’s abuse of power is a threat to Democracy as a whole. I’ve had this argument with friends who have essentially taken the same stance that Trump’s administration has: “this kind of thing happens all the time! Countries leverage things on other countries to receive things in return.” Which, yeah — that’s true. But this kind of thing — a U.S. president asking another foreign leader to investigate the presumed No. 1 threat to his election prospects — does not happen all the time. I’ve made this argument to friends who have said “I’m sure it does and we just don’t know about it.” And, again, I’m calling B.S. Years after the fact we’ve learned of CIA operations to take down foreign leaders, how generals lied to the public about the success of wars and basically all the details of every impeachment scandal in U.S. history. If a president had ever solicited help from a foreign country in taking down his opponent in an upcoming election, we’d know about it. It would have made its way into the annals of American corruption. But it hasn’t, because that’s almost certainly never happened before.

In that sense, what Trump has done is unprecedented. And with a looming election in 2020, there’s no reason to think he won’t pull out similar dirty tricks to protect his spot in the White House. In fact, there is every reason to think he will. So while I certainly have concerns about Democrats rushing this process, I think I’d ultimately have a hard time casting a vote that would exonerate the president of wrongdoing worthy of impeachment. I’d have to vote in favor.

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Isaac Saul

I'm a politics reporter who grew up in Buck County, PA — one of the most politically divisive counties in America. I'm trying to fix the way we consume political news.

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