President Trump has called his current travails “impeachment light.” The articles of impeachment on which the U.S. House of Representatives is set to vote Wednesday confirm his assessment.
To fathom the unbearable lightness of the anti-Trump articles of impeachment, just compare them with those used against presidents William Jefferson Clinton and Richard Milhous Nixon.
First, in terms of verbosity, the three anti-Nixon articles totaled 1,558 words. The four anti-Clinton articles reached 1,515 words. And the two anti-Trump articles equal 1,321 words. By this measure, the anti-Trump articles are 15 percent skimpier than those against Nixon and 13 percent skinnier than those against Clinton.
Second, in terms of criminality, the anti-Nixon articles list actual offenses, such as illegal entry on private property, silencing witnesses and obstruction of justice.
The anti-Clinton articles also delineate violations of the law, including perjury, witness tampering, concealment of evidence and obstruction of justice.
The anti-Trump articles assert a “scheme or course of conduct for corrupt purposes.…” Schemes and courses of conduct are not, prima facie, illegal. The rest is entirely debatable. Democrats call this crooked. Republicans counter that President Trump was fighting corruption in Ukraine – hardly a corrupt purpose.
Democrats also claim that President Trump “ignored and injured the interests of the Nation.” This, too, is not a statutory violation. Republicans correctly have argued for a decade that ObamaCare ignored and injured the interests of the nation. But President Barack Obama did not face impeachment for that gargantuan failure.
Thus, the anti-Trump articles list no laws broken or crimes committed.
Third, in terms of chronology, the anti-Nixon articles cite five dates on which malfeasance occurred.
The anti-Clinton articles record 14 such dates.
The anti-Trump articles specify zero dates on which impeachable offenses supposedly unfolded.
Fourth, in terms of gravity, the anti-Nixon articles chronicle major wrongdoing. This includes White House-connected intruders breaking into the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate office complex, these same so-called plumbers (who plugged news leaks) sneaking into the Los Angeles office of Dr. Lewis Fielding (the psychiatrist to the Pentagon Papers’ chief leaker, Daniel Ellsberg), covert cash payments of “hush money” to the plumbers, “electronic surveillance of private citizens,” and abusing the CIA to shut down an FBI investigation of these burglaries and their subsequent cover-up.
The anti-Clinton articles discuss Clinton’s perjury in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case, the concealment of evidence (namely hiding Monica Lewinsky’s DNA-stained dress in a box beneath the bed of Clinton’s personal secretary, Betty Curry), and lying to witnesses so that they would repeat those lies to investigators and federal grand jurors. This constituted conspiracy with cooperative witnesses as well as the deception of those who unwittingly repeated lies that they believed were true.
The anti-Trump articles mention nothing this grave. Trump’s phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky involved no pressure or quid pro quo, according to at least 12 such exculpatory statements by Zelensky and other officials in Kiev.
And the so-called “obstruction of Congress” Trump is accused of involves an oft-repeated, bipartisan tug of war between Congress and the executive branch. Trump’s assertion of executive privilege is entirely precedented, if not routine. These disputes normally are settled in court. The House withdrew from such litigation – all the better to speed toward Wednesday’s Christmas season impeachment.
Fifth, in terms of sensory perception, the anti-Trump articles differ from those against Nixon and Clinton in this respect: They claim to be psychic.
Article I states: “President Trump, by such conduct, has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to national security and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office....”
President Trump could respond to impeachment by encouraging Russian President Vladimir Putin to invade Kiev and arrest President Zelensky. Or, conversely, he could provide Ukraine even more lethal weapons, above and beyond the tank-blasting missiles that he furnished Ukraine – and that Obama and Vice President Joe Biden never did.
Who knows what will happen next?
Article II reads: “President Trump, by such conduct, has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to the Constitution if allowed to remain in office...”
President Trump could react to all of this by doubling down and never giving Congress another piece of paper until January 20, 2025 – the end of his second term, which Democrats inexplicably are making likelier by the day. Au contraire, Trump could be so chastened by impeachment that he becomes Mr. Rogers with atomic codes, namely a chief executive who gives Congress any and every document and witness it requests and others for which it never asked.
Who knows what tomorrow will bring?
Are the three Democrats leading the impeachment effort in the House – Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, and Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler – psychic? The Nixon and Clinton articles of impeachment never made this bizarre leap into clairvoyance.
All told, the House promised enough damning information against President Trump to merit his indictment for the moral equivalent of carjacking. Instead, the Democrats’ scrawny articles of impeachment do not equal a speeding ticket.