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Cockburn

What if Trump is convicted?

Would the president accept the Swamp’s verdict — or would he fight on?

December 10, 2019

11:56 AM

10 December 2019

11:56 AM

Palooza, noun: the art of throwing a drunken, extravagant party with a plethora of friends. So now, for the Democrats of DC, Impeachapalooza is well and truly under way. Two articles against The Donald were announced by Jerry Nadler with all the solemnity he could muster, Maxine ‘Impeach 45’ Waters standing at his right side. The whole House will vote next week and Trump can expect his trial in the Senate in January. Why the hurry? Perhaps the Democrats want the whole thing out of the way before primary season really gets going. Or perhaps they want the option of impeaching him all over again in the summer, just in case this one does not go right.

And why only two articles, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress? What about all the other Trump misdeeds that Democrats have spent the last three years alleging? What about firing James Comey? What about threatening Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen by tweet to stop them from flipping (obstruction of justice)? What about asking Don McGahn to fire Robert Mueller and then telling him to invent a reason — Mueller’s membership of a Trump golf club — for doing so (perjury)? What about booking out whole floors of the Trump hotel in DC to the Saudis (the emoluments clause); what about lying, a lot, to the American public, about almost everything? Surely there’s a few misdemeanors, if not high crimes, in there?

No doubt Nadler and Co want to limit the charges to the clearest of Trump’s (alleged) constitutional crimes. Do they imagine there’s more chance of getting a conviction that way? Everyone knows that much as Republican senators loathe Trump, there’s no chance of getting a conviction in the Senate as things stand. But are there other shoes to drop? One former senior aide to Trump tells Cockburn: ‘Once he’s impeached, a lot of things can come out: He’s a rogue…he’s done some amoral and illegal stuff.’ This former official was looking forward to a ‘cascade’ of new evidence. ‘And once that happens, you never know.’

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Cockburn rather feels that if Adam Schiff had anything else up his sleeve, he would have produced it by now. But let’s entertain for a moment the idea that there is new evidence and that it gives Republicans in the Senate the excuse they would dearly love to plunge a silver dagger between the president’s shoulder blades. What then? Everyone should pay attention to an interview given by one of Trump’s favorite lawyers, the former Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz.

He told Fox News at the weekend that it would be ‘unconstitutional’ for President Trump to be impeached ‘on the current record’; it would be ‘an utter abuse of the power of Congress’.

The Constitution sets out four criteria for impeaching a president. Treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors. Thus, unless one of those criteria is met, Congress does not have the authority to impeach, and if they do, their  impeachment would be void. Alexander Hamilton said any act of Congress that is inconsistent with the Constitution is void. Now, Congress maybe can get away with impeaching because there won’t be judicial review. But that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be violating their oath of office. They would be abusing their power if they impeached President Trump on this record.

This is music to President Trump’s ears, surely. He has already said he can more or less ignore one bit of the Constitution, the emoluments clause — it’s ‘phony’. Would he also ignore the bit that says Congress can remove a president from office? When Trump thought he was going to lose in 2016, he hinted that he might ignore the result. If we reach those remote shores of possibility where the Senate does convict, then things might start to get really interesting.


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