Impeachment Theater, 2017 Edition

Floor proceedings of the U.S. Senate, in session during the impeachment trial of Bill Clinton, 1999. Sourced from wikimedia, Public Domain.

by Thomas L. Knapp…….

As US president Donald Trump returned to the White House after a 12-day trip to Asia, he might be forgiven for wishing he’d spent more time seeing the sights of the Far East. Back home he faces a Republican Party torn by scandalous allegations against its candidate for US Senate from Alabama, a likely bruising fight over tax “reform,” and more of the constant nipping at his heels by “Russiagate” special counsel Robert Mueller.

Oh, and Articles of Impeachment introduced in the US House of Representatives on November 15 by several Democrats.

The charges: Obstruction of justice, violation of the Constitution’s “domestic emoluments” and “foreign emoluments” clauses, abuse of power (by “undermining the independence of the federal judiciary and the rule of law”), and undermining the freedom of the press.

Whether or not he’s guilty of one or more of those things will be decided by the US Senate as jury (a vote of 2/3 required to convict; the president’s party holds a slim majority in that body), in a trial with the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court presiding.

Or, rather, it will be decided that way in the unlikely event that a simple majority of the House (the president’s party holds a less slim majority there) actually votes to impeach him.

If past performance an indicator of future results, performance — political theater — is really all we can expect here.

Two past presidents — Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton — have been impeached. Neither was convicted. A third, Richard Nixon, might have been, but he resigned before the House could vote on impeachment.

Johnson was impeached on — and acquitted of — ten counts relating to his dismissal of a cabinet official without the Senate’s blessing and one count of making speeches that Congress found disrespectful, but one suspects his chief sin was being a Democratic vice-president when a Republican president was assassinated.

Clinton was impeached on — and acquitted of — two counts (perjury and obstruction) of which he was clearly guilty, relating to his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, but again his real offense was political: He was a Democrat who’d won re-election against a Republican.

As much as one might like to think of the presidency and Congress as temples to civic virtue or arenas in which issues of great weight are disputed, Washington is in truth a lot more like a “professional wrestling” ring. It’s two gangs of boastful peacocks putting on a tag-team show. Washington’s rivalries may be more real but they’re no more momentous.

I’m hard put to think of a president who never took actions meriting impeachment. But impeachment isn’t about facts or evidence. It’s about political party. Which means that, for now anyway, Trump’s presidency is safe.


Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.

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5 thoughts on “Impeachment Theater, 2017 Edition

  1. Okay, I’ll take the bait. Yes, I agree that President Trump should be impeached ASAP for the following offenses: 1) At President Trump’s urging, Dubai signed a deal to purchase 40-787 passenger jets from Boeing for $15 billion, thus keeping highly skilled American labor working. This is not good. 2) While on his recent Asian trip, he picked up promises for $250 billion in business for 37 American companies. How can this be a good thing? 3) With the arrest last week of 214 alleged criminals belonging to the maniacal MS-13 gang, he is the first President to actually attack this growing problem head-on with great vigor to wipe out this scourge in America. How can this possibly be good for America? 4) Is bringing a so far subliminal unity to many countries overseas and a respect for the presidency and America that we haven’t seen in decades. This is just plain bad business. 5) And Sen. Chuck Schumer said (paraphrased) after President Trump’s return from the spectacularly successful overseas trip: President Trump is not ready for prime time. So, if Chuck Schumer said that, then it must be true. So, impeach him.

    So for these reasons President Trump should be impeached.

    1. “At President Trump’s urging, Dubai signed a deal to purchase 40-787 passenger jets from Boeing for $15 billion, thus keeping highly skilled American labor working.”

      So so far, Boeing is only $10 billion down, after losing the $25 billion Iran sale that Trump and the GOP Congress nixed.

      Then again, Trump DID try to kill Bombardier aircraft sales from Canada with tariffs. Fortunately, Bombardier was able to swing a deal with Airbus to build them in Alabama.

      Hint: Governmental interference in trade is ALWAYS bad for workers and consumers overall. There are no exceptions. Governmental interference in trade is saying “some bureaucrat in DC knows what people want and who they want it from better than those people themselves do.”

      1. Something to do with Iran Air “ferrying around” terrorists – with Boeing airplanes. Regardless, any way you look at it a $15 billion deal by Dubai is not a bad thing, imo. Regardless, give the Middle East’s problems a little time to be addressed by the Trump administration, not that anyone can ever break the Israeli/Palestinian stalemate, but if anyone “could” do it, President Trump would be the one.

        1. Actually, Trump would appear to be the least qualified president since Truman to “break the Israeli Palestinian stalemate.”

          Past presidents have come into office either without the issue getting much play or with a visible pro-Israeli bias rather than a neutral stance, but then bucked Israel. Two that come to mind are Carter and Reagan. The second Bush did occasionally show a mind of his own instead of just asking “how high?” whenever Likud said “jump” as well.

          Trump, on the other hand, initially feinted toward neutrality in that conflict, then immediately reversed and prostrated himself as soon as AIPAC and Sheldon Adelson said “kiss our asses or kiss the White House goodbye.” Having accepted them as his masters, he’s not likely to buck them now.

          1. The second Bush did occasionally show a mind of his own instead of asking “how high”?

            Actually in reality, immediately after taking office and unlike previous presidents, Bush attempted to take a hands off approach with the Israeli/Palestinian problem – and in doing so he enraged the Arabs. This is a fact.

            Although Rex Tillerson might not last until the end of President Trump’s term, he has earned a tremendous respect from Arab and other countries. Without question he is so far the best Sec. of State we have had in decades. His strong presence of being is acknowledged by those around him in any room he enters with his firm, cool awareness of situations. Let’s see how he and President Trump’s idea of teaming Saudi Arabia and Iraq vs. Iran works out in the future. Should be interesting.

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