Re­pub­li­cans are now the party of Trump

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - Eugene Robin­son Eugene Robin­son’s email ad­dress is eu­gen­er­obin­[email protected]­post.com.

Don’t move on quite yet. Pause a mo­ment be­fore rac­ing ahead to ques­tions about what a Se­nate trial will look like or what im­pact all of this will have in Novem­ber. Let what just hap­pened sink in: Less than a month ago, Don­ald J. Trump be­came only the third U.S. pres­i­dent to be im­peached by the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

This will be his legacy for all time.

Know­ing there will be an as­ter­isk of shame next to his name in the his­tory books drives Trump around the bend, ap­par­ently. But he earned it. Trump is pre­cisely what the framers of the Con­sti­tu­tion feared, an un­eth­i­cal and im­moral pres­i­dent who would tram­ple the na­tion’s laws and in­sti­tu­tions to keep himself in power.

The House, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, stood up to tell him: No. Not here. Not now.

“What is at risk here is the very idea of Amer­ica,” House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee Chair­man Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said, as he ended eight hours of of­ten bit­ter de­bate. Mo­ments later, the House ap­proved two ar­ti­cles of im­peach­ment charg­ing Trump with abuse of power and ob­struc­tion of Congress.

The idea of Amer­ica sur­vives. At least for now.

Let me note, prob­a­bly not for the last time, that this his­toric ac­tion wasn’t taken by “the Democrats,” although it is true that no Re­pub­li­cans voted to im­peach. “The Democrats” have no standing un­der the Con­sti­tu­tion to do any­thing. School­child­ren will learn that it was the House, given the “sole” power of im­peach­ment by our found­ing char­ter, that voted to mark Trump’s pres­i­dency in­deli­bly with the ul­ti­mate stain. And they will learn why. The House im­peach­ment in­quiry as­sem­bled a com­pelling case that Trump used the power of his of­fice to co­erce a for­eign gov­ern­ment to pub­licly smear his most for­mi­da­ble po­ten­tial ri­val in the com­ing elec­tion. The scheme was re­vealed by an anony­mous whistle­blower be­fore it could be fully con­sum­mated.

“In this case, he [Trump] got caught,” Schiff said.

When the House de­manded the ad­min­is­tra­tion pro­duce wit­nesses and doc­u­ments that could shed more light on the pres­i­dent’s ac­tions, Trump did not em­u­late prior pres­i­dents by claim­ing ex­ec­u­tive priv­i­lege and ne­go­ti­at­ing some sort of com­pro­mise. He claimed a kind of “ab­so­lute im­mu­nity” be­fit­ting a monarch or a dic­ta­tor — and ef­fec­tively mocked the sep­a­ra­tion-of-powers ar­chi­tec­ture on which our whole sys­tem of gov­ern­ment is erected.

Trump thus joins An­drew Johnson and Bill Clin­ton as the only pres­i­dents to be im­peached. Those im­peach­ments were de­cried at the time as “par­ti­san,” too, and his­to­ri­ans ar­gue over whether they were jus­ti­fied. But noth­ing will ever erase them.

The de­bate was fas­ci­nat­ing on many levels.

Im­pres­sion­is­ti­cally, on the Demo­cratic side you saw a di­verse group of law­mak­ers step up to the mi­cro­phones and, with a few ex­cep­tions, de­liver their re­marks in mea­sured tones. On the Re­pub­li­can side, you mostly saw a pa­rade of white men who shouted, ges­tic­u­lated and oc­ca­sion­ally snarled.

I lis­tened to the whole de­bate and I don’t be­lieve I heard one of Trump’s Re­pub­li­can de­fend­ers at­test to his ster­ling char­ac­ter. I don’t be­lieve I heard one of them say that Trump would never do the things he is ac­cused of do­ing. How­ever, I did hear many Re­pub­li­cans seek to ex­cuse Trump’s con­duct by not­ing that his scheme ul­ti­mately did not suc­ceed.

That says a lot about the pres­i­dent, and it says even more about the GOP, which once had the right to call it­self the Party of Lin­coln. Not any­more. It is now, with­out ques­tion, the Party of Trump.

We heard a lot from Re­pub­li­cans about the 63 mil­lion Amer­i­cans who voted for Trump, about how Democrats “hate” them and find them “de­plorable” and are try­ing to “deny them a say in their gov­ern­ment.” We heard not a peep from Re­pub­li­cans about the nearly 66 mil­lion Amer­i­cans who voted for Hil­lary Clin­ton or the nearly 8 mil­lion who voted for other can­di­dates.

Note to the GOP: This im­peach­ment can’t “over­turn the will of the Amer­i­can peo­ple.” The Elec­toral Col­lege al­ready did that.

But, of course, no one is dis­put­ing the re­sult of the 2016 elec­tion. Trump was duly elected, ac­cord­ing to the rules set out by the Con­sti­tu­tion. Now he has been duly im­peached, also ac­cord­ing to the Con­sti­tu­tion. This is how the sys­tem was de­signed to work.

Im­peach­ment is the only tool we have to sanc­tion, and po­ten­tially re­move, a pres­i­dent. There are very good rea­sons why it has only been used three times in our his­tory. And there are very good rea­sons why one of those im­peach­ments was that of Don­ald J. Trump.

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