As with any dangerous tool, impeachment should be used with proper safety precautions. Among these should be taking care not to increase the chance of a nuclear war while trying to start an impeachment.
Since Inauguration Day 2017, RootsAction.org has promoted impeachment of Donald Trump for violation of both the domestic and foreign emoluments clauses of the U.S. Constitution. The domestic clause, barring corruption from within the United States, is the stronger case because — unlike in the foreign clause — the Constitution allows no exceptions, and because the examples of blatant violations by Trump are more numerous. But from day one it has been the foreign clause that has generated the vast majority of interest and attention. Blaming problems on something foreign is clearly enjoyable to many people.
Over the past year and a half, we’ve drafted numerous additional articles of impeachment, charging Trump with all kinds of abuses that are both very well documented and easily rise to the level of impeachable offenses. These include his interference in voting rights, his illegal waging and threatening of wars, his abuse of the pardon power, obstruction of justice, politicization of prosecutions, failure to reasonably prepare for or respond to hurricanes, and most recently Trump’s separating of children and infants from their families.
Also on the list is collusion with a foreign government, namely the Israeli government, on whose behalf Trump lobbied other national governments against U.S. policy while he was president-elect, not yet president. The reason nobody screams “treason!” over this crime, is that Israel is not designated an “enemy” by the U.S. media or U.S. politicians. But shouldn’t we be trying to rein in all abuses of power, not trying to stir up trouble with potential enemies?
Also among the articles of impeachment we’ve drafted and promoted are charges of discrimination based on religion, and incitement of racist and xenophobic violence. These are important articles to bring forward because Trump’s behavior has been so extreme, but also precisely because millions of people suffer from much smaller xenophobic tendencies. Witness the endless shouts of “treason!” whenever Trump fails to accept as proven the extremely vague “assessments” found in a January 2017 report from what Director of National Intelligence James Clapper called a handpicked group of people from three U.S. agencies, one of which said it could only “moderately” support the “assessments.”
The dangers here include sanctifying as gospel truth undocumented accusations from secret agencies or indictments from prosecutors, rather than waiting for evidence. They also include the bellicosity that one hears in the cries of treason and the heroification of the writers of “intelligence” reports. But above all is the danger of war that is driven forward by the treatment of Russia as a designated enemy, and the treatment of alleged computer hacking as already being an act of war, or in a now common phrase “a new Pearl Harbor.”
If Russia is eventually proven to have done everything it’s been accused of, moving toward nuclear war would still remain unwise. One way to ease back from war-talk might be to recognize that the Russian government is not reciprocating. It does not call itself a U.S. enemy. Another might be to recognize that the United States has interfered in major and often successful ways in many dozens of foreign elections, including openly bragging about having put Boris Yeltsin in power in Russia. (Imagine suffering that and forgiving it and then being endlessly denounced for what at the most extreme interpretation was a completely ineffective and amateurish effort to sway a U.S. election.) The U.S. government, like the Russian government, engages in all kinds of computer hacking and spying and sabotage. Agreeing to globally ban cyber attacks would be at least as appropriate a response as hostility toward Russia.
While it’s possible that the Russian government attempted to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, there has been no plausible case made or charge even alleged that it did so successfully, that it actually impacted the outcome. Nor has there been any case even offered that WikiLeaks informing us about the DNC’s slanting of its primaries against Bernie Sanders impacted the outcome. But many other factors that we could fix at any time likely did impact the outcome. These include: an electoral college that allows a popular-vote loser to win, a system of legalized bribery that shuts out candidates who aren’t well-funded, a corporate media system driven by ratings and advertisers and access to power, racist interference in voter rolls, voter ID laws, debates closed to more than two parties, and unverifiable vote counting. Are these problems less exciting because they can’t be blamed on someone foreign?
Using impeachment safely and wisely does not mean not using it, which could be the most dangerous and reckless behavior of them all. It also does not mean using it weakly or half-heartedly. It means using the most well-proven charges, those about which the evidence cannot be questioned. If one were to suppose that the entirety of Russiagate were true, even then the strategic move would be to go ahead and impeach and remove Donald Trump for one or more of his well-proven impeachable offenses, rather than continuing to wait and wait and wait for an investigation to produce salvation. If Trump is such a “traitor,” why wait? Why not impeach him for a proven abuse of power and remove him from office right away?
The weapons dealers would be saddened at that course of action, but most of us could get over that. The Democratic Party leadership would be devastated at the loss of Trump as someone to campaign against. But they’d move on to focusing on Mike Pence very quickly. We the people, meanwhile, would have established that we had some control, which would be bad news for Pence or any other president who sought to abuse power. Wouldn’t creating such a democratic success be at least as valuable as condemning and threatening the governments of other countries in the name of “democracy”?