Wednesday, December 18, 2019

'Twas the eve of impeachment

and all through the House
staffers stared at their screens
and continued to grouse,
when what to their skeptical
eyes should appear
but a screed of six pages,
all dripping with fear!

Trump to Speaker Pelosi:
I write to express my strongest and most powerful protest against the partisan impeachment crusade being pursued by the Democrats in the House of Representatives.
That's pure Trump. Like Putin's, or Kim Jong-un's, or Mohammed bin Salman's denials, we're supposed to accept that it's valid because it's "strong" and "powerful". And it's strong and powerful because he says so.
This impeachment represents an unprecedented and unconstitutional abuse of power by Democrat Lawmakers, unequaled in nearly two and a half centuries of American legislative history.
I'd mention that impeachment is not unconstitutional or unprecedented, but you probably knew that already. I'm not sure it's part of legislative history. If it was anything like what Trump suggests it was, it was amply precedented by the young nation's first impeachment, that of the Federalist Judge Samuel Chase in an overwhelmingly Republican Congress, as described in Jill Lepore's splendid New Yorker piece in October, in 1805, managed by Rep. John Randolph, whose articles

broadly charged him with prostituting his high office to the low purpose of partisanship but, narrowly, rested on all manner of pettiness, including the charge that during Callender’s trial Chase had used “unusual, rude, and contemptuous expressions toward the prisoner’s counsel” and had engaged in “repeated and vexatious interruptions.”...
The trial turned less on what Chase had done than on whether he could be impeached for having done those things. John Randolph, though, didn’t really have a theory of impeachment. He had a theory of vengeance. His arguments, a distressed John Quincy Adams wrote in his diary, consisted “altogether of the most hackneyed commonplaces of popular declamation, mingled up with panegyrics and invectives.” Randolph called eighteen witnesses, few of whom aided his case, and some of whom aided Chase’s.
And in the end, though Republicans outnumbered Federalists in the Senate 25-9, only three of the seven articles even won a majority, and none of them the supermajority required to convict and remove.

That's how a truly second-rate impeachment works out.
The Articles of Impeachment introduced by the House Judiciary Committee are not recognizable under any standard of Constitutional theory, interpretation, or jurisprudence. They include no crimes, no misdemeanors, and no offenses whatsoever. You have cheapened the importance of the very ugly word, impeachment!
Here we start recognizing the hand of white supremacist Stephen Miller, in the appearance of Miller's favorite device, the triplet balloon, where a meaningless concept is multiplied by three in the hope that this inflation will give it significance ("Constitutional theory, interpretation, or jurisprudence"). It's not worth the trouble of arguing with the assertion that there's something constitutionally wrong with the Articles, since he won't or can't refer to the constitutional arguments in the Judiciary Committee's statements, but as we saw Monday, they do include crimes of federal statute law, criminal bribery and wire fraud. I'd add something that just occurred to me: the charge of obstruction of Congress in Article II is pretty much the same as the contempt of Congress charge in the Nixon impeachment articles (failing "without lawful cause or excuse to produce papers and things as directed by duly authorized subpoenas"), only far more flagrant and comprehensive, since Trump has also prevented witnesses from appearing, and really with no excuse at all, claiming a blanket privilege ("I have an Article 2 [the one in the Constitution] that says I can do whatever I want").

How do you cheapen importance? (I know, import it from China.)

More triplet balloons:
you are violating your oaths of office, you are breaking your allegiance to the Constitution, and you are declaring open war on American Democracy
Your first claim, “Abuse of Power," is a completely disingenuous, meritless, and baseless invention of your imagination
You are the ones subverting America's Democracy. You are the ones Obstructing Justice. You are the ones bringing pain and suffering to our Republic for your own selfish personal, political, and partisan gain.
(That last a triplet inside a triplet, and a Miller alliteration too!)
You apparently have so little respect for the American People that you expect them to believe that you are approaching this impeachment somberly, reservedly, and reluctantly. 
you are scarcely concealing your hatred of me, of the Republican Party, and tens of millions of patriotic Americans.
The voters are wise, and they are seeing straight through this empty, hollow, and dangerous game you are playing.
Also terrific Millerism in the choked syntax of this attack on the Speaker's religious expression, stuffing it so full it will never get off the ground:
You dare to invoke the Founding Fathers in pursuit of this election-nullification scheme — yet your spiteful actions display unfettered contempt for America's founding and your egregious conduct threatens to destroy that which our Founders pledged their very lives to build. Even worse than offending the Founding Fathers, you are offending Americans of faith by continually saying “I pray for the President,” when you know this statement is not true, unless it is meant in a negative sense. It is a terrible thing you are doing, but you will have to live with it, not I!
The Founding Fathers portion is self-evidently meaningless in a doublet balloon of contemptuous spiteful actions on one wing and threatening egregious conduct on the other. He can't manage to say what they would have been offended over (how dare you invoke the Founders in applying Article 2 Section 3 Clause 6 of this document they wrote?), and presumably doesn't know.

What he meant to say presumably was that when Pelosi's praying for the president she's more likely saying "God damn that Trump!"—which isn't true, obviously, but could be a serviceable wisecrack—but in the effort to make it sound serious, he's got to bring in the offended Founders first, and the offended praying folk second, and the weird euphemism ("meant in a negative sense"), which stops the reader cold and uncomprehending. And then, because it's the president's voice, he has to wind up this would-be Ciceronian thunder by adding that he really doesn't care—"you will have to live with it, not I!"

The falsehoods in the whole composition are fairly well covered in the Times annotations, and I'm sure elsewhere as well, though I'd like to object in part to note 16—
 I have been far tougher on Russia than President Obama ever even thought to be16.
16 This is misleading. Whether Mr. Trump has been “tougher” than any other president is subjective. But it’s worth noting that observers of American relations with Russia point to a disconnect between aggressive policies enacted by the Trump administration and not-so-tough language from Mr. Trump himself.
The administration has indeed imposed sanctions, ordered a missile attack on Syria despite Moscow’s opposition and approved arms sales to Ukraine. But Mr. Trump himself has repeatedly denied or played down Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, contradicting his own intelligence agencies.

—to add the facts, documented by me in the three-part post of last June, of how assiduously Trump has worked since before he took office to reduce, nullify, or simply ignore Congressionally mandated sanctions on Russia over its seizure of Crimea (which he regards as justified), its invasion of the US election system (which he insists in defiance of the FBI, CIA, and intelligence services of a large number of NATO allies, might be the work of China, Ukraine, or the famous 400-pound guy), and its murderous attacks in England (which he notes Putin "strongly denies").

The most dispiriting thing for me about today's process is that the quid pro quo we're talking about is so minor compared to the one we've been thinking about and gathering evidence of since the Republican convention in 2016 and—because Robert Mueller didn't choose, or wasn't allowed, to study it—isn't getting mentioned at all, even though that's the one, Trump's tenderness toward President Putin and Russia's political cyber-invasion, that is really going on into 2020. Not some silly and easily disproven slur on a possible Democratic candidate but the big thing on the same scale as 2016, as FBI director Wray said in April:
WASHINGTON — The F.B.I. director warned anew on Friday about Russia’s continued meddling in American elections, calling it a “significant counterintelligence threat.” The bureau has shifted additional agents and analysts to shore up defenses against foreign interference, according to a senior F.B.I. official....
Mr. Wray’s warnings came after the report by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, laid out in hundreds of pages of detail the interference and influence campaign carried out by Russian operatives in the 2016 election.
While American officials have promised to continue to try to counter, block and weaken the Russian intelligence operations, they have complained of a lack of high-level coordination. President Trump has little interest or patience for hearing about such warnings, officials have said.
Well, duh. There's your danger right there. The Ukraine thing was pretty bad, as mob-style statecraft, but Ukrainians don't have a lot of capacity to interfere with our election system, or any desire to do so, as President Zelenskyy kept saying as he dodged Trump's demands. Russians do, capacity and desire, and they've proved it, and they're still at it. I don't see why we keep dancing away from that.

Oh, and Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who may have seen more of the Mueller evidence than anyone else including Mueller, just suggested she might agree with me on where the emphasis belongs.

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