Opinion | What’s the Best Way to Dump Trump?

Last weekend, a smart friend of mine raised an interesting question: Would political opponents of Donald Trump rather see him removed from office via impeachment and conviction, or would we rather see him voted out of office in 2020?

The question has the makings of a parlor game that could occupy the passions of anti-Trump Americans for months. Strong cases can be made for both sides of the argument. I come down on the side of the ballot box, and firmly so, because it has more historical authority and legitimacy — and for one other reason that I’ll reveal in a bit.

The impeachment side of the argument, though, isn’t to be dismissed out of hand. It’s true that impeachment is a political process, and getting enough Republicans to support removing a president from their party would take a formidable list of offenses.

But to a lot of us, the list is already quite formidable — Mr. Trump has, by any common-sense definition, obstructed justice repeatedly in public. Many House Democrats are raring to go with what they have; Representative Brad Sherman of California has already introduced his own articles of impeachment against Mr. Trump.

And there is likely to be much more. For the moment, let’s presume that several months from now, Robert Mueller has given us evidence of obstruction, cooperation with Russians during the 2016 campaign and compelling evidence that Russian banks on some level “own” Mr. Trump. And that’s leaving aside everything investigators may be learning about the Trump Organization from Michael Cohen and Allen Weisselberg.

Let’s also assume that House Democrats will have done their work and, at a minimum, documented numerous and ghastly Trump family violations of the emoluments clause. Remember also on that front that two lawsuits are working their way through the federal courts, so let’s imagine that they are allowed to proceed as well.

This is to say nothing of the instances of more banal forms of corruption Democrats may have unearthed through their own investigations this year that could rightly be called high crimes and misdemeanors.

In sum, let us say that by next football season, the president’s goose will be well and truly cooked, and House impeachment proceedings seem amply justified.

There will then hang the question of whether 20 Senate Republicans — at least, assuming that all 47 Democrats would vote to convict — would actually agree to remove Mr. Trump from office. That seems exceedingly unlikely.

But whether they would or would not, many would argue that Democrats would still have a constitutional responsibility to exercise. Impeachment is the only remedy the founders provided for removing from office someone who is clearly unfit to hold it.

If all of what I stipulated above happens and the Democrats don’t act, aren’t they saying the Constitution is meaningless? If you can’t impeach a president whose very election is found to have been illegitimate, then whom can you impeach? And how do you recover, as a country, from such a bitterly partisan episode?

Those are good questions. But they have an obvious answer. While impeachment is clearly a valid exercise of power, so is another method of removal, also prescribed by the Constitution: an election. This is how Americans like to ditch presidents and parties they don’t like — presidential power has changed hands 44 times in this country’s history.

In addition, nine incumbent presidents have lost re-election, including three in the last half-century, and all have peacefully (if not always gracefully) yielded power. In contrast, only two presidents, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, have been impeached by the House, though both were acquitted in the Senate. Richard Nixon, facing certain and imminent impeachment, resigned.

That’s a historical record that suggests that an electoral outcome will be much more widely accepted. Mr. Trump’s partisans will whine about the unfairness of it all in either case — they’ll blame “voter fraud,” or George Soros, or the “fake news media.” But if the voters have rebuffed the president, the whining will sound to most Americans like just that.

There’s one more reason I’d prefer to see Mr. Trump laid low via the ballot. It will do more long-term damage to the Republican Party.

If Mr. Trump is removed via impeachment and conviction — that is, with those 20 Republican votes — Republicans can say, “See, we’ve come to our senses; got that out of our system.” But if they renominate Mr. Trump and stick with him through November 2020 and the voters clearly say no, not again, Republicans are left sitting in the wreckage. They will be trying to air out the Trump stench for a generation, maybe two, which is precisely the fate they deserve.

True, this carries the risk that Mr. Trump might win in 2020. But the impeachment process carries the (considerable) risk that a Senate conviction will fall short, which would enable Mr. Trump to seek re-election as the victim of those vicious Democrats and of the enemy of the people, the press. Nothing in life is risk free.

But risk’s opposite is reward, and in this case the far greater reward — for liberals and Democrats, yes, but also for our democracy itself — is the one that would come on the night of Nov. 3, 2020, when perhaps a record number of voters will cast their ballots and a decisive majority will say to Mr. Trump: Go home.

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Michael Tomasky is a columnist for The Daily Beast, editor of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas and a contributing opinion writer.

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Opinion | Should the House Move to Impeach Trump?

To the Editor:

Re “Democrats Must Impeach Trump,” by Tom Steyer (Op-Ed, Nov. 10):

Mr. Steyer is right that the newly elected House must vote articles of impeachment against President Trump. It is not a question of choice but of duty.

Business conflicts of interest that violate the Emoluments Clause, obstructions of justice and illegal hush-money payments comprise three “high crimes and misdemeanors” mandating impeachment.

Some counsel a pragmatic approach, hoping to work with the president. Some say Republican control of the Senate dooms impeachment with the probability of an acquittal.

We must remember, however, that these are not normal times. Congress should not condone the president’s crimes. The House is honor-bound to impeach. If the Senate decides to acquit, then the people will have the final word in the elections of 2020.

Eric W. Orts
The writer is a professor of legal studies and business ethics at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

To the Editor:

That there is little appetite among many Democrats for impeachment is a positive and remarkably mature sign. A protracted impeachment effort will fail with a hard-line Republican Senate majority, and it will send the wrong message to Republicans and independents who helped elect so many Democrats.

Tom Steyer’s campaign ignores the desire of Americans to instead focus on solving problems related to health care, education, infrastructure and an entrenched leadership. We don’t need campaigns that will send frustrated voters back to the Republican Party.

It’s time for Democratic leaders to listen to their constituents and lead us toward real progress with well-considered proposals, and messengers who can captivate the imagination and know how to connect with people. Mr. Steyer’s money and energy would be better spent supporting energetic and thoughtful candidates.

Irv Rothbart
New York

To the Editor:

Rather than jumping directly to impeaching Donald Trump, Democrats should use their new House majority to focus on creating rules that will help prevent every president, including President Trump, from governing badly. For example, instead of subpoenaing Mr. Trump’s tax returns, Democrats should push for a law requiring the president to disclose his or her finances and place them in a truly blind trust within 90 days of taking office. Presidents who do not comply would be subject to automatic removal, and Mr. Trump would be given 90 days to comply.

The goal of this type of legislation should be pushing for ethical governance, regardless of who is in office, and not just to right the perceived wrongs of the 2016 presidential campaign. America will be stronger for having endured the Trump presidency, but only if we use it as an opportunity to make our institutions more robust against potential abuse.

Jacob C. Fisher
Ann Arbor, Mich.

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Opinion | Why Democrats Must Impeach the President

On Tuesday, voters across the country demanded accountability in government, insisting their elected representatives not just talk a good game but act in the interests of the American people.

Nationwide, Democrats received 7 percent more votes than Republicans — about three million — in an election that saw a higher percentage of voters than any midterm since 1966. Those voters flipped seven governorships and 367 state legislative seats to Democrats, giving them majorities in seven more state chambers. Most important, voters ended Donald Trump and his Republican enablers’ free rein in Washington by flipping the House.

But this blue wave should have been even bigger. Democrats’ inability to run the table on a Republican Party that depended on lying, race-baiting and suppressing the vote is a sign that the American people do not know what the Democratic Party stands for. We Democrats can begin to answer that question by acting to guarantee equal justice under the law.

As President Trump continues to accelerate his lawlessness, the new Democratic House majority must initiate impeachment proceedings against him as soon as it takes office in January.

For nearly two years, Mr. Trump has publicly flouted his oath of office. He has turned the presidency into a moneymaking enterprise for a family business he refuses to divest from, in direct violation of any plain reading of the Constitution. He is all but an unindicted co-conspirator in two federal felony cases. He has created an atmosphere of criminality through his hateful, violent rhetoric against political opponents, journalists and private citizens alike.

Most egregiously, he has a longstanding pattern of obstructing justice. On Wednesday, he continued this by firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions and installing Matthew Whitaker — who has publicly called for curtailing the special counsel’s investigation — as acting attorney general, sparking a constitutional crisis that threatens the rule of law itself.

As the list of Mr. Trump’s impeachable offenses — at least nine and counting — has grown, more than 6.2 million people across the country have signed a petition, created by my organization Need to Impeach, demanding that their representatives confront his lawlessness. For months, public support for impeaching the president has been roughly equal to what it was before Richard Nixon resigned.

Yet the current Democratic leadership has insisted that no one so much as mention the word “impeachment.” Instead, they have suggested using Mr. Trump’s abuses of power as bargaining chips in future negotiations.

For too long, Democratic leaders have convinced their fellow elected officials that bland, nonconfrontational and incremental centrism is the way to win elections and make progress. In truth, it’s just the easiest way to protect the balance of power in Washington. But by trying to meet a corrupt Republican Party halfway, instead of taking clear stands for what’s right, they have failed to define the party and failed to protect their constituents.

We see the same approach on impeachment: As a way to delay making a decision, Democratic leaders have insisted on waiting for the special counsel, Robert Mueller, to deliver his report. But now the investigation is at risk, because Mr. Whitaker could prevent the special counsel’s team from reaching a just conclusion or even releasing its findings to the public.

The current, Republican-led Congress could have already taken action to shield Mr. Mueller or to put Mr. Trump in check. It still can. If it does not, House Democrats must prepare subpoenas, to be issued as soon as they take over, to ensure that the public learns the truth uncovered by the special counsel, and call on his team to testify under oath in public hearings.

Should the establishment refuse to give up conventional orthodoxy and take up impeachment proceedings when the new Congress convenes, freshmen members — many of whom ran and won because of their promise to stand up to the president — must challenge the establishment and demand a say over the agenda. An overwhelming majority of people in this country elected them to hold this president accountable. There is no majority without them. That means no one has the votes for a leadership title without their support.

At a moment when just one-third of all Americans trust their government to do what is right, winning a majority has to mean much more than just frustrating Republican legislative goals and scoring debating points. Democrats must stand up for the safety of the American people and our entire democratic system.

We cannot allow this to be an argument about what Republicans will permit — it’s about demanding the truth and protecting the foundations of our free society. Anything less would mean abandoning the Constitution.

Tom Steyer is the founder of Need to Impeach and NextGen America.

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