File Photo By Kara Harris/Cronkite News
Column By Mike Bibb
First, I’m no lawyer or pretend to be. Not that lawyering is an inherently bad thing. It’s just I’m not wired to figure all the twists and turns of a profession whose premise is based upon all the twists and turns of human conniving and weaknesses.
“Someone’s gotta do it.” I wholeheartedly agree. Someone does have to do it – just not me.However, I can read and comprehend the English language. Most of it, anyway.
The ongoing President Trump impeachment saga has me confused. About a year ago, Trump was first impeached by a Democratically controlled House of Representatives, shepherded by Nancy Pelosi (CA-D). The accusation was that he made an improper telephone call to the president of Ukraine.
Apparently, during the conversation, Trump was inquiring what the status of Hunter Biden was regarding his role on the board of directors of a Ukrainian natural gas company. Hunter is Joe Biden’s son. At the time, Hunter had no education, training, or experience in the natural gas business, but was being paid extremely well for his lack of know-how.
Trump was wondering why? An ordinary reaction from a leader of a country who is about to dole out billions of dollars in foreign aid.
Hunter did have one employable asset – his dad was the former Vice President of the United States, and had connections to all kinds of people and money-making opportunities. Anyway, Democrats thought Trump had exceeded his authority to such an extent he should be impeached. No big surprise, Dems have been clamoring for his impeachment since his very first day in office. Nothing new here.
So, under the inspired leadership of Nancy Pelosi, Democrats impeached Trump. Factual evidence and first-hand witness testimony to Trump’s alleged crimes were not necessary to reach a conclusion he had committed impeachable offenses.
“He did it because we said he did it” was sort of the House Dems proclamation to justify their frivolous case.
The Articles of Impeachment were then shuttled over to the Senate for trial. Trump was not convicted of the charges and remained in office to await another House impeachment the following year.
But by the time the Senate received impeachment #2 accusations, Trump had left office, having lost the 2020 presidential election. He was a civilian again, enjoying life in Florida.
That point of fact caused a constitutional bruhaha. Why, you may be wondering? The Constitution is clear – the penalty for impeachment is removal from office and disqualification for future federal government employment (Art. 1, Sec. 3).
Art. 2, Sec. 4, stipulates a president can only be “removed from office” upon “conviction.” In other words, just because Trump was impeached (indicted), he still had to be convicted at trial by a jury (senators) before he could be kicked out of his job.
The main thing, he must have been president at the time of his trial by the Senate. He wasn’t. He lost his reelection to Joe Biden and was out of office when the Senate commenced the trial.
Nevertheless, since he is no longer a government employee, and lives a thousand miles from Washington, D.C., what lawful basis could there be to hold a mock trial that could only result in firing an individual who has already packed up and left town?
If the trial is not valid, according to the Constitution, how can any verdict be valid? Consequently, Republicans argued, the Senate hasn’t the authority to hear a case or convict a former president it no longer has jurisdiction over.
Equally bewildering, an impeachment trial is supposed to be refereed by the Supreme Court Chief Justice to ensure impartiality and proper courtroom procedure (Art. 1, Sec. 3). Since the Chief Justice refused to participate in the second impeachment fiasco, it was overseen by a Democratic senator who could also vote to impeach Trump. Trump would be playing against a stacked deck. If Trump could be fraudulently found guilty of the charge, then there is the possibility of entering another untested legal arena: As a civilian, wouldn’t he have the constitutional right to appeal his conviction with evidence and witnesses before a jury of his peers, just like anyone else? A case of this magnitude would surely go straight to the Supreme Court.
Were the Democrats willing to risk opening this can of worms in their shortsighted ambition to permanently bar Trump from running for president again just because they totally despise him? The House and Nancy Pelosi can cry crocodile tears all day long, but the fact remains it is their own incompetency that prevented them from securing an impeachment conviction. They waited too long. All they had to do was concoct and send impeachment documents to the Senate in sufficient time before Trump left office. Just as they did a year previously.
Of course, they would have been compelled to fabricate another phony impeachment story instead of waiting to blame Trump for the Washington riots of Jan. 6, 2021. By then, his remaining time in office was down to a few days. Hardly enough to schedule and conduct a legitimate impeachment trial.
Perhaps the only benefit to this whole convoluted mess is that it exposed the world to the sad state of affairs our nation’s political intrigues have devolved into. When there’s constant bickering amongst our elected leaders and officials, and the country portrayed by a compliant media as being in disarray, then who can blame others for believing what their eyes and ears are being exposed to? Regardless if it’s factual or not. Maybe, that has been the whole point of this carefully scripted presentation. There’s an old saying “When anything happens in Washington, it happens for a reason.” The stark realization of the matter is Senate Democrats needed 67 of 100 votes to convict and remove Trump. To get that number, 17 Republicans would have had to jump ship and join the Dems. As it turns out, only seven Republicans sided with the Democrats, and the impeachment failed by 10 votes – 57 for and 43 against.
Unfortunately, we’re witnessing how clever lawyers can manipulate words and phrases to imply something different from their original meaning or intent. If an impeachment trial can be conducted against a person who is no longer working for the government, then changing the rules to obtain a conviction could be equally possible.
Likewise, if impeachments can be performed a week or two after a president has left office, then why couldn’t they be conducted several years after he is gone? If written words in a governing document can suddenly be altered to suit a particular situation, then the document is worthless as are the words it contains. Democrats may wish to consider another cautionary advisory before leaping into the unknown – “Careful what you wish for. Sometimes ill-conceived motives can come back to bite you in various unpleasant ways.”
The views of this editorial are strictly those of the author and don’t necessarily reflect the views of the Gila Herald.