Cliffs Notes for impeaching Trump

Ignore the noise. The case for impeachment is already clear.

President Trump.
(Image credit: Illustrated | Win McNamee/Getty Images, Iuliia Kanivets/iStock)

It is almost impossible to keep track of all of President Trump's various scandals, outrages, and abuses of power. Remember when he nominated his personal White House doctor to run the VA, only for everyone to learn the guy had a history of sexual harassment, drinking on the job, and handing out pills willy-nilly? I certainly didn't until I stumbled across it recently.

Something similar holds for the developing impeachment story. There are dozens of characters and interlocking parts of the story, and it can be hard to keep it all straight — especially with right-wing agitprop constantly blasting out confusing chaff and nonsense.

But in reality, the basic case is quite simple. It does not rely on any subtle inferences, whistleblowers, or testimony from anyone but Trump himself and the officials in his administration. He has abused his presidential power for political gain, and he has violated the Constitution by profiteering off the presidency. He should be impeached and removed from office immediately.

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1. Abuse of power. Trump tried to blackmail Ukraine into investigating the Biden family by withholding military aid. The White House released a memorandum describing a call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky which has an unmistakable implied quid pro quo: Biden investigation traded for military aid. Trump's budget director Mick Mulvaney admitted in a press conference that was what happened. A reporter asked him: "[W]hat you just described is a quid pro quo. It is: Funding will not flow unless the investigation into the Democratic server happens as well." Mulvaney responded, "We do that all the time with foreign policy." (He later tried to walk back his comments.)

Finally, Trump straight-up said on camera, standing in front of the White House, that Ukraine and China should investigate the current frontrunner for the Democratic 2020 nomination, just after threatening China that "if they don’t do what we want, we have tremendous power." (Recall that Trump has embroiled the U.S. in a trade war with China that has caused serious economic damage for both parties.)

The ostensible justification for all this was that Joe Biden used his power as vice president to protect his son Hunter, but it is absolutely beyond question that Trump has corrupt motives here. For one thing, he is personally hugely corrupt himself — unlike any previous president, operating a huge business empire while in office, and directing large sums of public cash into his own pockets (see below). For another, his own children are currently trading on his presidency to collect huge sums overseas.

Any even slightly responsible president would scrupulously avoid any commentary whatsoever on a potential investigation into his political opponents, because the conflicts of interest are so enormous and dangerous. Ginning up fake political prosecutions is textbook corrupt authoritarianism. Are we really to believe that the only case of corruption Donald Trump cares about just happens by coincidence to be into his top political rival? Come on.

2. Presidential profiteering. The Constitution categorically forbids the president taking any payments from the U.S. government, or foreign governments. Aside from his salary, the president "shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them," it reads. Furthermore, "no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States], shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince or foreign State."

Trump just announced that he is going to hold the next G7 summit at his Doral golf resort in Miami (where business has sharply fallen off since he took office, incidentally). That will violate both of the emoluments stipulations at once — taking a fat payment from the American government and six other foreign states at the same time. As Toluse Olorunnipa, David A. Fahrenthold, and Jonathan O'Connell write at the Washington Post: "That decision is without precedent in modern American history: The president used his public office to direct a huge contract to himself." The only error in that sentence is that Trump has already done this multiple times before, spending gobs of public cash at his own properties.

Now, any real impeachment inquiry is going to be much more thorough than this. Obstructing justice, disobeying congressional subpoenas, and unstable behavior would surely be included among any actual articles of impeachment.

But the core of the case is very simple, and the offenses have been carried out in the open. Trump has abused his powers of office to enrich himself and undermine America's constitutional republic. Get him out of there.

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