Who Gets Impeached and Why?

Impeachment is over, and Trump is acquitted. In his first term, Trump has committed numerous acts that a reasonable person would consider impeachable. Trump has little respect for the rule of the law or the constitution. He banned certain countries from travel on the basis of religion. Trump has violated the human rights of refugee children at the southern border, which has led to multiple deaths. He attacks the press as the "enemy of the people." He and his family personally profit off of the presidency in violation of the emolument's clause.  He committed obstruction of justice when he fired James Comey for investigating him. Despite Trump trampling laws and the constitution, none of these early crimes or abuses of power triggered impeachment.

Trump is not unique in abusing power and violating the constitution. Nearly every modern president could have been impeached for violating the constitution or abusing their power. Ronald Reagan sold arms to terrorists and illegally funneled money to Nicaraguan Contra fighters. George W. Bush invaded a sovereign country on false pretenses resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands, violated the constitutional rights of American citizens when he authorized the monitoring of Americans' emails and phone calls by the NSA and violated international law by authorizing torture. Both Bill Clinton and Barrack Obama waged war against sovereign countries (Kosovo and Libya) without congressional approval. None of this triggered impeachment.

Presidents have also used their power to subvert their political rivals. Despite Richard Nixon's impeachment for the notorious Watergate break-in, his rival Lyndon Johnson bugged Nixon's campaign and used the CIA to spy on Barry Goldwater. As a private citizen, Henry Kissinger, Hillary Clinton's great friend, torpedoed peace talks between north and south Vietnam in order to subvert Lyndon Johnson's reelection hopes. Kissinger was also responsible for conducting an unconstitutional, illegal war in Cambodia while serving as Nixon's National Security Advisor.

In 1971, a group of activists broke into an FBI office and stole documents that revealed the FBI's darkest illegal program, COINTELPRO. Cointelpro, short for counterintelligence program, was a subversive project aimed at domestic political groups that the government considered a threat to the current order. Those targets included black civil rights groups, anti-war organizations, feminist groups, socialist political parties, the American Indian Movement, Puerto Rican independence movement, and other broadly left groups. With the support and authorization of multiple U.S. presidents from Kennedy to Nixon and in violation of the law and constitutional rights of U.S. citizens, the FBI surveilled, harassed, falsely imprisoned, committed acts of violence and engaged in assassinations of members of these groups. This program, which was revealed one year before Watergate, was not highly publicized in the press and resulted in zero impeachment proceedings. The Watergate break-in year later, which in comparison to Cointelpro can only be described as a petty burglary, was impeachable, but Nixon's involvement in Cointelpro was not.

So why is it that some violations of law and the constitution are impeachable and others are not?

The answer to that question is power.

Donald Trump has broken many laws and violated the constitution in numerous ways. So, it is clear that it is not the "breaking of the law" matters. It is who the victim is and how much power that victim has.

Only when the president's crimes violate the rights of people or institutions with power do they become impeachable. When Donald Trump's lawless actions finally centered on Joe Biden and the Democratic party, that was the moment when Donald Trump committed an impeachable offense.

Unlike refugee children at the border victimized by the president's blatant disregard of their fundamental human rights, the Democratic Party has the power to respond to attacks from Donald Trump, and that is what they did. They did not do it because of the law or because of the constitution. They did it to protect the interests of their institution.

The violations of the rights of refugee children, socialist parties, Muslim minorities, black civil rights groups, American Indian rights groups, feminist groups or anti-war groups will not trigger impeachment, because these groups do not have the power that the Democratic Party has.

The Democratic Party's articles of impeachment related only to the attacks on the Democratic Party and ignored the crimes that targeted the powerless. To cheer on this impeachment process was to cheer on the notion that only the violations of the rights of the powerful should have consequences and that the violations of the rights of the powerless should not. Donald Trump should be impeached for a variety of reasons, but the least offensive act he committed was targeting Joe Biden's son for corruption.


Popular Posts