What the impeachment report really said

U.S. Senate holds impeachment trial

Michael Tracey of Real Clear Politics is probably one of the few people who read the House Judiciary Committee’s 658-page impeachment report.

The basis of the report is not just that President Trump abused the power of his office to harm his political rival, Joe Biden.  It is that his pause of military aid to Ukraine was actually a “betrayal of the nation” because it helped Russia.

The rhetoric reminds me of Senator Joe McCarthy in the 1950s and his “twenty years of treason.”  McCarthy said U.S. foreign policy toward the Soviet Union was not only wrong, but a conscious betrayal by Communist sympathizers, up to and included General George C. Marshall.

The impeachment report contains the same rhetoric.  According to Tracey, the report uses the phrase “impeachable treason” and states, “At the very heart of ‘Treason’ is deliberate betrayal of the nation and its security.”

“Such betrayal would not only be unforgivable,” the report’s explication of treason reads, “but would also confirm that the President remains a threat if allowed to remain in office. A President who has knowingly betrayed national security is a President who will do so again. He endangers our lives and those of our allies.”

This language is then imported into the impeachment articles almost verbatim: “Wherefore President Trump, by such conduct, has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to national security and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office.”

The report mostly uses the word “betrayal” rather than “treason” because treason has a specific Constitutional definition.  Treason consists of fighting for an enemy in time of war or giving “aid and comfort” to the enemy in time of war.  Conviction of treason requires confession by the accused or testimony of two independent witnesses of the treasonous act.

Although the Constitution gives the President the authority to determine foreign policy, subject to the advice and consent of the Senate on treaties and major appointments, the report does not recognize that authority.

 It accuses Trump of going against the official “national security policy” of the United States, which supposedly is determined by the national security bureaucracy and not by the President.

This is consistent, it says, with Trump requesting help from Russians in the 2016 election.  So the Russiagate accusations are folded into the new accusations.

Democrats who voted for these impeachment articles voted not simply to punish Trump for soliciting an investigation of Biden.  Rather, they also voted to impeach him for committing treason at the behest of Russia.

And in turn, they ratified a number of extremely fraught New Cold War assumptions that have now been embedded into the fabric of U.S. governance, regardless of what the Senate concludes.

It’s crucial to emphasize that this is the first impeachment in American history where foreign policy has played a central role.

As such, we now have codified by way of these impeachment articles a host of impossibly dangerous precedents, namely:

1) The U.S. is in a state of war with Russia, a nuclear armed power;

2) the sitting president committed treason on behalf of this country with which the U.S. is in a state of war;

3) the president lacks a democratic mandate to conduct foreign policy over the objections of unelected national security state bureaucrats.

So the articles of impeachment are not just an indictment of President Trump.  They are an attempt to define objection to U.S. war policy as treasonous and not subject to debate.

I have a low opinion of Trump.  I wouldn’t vote for him.  But if Trump could de-escalate the new cold war with Russia, I wouldn’t be opposed just because it was Trump doing it.

I’m not so hellbent on getting rid of him that I want to elevate the unelected national security agencies to the status of a fourth branch of government.

LINK

Democrats Dubious Impeachment Subtext of Treason by Michael Tracey of Real Clear Politics.  (Hat tip to Naked Capitalism).  The whole thing is well worth reading.

Images: Palmer Report, R  Street.

 

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5 Responses to “What the impeachment report really said”

  1. Chris Sterry commenting Says:

    Reblogged this on 61chrissterry and commented:
    From the evidence I have heard and viewing how Trump and what he has already said, I have no doubt that Trump has done all he is accused of.

    However, as the Jury is made up of a majority of Republican Senators then it is more than likely these Senators will no convict him.

    I believe this because the Republican Senators would rather have Trump as President,than Pence.

    So we can only hope that the Democrats put forward a Candidate that can beat Trump in the next Presidential Election rather than have Trump for another Term.

    Like

  2. Fred (Au Natural) Says:

    Sound and fury signifying nothing. House Democrats knew he could not be convicted but they pushed it anyhow. Red meat for the base.

    I would be willing to bet that if they’d pushed some kind of censure vote, that would have passed both houses. They wouldn’t want that. They get no political traction from a bipartisan censure.

    Aid and comfort to the enemy? I don’t remember declaring war on Russia. Nor has Russia declared war on us. There hasn’t been any hostile military action between us. Both of us even cooperate on some very important issues. They are how we get people up to the International Space Station.

    And we have no treaty obligations to Ukraine, either. Western leaders have been careful to exclude Ukraine from NATO because of the impossibility of defending it. There are no mutual defense pacts and no significant US military bases.

    Since Russia is not our enemy and we have no mutual defense treaty with Ukraine, where’s the treason? The White House runs day-to-day foreign policy and this is a policy decision – even if it was based on naked self-interest.

    If he’d some something to specifically help out Al Qaeda, that *could* be treason. But it is not clear that in the absence of a US declaration of war, treason is even possible.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. silverapplequeen Says:

    Hello Fred (Au Natural), he IS helping out Al Qaeda (whoever you mean by that term) by his inept & idiotic foreign policy.

    And yes, we do have a de facto defense treaty with The Ukraine, or else holding up military funding for them (in their fight against RUSSIA) unless they came up with dirt against the Bidens, wouldn’t be an issue here.

    You don’t need a military base on the actual piece of land that you’re defending. That’s quite simplistic thinking.

    Russia is the kind of friend who is always an enemy. There are some truths that never change.

    Just pointing out a few things here.

    Like

    • Fred (Au Natural) Says:

      Trason is a tough conviction to get.

      We have convicted 16 people (that I could identify) of treason in the history of the US. All have stemmed from the Revolution, the Civil War, and World War II. A few of those were pretty sketchy affairs. Like a guy who was hung for tearing down a Union flag in the Civil War. Some were convicted for treason against their state during the same period.

      Nobody has been convicted of treason for any activity beyond WWII. Jane Fonda could not be prosecuted for treason – although she clearly gave North Vietnam aid and comfort – because Vietnam was not an “official” war. A lot of folks wanted to.

      Even the Rosenbergs couldn’t be convicted of treason. We weren’t officially at war with the USSR. So they got nailed for espionage.

      Like

  4. philebersole Says:

    Bad policy is not treason. Bad policy is not grounds for impeachment. The Federalist Papers were written by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay to explain what the writers of the Constitution had in mind.

    In Federalist No. 65, Alexander Hamilton ruled out “maladministration” as grounds for impeachment.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/history/2019/09/27/how-founding-fathers-saw-impeachment-high-crimes-misdemeanors/

    But while bad policy is not grounds for impeachment, opposition to bad policy (or, for that matter, opposition to good policy) is not grounds for accusations of treason or betrayal.

    Waging an undeclared proxy war in Ukraine is a bad policy. Deviation from this policy is not unpatriotic.

    Like

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