Some may ask, “Why would you, a Christian constitutionalist conservative, support the impeachment of Donald Trump and his removal from office?” The answer to that question is found in the question itself. It’s precisely because I’m a Christian, a follower of constitutionalism/rule of law, and a conservative that I support his removal.
Let me explain why.
But first, I would like to set aside one phony objection to the House of Representatives’ impeachment proceedings: it is not a “coup.” Article One, Section Two of the Constitution clearly says, “The House of Representatives . . . shall have the sole power of impeachment.” Therefore, the House has constitutional authority to investigate whenever it believes there might be cause to bring articles of impeachment. It is not acting illegally to do so. And if the articles of impeachment result in the removal of a president, it is still not a coup: the vice president, of the same party, will take over.
So if Donald Trump were to be removed for cause, Mike Pence would be the president, Trump’s hand-chosen running mate. A coup is when an opposite party grabs the reins of the executive, which would not occur in this case. Therefore, let’s please put that silly notion to rest.
Article Two, Section 4 lists the reasons for impeachment:
The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.
Alexander Hamilton, a delegate at the Constitutional Convention, thereby knowing what the convention meant by this, notes, in The Federalist Papers, #65, the following:
A well-constituted court for the trial of impeachments is an object not more to be desired than difficult to be obtained in a government wholly elective.
The subjects of its jurisdiction are those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated POLITICAL, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.
Hamilton emphasizes any abuse or violation of a public trust. He then goes on to say that those abuses or violations are of a political nature. Why is this important? In my view, this clearly shows that legitimate causes for impeachment and removal from office are not necessarily limited to the breaking of a law. Anything that violates the public trust is a proper concern as impeachment proceeds. The charges don’t have to include a law that has been broken by the authority; a deep concern that the authority has, in some way, violated the public trust is sufficient. It is a political decision. If a law has been broken, that can be taken up in the court system later.
Further, in that same Federalist paper, Hamilton recognizes the partisan nature of any impeachment. Critics of the current impeachment process have constantly pointed to how partisan it is. Yet, as Hamilton explains, people will naturally divide “into parties more or less friendly or inimical to the accused.” His further comments sound rather contemporary: “It will connect itself with the pre-existing factions, and will enlist all their animosities, partialities, influence, and interest on one side or on the other.” For those who think this is something unique to the current impeachment process, let me remind you that the impeachment of Bill Clinton was just as partisan. In the Senate trial, not even one Democrat voted for his removal, despite all the evidence that it was called for.
We’re not witnessing anything unique, but what we are witnessing is the shoe being on the other foot: now it’s the Republicans who are defending a president despite all the evidence.
And that brings us to the evidence itself.
Seeking foreign interference in a presidential election.
It is clear to any objective observer that Trump has always welcomed whatever help he can get from another country to achieve an electoral victory. He welcomed Russian activity in 2016 and now promotes a conspiracy theory that says Russia didn’t try to interfere—a conspiracy theory debunked by all the intelligence agencies. Further, he believes the true culprit was Ukraine—another theory without any grounding in the facts. As Fiona Hill testified, this is a fiction.
Yet Trump sought to force the Ukrainian president to investigate his conspiracy theory and to investigate Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, with respect to his involvement in a Ukrainian company. I’m not claiming that the Bidens are either guilty or innocent. That’s not the point. What’s important here is that the president of the United States would pressure another government to find dirt on the man (and his family) whom the president believes will be his opponent in 2020. Inviting foreign interference in a presidential election is impeachable in itself.
And what about this whitewashing of Russia? Trump acts as if Putin is our ally. What’s just as disturbing is seeing Republicans rally behind this false perception. Back to Hamilton, this time in Federalist 68:
These most deadly adversaries of republican government might naturally have been expected to make their approaches from more than one quarter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils.
How could they better gratify this than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union?
Perhaps Russia has achieved this.
Withholding congressionally approved aid to an ally in an attempt to achieve personal political gain—in other words, bribery.
The legal definition of bribery: The offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting of something of value for the purpose of influencing the action of an official in the discharge of his or her public or legal duties.
This is what Trump did in his interactions with the Ukrainian president. He halted military aid to Ukraine, even though it was approved by Congress. He had no authority to do so. Further, he told Ukraine that if it really wanted that aid, investigations into the 2016 election and the Bidens had to be publicly proclaimed. This was not a typical quid pro quo for the sake of America; it was a quid pro quo for the sake of Trump’s political gain. It was personal. It was wrong. It is impeachable.
Keep this in mind as well: Russia has invaded Ukraine; Ukraine is an ally who needs our help to stave off that invasion; withholding the aid (unconstitutionally) undermines Ukraine’s ability to defend itself. Trump was willing to toss an ally to the wolves for his own political gain. And he has bought the Russian propaganda that Ukraine was the one interfering in the 2016 election, even though all the intelligence agencies know it was Russia.
His defenders say, well, Trump eventually released the aid. Yes, after what he had done became public. That’s the only reason he backtracked.
Why does Trump give Russia his undying support and devotion? Pulling out of Syria led to Russia becoming the key player in that region. It led to a massive dislocation (and killing) of Kurds. Promoting Russian influence anywhere is not in the interest of America’s national security. Has Trump become a tool for the Russian government? Hamilton gave this warning in Federalist 75:
But a man raised from the station of a private citizen to the rank of Chief Magistrate . . . might sometimes be under temptations to sacrifice his duty to his interest, which it would require superlative virtue to withstand.
An avaricious man might be tempted to betray the interests of the state to the acquisition of wealth. An ambitious man might make his own aggrandizement, by the aid of a foreign power, the price of his treachery to his constituents.
I fear that is what’s happening with Trump.
Obstruction of justice.
Trump’s defenders said the Mueller Report was a nothingburger. I read the key sections of that report. If it was a nothingburger, attempted obstruction of justice is a nothingburger also. Even those who defended Trump acknowledged that he tried to obstruct, but the rejoinder was that he was unsuccessful in doing so—therefore, he is exonerated. So does that mean that attempted fraud, attempted robbery, attempted murder—none of which achieved the desired result—are not violations that could send the perpetrators to prison? Attempted obstruction of justice is just as heinous.
In the current impeachment proceedings, Trump has declared a blanket immunity for everyone who has or is working for him and has told them they are forbidden from testifying. Fortunately, some of those people put their duty to their country above allegiance to one man and have come forward to give testimony despite his command. Recently, a federal judge ruled against him and his blanket immunity defense. If it goes to the Supreme Court, I think they will agree with that judge.
Not only has Trump demanded that his minions not testify, but he also has stonewalled on the congressional request for documents relating to the impeachment probe. He wishes to keep them in the dark.
That was a tactic used by Richard Nixon with regard to the tape recordings he made in the Oval Office. When Congress sought those tapes, Nixon refused to turn them over and the controversy went to the Supreme Court. The Court ruled that executive privilege could not impede a congressional investigation. Nixon had to turn over the tapes, and the content of those tapes made it clear that he sought to obstruct justice, thereby leading directly to his resignation.
Attempting to obstruct justice is an impeachable offense, especially when it’s carried out to protect one’s position as president by hiding all relevant information.
I could say a lot more about Trump’s character: his self-centeredness, his pettiness, his vindictiveness, his serial lying. Those may not be impeachable offenses, but they are hardly what this nation needs in the White House. There’s already enough to warrant his removal from office without going into all of that. Do I believe Republicans in the Senate will awaken and finally realize what they are abetting? The probability is low, but I refuse to be hopeless. It’s possible that new revelations of wrongdoing may arise that not even Republicans are willing to defend.
For the sake of the nation, we need a change at the top.