The efforts of President Donald Trump’s Republican supporters to come up with arguments defending his behavior are, on the whole, laughable. Yet they deserve a response. In what follows I consider 10 Republican claims intended to defend Trump against the impeachment charges, with brief accounts of why they fail to do so.
1. Trump has committed no crime, so impeachment is inappropriate.
The Constitution clearly does not require that the president violate some existing statute to warrant impeachment. Nonetheless, in the case against Trump, the Federal Code 11 CFR § 110.20, titled “Prohibitions on Contributions, Donations, Expenditures, Independent Expenditures and Disbursements by Foreign Nationals,” clearly says that, “A foreign national shall not, directly or indirectly, make a contribution or a donation of money or other thing of value, or expressly or impliedly promise to make a contribution or a donation, in connection with any Federal, State, or local election,” and that “No person shall knowingly solicit, accept, or receive from a foreign national any contribution or donation” so described. So Trump did commit a crime in soliciting Ukraine to announce its investigation of the company for which Joe Biden’s son worked.
2. Negotiations with foreign governments often involve transactional give and take.
True, but in such transactions a president must only aim at producing benefits for the country, never for him or herself alone.
3. There is no first-hand evidence of misbehavior.
The paucity of first-hand witnesses is largely due to Trump preventing any from testifying, yet the text of the summary of his July 25 telephone call provides direct evidence of his criminal intent, and his overheard telephone conversation with his agent, Gordon Sondland, is also first-hand evidence of that intent. So despite Trump’s best efforts, there is persuasive first-hand evidence that he tried to force Ukraine to assist in his re-election campaign.
4. The impeachment process was a rush job, and hence untrustworthy.
It must be remembered that Trump would not permit his Attorney General to appoint a special prosecutor (as was done in previous impeachments), which would have expedited the gathering of information. Nor would he allow his White House advisers to testify or release documents, which led to subpoenas, which were ignored, and hence the prospect of months of legal maneuvering. In other words, Trump gave the House little choice but to move to impeachment after a relatively brief investigation.
5. The impeachment investigation violated the president’s legal rights.
The function of the House investigation was to gather information and bring charges against the president if it believed that impeachable offenses had been committed. That is phase one of any judicial process. The accused party’s rights to respond are accommodated in phase two: the trial itself. It is at this point that contrary evidence, testimony and argument is presented. Therefore, it is in the Senate that Trump will have ample opportunity to exercise his rights.
6. Impeachment is a “coup d’état.”
A coup d’état is defined as a violent or illegal change in government. Impeachment is an orderly and constitutionally required process if a president’s wrongdoing has been substantial and constitutes a threat to the country’s welfare.
7. Impeachment represents congressional overreach and threatens to upset the proper balance of power between the executive and legislative branches.
This objection stands the truth on its head. The Constitution explicitly gives Congress the power to oversee the executive’s actions, in order to insure that the president does not become a tyrant. It is Trump who has overreached his authority and attempted to deny the Congress its proper role.
8. This impeachment is entirely a partisan issue.
Admittedly, no Republicans in the House voted for the articles of impeachment, but the Constitution does not require that a vote to impeach, or a vote to convict, be non-partisan. If Democrats held a two-thirds majority of Senate seats, an entirely partisan removal from office would be entirely valid.
9. This is what the Democrats have wanted ever since Trump was elected.
It is arguable that what is really noteworthy about this impeachment is how long it took the Democrats to decide to undertake it. The Mueller Report provided ample evidence of Trump’s obstruction of justice (the offense that spurred the impeachment of Nixon), yet the Democrats refused to initiate impeachment until the Ukraine affair finally left them no honorable alternative.
10. The Democrats are so embarrassed by the 2016 loss that they will do anything to undo it.
This is a projection of Trump’s own horror at the prospect of losing. There is no more scathing epithet in Trump’s attack vocabulary than “loser.” The fragility of his personal narcissistic self-esteem requires that he always win, and he cannot imagine that normal people are able to put losses behind them.
Leonard Hitchcock of Pocatello is an alumnus of the University of Iowa and did graduate work at Claremont Graduate University and the University of California, San Diego. He taught philosophy in California and Arizona for 15 years. In 1985, after earning a library degree, he was hired by Idaho State University. He retired from ISU's Oboler Library in 2006.