Politics & Policy

Where Are the High Crimes and Misdemeanors?

President Donald Trump talks about imposing fresh sanctions on Iran as Vice President Mike Pence looks on in the Oval Office, June 24, 2019. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)
No, the Constitution doesn’t allow impeachment just because you despise the president.

The Constitution is quite clear: The president “shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

Democrats are speeding toward the impeachment of President Donald J. Trump with this standard barely a pebble in their path. Democrats regard President Trump with uncontrollable, pathological, stammer-inducing hatred and are determined to impeach him, no matter what.

The House this morning voted 232-196 to formalize these proceedings, now with a daisy petal of due process that the White House is welcome to use in the president’s defense. Zero Republicans voted for this impeachment resolution. Unlike the multi-party votes in favor of opening impeachment actions against presidents Clinton, Nixon, and Andrew Johnson, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and all but two Democrats voted to begin the effort to unseat President Trump with no backing whatsoever from the president’s own party. Thirty-one Democrats joined Republicans to launch impeachment against Democrat Clinton. Nearly every Republican opposed Nixon when the House voted 410-4 to begin efforts to dislodge him.

What a dark, unprecedented day in American history.

Still, the question remains: How, exactly, is Trump even accused of “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors?”

Treason? No one has claimed that Trump provided aid and comfort to the enemy during wartime. At worst, he delayed aid to a friendly nation with which America is at peace. That’s not treason.

Bribery? At worst, Trump postponed some $391 million in assistance to Kyiv, presumably in exchange for dirt on former vice president Joe Biden. The aid was delivered, and no such dirt was received. None of this money ever got near Trump’s pocket or that of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky. So where is the bribery?

“High crimes and misdemeanors?” While this criterion is more nebulous, it also seems far out of reach.

Democrats accuse Trump of extorting Zelensky to investigate for corruption any of the eyebrow-raising connections between Kyiv and Joe and Hunter Biden, the former veep’s son. Democrats claim that such a probe was what Zelensky had to launch before receiving the aforementioned military aid. This is the notorious quid pro quo.

But Zelensky has said repeatedly that he never felt extorted in his July 25 phone call with Trump. Zelensky told journalists on September 25, “Nobody pushed me.” During extensive discussions with some 300 journalists in Kyiv, Zelensky said on October 10: “There was no pressure or blackmail from the U.S.” The available evidence, from the supposed victim of Trump’s vise, is: What vise?

Similarly, for Trump’s alleged quid pro quo to work, Team Zelensky needed to know that their military aid was being blocked, until they put the Bidens under magnifying glasses. Absent such awareness, Trump’s “threat” would have been as pointless as trying to rob a bank with a concealed handgun.

“I had no idea the military aid was held up” at the time of the call with Trump, Zelensky said October 10. Well after that July 25 conversation, the Ukrainians learned that the aid had been delayed, in part to see if Kyiv would live up to its anti-corruption promises. Zelensky and Vice President Mike Pence discussed this in Warsaw on September 1. The assistance was released 10 days later.

“And after this meeting, the U.S. unlocked the aid and added $140 million,” Zelensky said. “That’s why there was no blackmail.”

Democrats and their bodyguards in the Old Guard media also seem deeply hurt that Trump fired former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. How dare he? What a bully!

Yovanovitch, like every other U.S. ambassador, serves at the president’s pleasure. As the chief architect of foreign policy during his administration, Trump had every right to sack Yovanovitch, for slow-walking his initiatives, because he wanted a fresh face in Kyiv, or perhaps he didn’t like her shoes. There’s no high crime or misdemeanor here.

Democrats are irked that Trump has deployed his personal attorney, former New York City mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, as his emissary, thus circumventing career diplomats. As Eric Felten of RealClearInvestigations recalled, this is nothing new. Democratic presidents have dispatched the Reverend Jesse Jackson and former congressman Bill Richardson on informal missions. Jimmy Carter used Coca-Cola chief J. Paul Austin as a back-channel envoy to Cuba. Even George Washington relied on Founding Father Gouverneur Morris as his “private agent” in Europe.

Poor Democrats. If the Constitution included a “We can’t stand the guy!” impeachment rationale, their divisive recklessness would be legit.

Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online.

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