I am on record as a dues-paying member of the Andy McCarthy Fan Club, so I ask this with all of the respect and good faith in the world, “What is Andy saying?”
Last night on Fox News, Andy said, “Look, I don’t think that it’s bad if campaigns are turning to foreign governments for dirt. It’s not collusion. It’s not something that’s impeachable; it’s icky, but that’s what this is.”
By my lights there are three problematic parts to this. The first is when he appears to be saying, “I don’t think it’s bad.”
In Andy’s defense, I think this has been misconstrued, as Andy insists here.
If you watch the interview, it’s clear I said it IS bad. I interrupted myself mid-sentence in what you’ve quoted (bad habit). Should say: ‘Look, I don’t think — It’s bad if campaigns are turning to foreign governments for dirt….’
— Andy McCarthy (@AndrewCMcCarthy) July 27, 2018
Indeed, he ends the quote saying, “it’s icky,” which, to my mind, corroborates Andy’s point that he indeed does think it’s bad and he just had a the kind of TV hiccup we’ve all had.
The second problem: Andy says, “it’s not collusion,” referring to the infamous Trump Tower meeting and the new allegation that Trump knew about it in advance.
Here is where I do start to get seriously confused. As many have noted, there are lots of problems with the term “collusion”: It’s not really a legal term, it means different things to different people, etc. I will forgo offering my own definition of collusion and simply consult one of my favorite legal experts: Andrew McCarthy. Almost exactly a year ago, when the Trump Tower–meeting revelations were fresh, Andy wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post titled, “The Donald Trump Jr. emails definitely show collusion. But collusion in what?“
In which he wrote:
Thus has the collusion question always been two questions: First, was there any? Second, if so, collusion in what?
The first question, to my mind, is no longer open to credible dispute. There plainly was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. This is firmly established by emails exchanged in June 2016 between Donald Trump Jr. and an intermediary acting on behalf of Russian real estate magnate Aras Agalarov. A Putin crony, Agalarov is also a business partner of President Trump.
So if the meeting was an effort to collude with the Russians, how can it not be collusion now? If the Trump campaign colluded with the Russia government when Trump allegedly didn’t know, it hardly seems possible that it’s no longer collusion once the candidate is in on it (allegedly).
This brings me to my last question. Andy told Laura Ingraham last night that this collusion is “not something that’s impeachable; it’s icky, but that’s what this is.”
Here I think we may have an is-ought problem. If Andy is speaking as a legal expert on impeachment (he is one, he wrote a good book on it a few years ago), I don’t get it. Because for years, Andy has been writing — in his book, in these pages, and in that op-ed — that an impeachable offense is essentially whatever Congress decides it is. From his Post essay:
The Constitution’s standard for impeachable conduct, ‘high crimes and misdemeanors,’ is a concept more analogous to military justice than to penal law. It involves violations of an officeholder’s public trust, transgressions that call into question his fitness to wield power and carry out high responsibilities. High crimes and misdemeanors need not be felonies chargeable in criminal court; they include all manner of execrable episodes and abuses of power that cause us to question a public official’s fitness.
A brief search of NRO finds that Andy has said similar things many times: “Impeachment is not a criminal-law process but a political one”; “we’ve also observed that no indictable crime is required to trigger impeachment proceedings“; “second, as we have also frequently noted (and as I elaborated on in Faithless Execution), the impeachment of a president need not be predicated on indictable criminal offenses.”
So does Andy mean that Trump cannot be impeached for colluding with Russia — whatever that means — or that he ought not to be impeached for colluding with Russia? If it’s his personal opinion, I think that’s entirely defensible. I would not support impeachment based upon the facts we have now either. But if Andy means that colluding with Russia simply is not an impeachable offense, I don’t know how he can reconcile that with what he has said in the past.