The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake points out that Republicans have adopted a new line of defense during the impeachment hearings: Unlike former president Bill Clinton, the GOP argues, Donald Trump won’t be cited for an actual crime. A number of Democrats made a big show of offering their colleagues a civics lesson on the matter, explaining that impeachment isn’t contingent on the president having committed any obvious statutory offenses.
It’s true! Democrats can impeach Trump for virtually any reason they see fit. Then again, as you’ve no doubt have heard, the impeachment is a political process. And Republicans would be negligent if they didn’t stress that the Democrats’ articles of impeachment lacked a single criminal accusation. Especially since Dem leadership has spent months alleging that it was a moral imperative to impeach Trump because he engaged in specific acts criminality.
It’s quite convenient, no doubt, for Democrats to have unburdened themselves of the thorny business of substantiating allegations of lawbreaking right before sending their case to the Senate. But it was Adam Schiff who spent the vast majority of his inquiry time pressing the case that Trump had engaged in criminal “extortion.” It was the Democrats who told us that criminal “obstruction of justice” was evident in the Mueller Report. It was Nancy Pelosi who moved the debate away from ambiguous quid pro quo towards the very graspable concept of “bribery.” People definitely understand what “bribery” entails. Which surely made Schiff and Jerrold Nadler’s job of proving criminality much harder.
Democrats are, of course, free to impeach Trump on constitutional charges alone, but it’s not within their power to keep changing the terms of the debate every time they decide to switch up strategy. Which, as you can see, is quite often.