WERE HE TRYING TO BE IMPEACHED, WOULD HIS CONDUCT BE MUCH DIFFERENT?*
Untitled, Oil on Panel, 24" x 35", Richard J Van Wagoner, Courtesy of Van Wagoner Family Trust**
Suspend disbelief for a moment, or don’t, and imagine a mentally ill president who purposely sets out to become the first POTUS to be removed from office by two-thirds or more of the Senators in attendance. (This hypothetical president is no quitter, after all.) To maintain his status as a victim and set up his martyrdom, he can’t let on, of course. He must continuously feign offense, deny all wrongdoing, declare it a witch hunt and hoax, blame everyone but himself, maintain or increase his daily average of lies, claim his opponents seek to reverse the will of the electorate by overturning his election, point to the stock market and continue his impeachable conduct by obstructing the impeachment process at every possible turn.
With the power dynamics and competing political tsunamis an impeachment proceeding would generate, what specific behavior should this hypothetical president engage in to enhance the likelihood, if not assure, that singular ignominy?
Squaring his misconduct, as precisely as possible, with the purposes for which the Founders included the Impeachment Clause in the Constitution should transcend those dynamics and political wrangling. Right? If he misbehaved properly, no members of the House or Senate could conceivably excuse his behavior and prioritize anything above their Oath of Office and patriotic duty. Could they?
I’m no historian but have done some reading on why the Founders included the Impeachment Clause in the Constitution, including the debates over the specific scope and language of the Clause. The Founders went beyond “treason and bribery,” to accommodate removal for abuse of power that “attempts to subvert the Constitution.” “And their ultimate agreement — that a president should be impeached for abuses of power that subvert the Constitution, the integrity of government, or the rule of law — remains essential to the debates we’re having today, 230 years later.” An election would not nullify the need to impeach or exonerate the president, particularly where the abuse of power, say through bribery, could influence the outcome in his favor. Moreover, “[h]e might betray his trust to foreign powers,” something the Founders viewed with heightened concern.
What purposeful misconduct could qualify?
These ought to be high on the list:
• Attempting to yield or cede United States sovereignty to foreign power, control or influence for personal benefit.
• Soliciting a foreign power’s involvement in domestic politics to favorably influence the outcome of an election in which he is a candidate.
• Conditioning official acts of immense value and necessity to a vulnerable foreign power on a personal favor designed to influence the outcome of an election in which he is a candidate.
• Engaging in conduct that attempts to undermine the integrity and legitimacy of national elections in the United States.
• Refusing to acknowledge the legitimacy of the body constitutionally endowed to investigate the misconduct.
• Obstructing that investigation in every conceivable way.
Assuming the truth of the allegations Mr. Trump has admitted — which highly credible, non-partisan witnesses have confirmed from first-hand knowledge and for which neither Mr. Trump nor his defenders have offered a scintilla of credible rebuttal — is it possible for Mr. Trump to have committed more impeachable conduct had that been his specific goal?
Grab ’Em By The Power
Mr. McConnell characterizes as a “power grab” the House majority’s efforts to decrease corruption, enhance transparency, reduce foreign interference, improve security and increase accountability in the electoral process. Mr. McConnell’s transparent projection may portend about as well for a Trump conviction in the Senate as did a Merrick Garland Senate confirmation to the Supreme Court.
Why is Mr. Trump’s conduct not worthy of his removal from office by the Senate? The power grab Mr. McConnell references is the effort to make elections in the United States free, fair and accessible, unimpaired by trickery, misinformation, racial and political gerrymandering, voter suppression, dark money, corruption and foreign influence. As the United States becomes more diverse, less white and more tolerant and progressive, Mr. McConnell sees the ability of a minority of Americans to control the agenda diminishing. He is therefore unwilling to address any form of cheating so long as it inures to his benefit and that of his party.
Why do cheaters cheat? Because they are unable to withstand a merits-based challenge and unwilling to forgo the victor’s spoils.
*My brother the very talented fiction writer and novelist, Robert Hodgson Van Wagoner, deserves considerable credit for offering both substantive and technical suggestions to https://medium.com/@richardvanwagoner and https://lastamendment.com
**Richard’s list of honors, awards and professional associations is extensive. He was Professor Emeritus (Painting and Drawing), Weber State University, having served three Appointments as Chair of the Department of Visual Arts there. He guest-lectured and instructed at many universities and juried numerous shows and exhibitions. He was invited to submit his work as part of many shows and exhibitions, and his work was exhibited in a number of traveling shows domestically and internationally. My daughter Angela Moore, a professional photographer, photographed more than 500 pieces of my father’s work. On behalf of the Van Wagoner Family Trust, she is in the process of compiling a collection of his art work. The photographs of my father’s art reproduced in https://medium.com/@richardvanwagoner and https://lastamendment.com are hers