Our nation is enmeshed in impeachment “fever.” There was an investigation by the Democrats in the House of Representatives to ascertain whether there is enough evidence against President Donald Trump to bring impeachment charges. Multiple officials from several government agencies were brought in to testify as to what was said in a fateful telephone call. The talking heads from our media networks worked overtime describing what was said, what they meant and what they anticipate will happen as a result. Now what?
This is the third time in our nation’s history where such has occurred. The first was in the 1860s and the president was Andrew Johnson. A trial was held in the Senate and he was acquitted by one vote. Charges were also brought against Bill Clinton in the 1990s. The charges against Clinton did not gain enough votes to remove him from office. Richard Nixon, enmeshed in the Watergate scandal, resigned before the impeachment process got that far.
Considering the times and the turmoil in the country in the 1860s there may have been nothing Andrew Johnson could have done to avoid having charges of impeachment brought against him. In contrast, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton both were caught in cover-up situations and lying to Congress and the county. Both could have just said “Yes” when the fateful questions were asked instead of “No” and it is likely with some remediation the situations would never have reached the point of impeachment charges being filed.
Obviously, President Trump made the telephone call that is in question. Whether he asked for a quid pro quo from the President of the Ukraine with $400 million in military aid hanging in the balance may still be open to question. He then made the transcript of the telephone call public to illustrate he had done nothing wrong. What is in question here is whether or not it was a quid pro quo request? If so, does it rise to the standard of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” as required by our constitution?
Obviously, President Trump did not know what he was doing might be a violation of law. If he had he would never have had the conversation in front of witnesses and he certainly would never have released the transcript of the call.
How is it possible that President Trump did not know what he was doing might be a violation of U.S. law? Our president’s background is as a businessman not a lawyer. He isn’t an historian either. Had he told his advisors what was on his mind they would have advised him against it. He didn’t. He has a history of heading off on his own tangent and leaving his staff hustling to keep up. He believes strongly, as he has said several times, that he is a, “genius.” He mostly keeps his own counsel. The past three years of his presidency tell us that he believes he knows better than others. That state of mind is what has him in trouble with Congress. It is what has had him in trouble since the day he took office.
How could President Trump have avoided the current situation? First, and most obvious, he could have told his advisors what he intended to do. They would have advised him against it. Once it was done, he could have confessed his mistake and apologized. Had he done either this furor would already be over.
But, if we have learned nothing else about our president, an apology is not in his make-up. He said of the telephone call, “It was a ‘perfect’ call.” He has doubled down on that statement several times since.
Impeachment is among the most divisive situations our government can get into. Considering who our president is and the strong divisions between Democrats and Republicans, the worst is yet to come. The tagline in a number of old Laurel and Hardy comedy routines fits here. “It’s a fine mess you’ve gotten us into now, Ollie.”
You can reach Dr. Mark L. Hopkins at email@example.com. Books by Hopkins, “Journey to Gettysburg, The Wounds of War, The World as it was When Jesus Came,” and “Facts & Opinions on the Issues of our Time,” can be acquired at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and through the email above.