Law Seminar in the Hearing Room: Impeachment Day Six

Photograph Source: Coffeeandcrumbs – CC BY-SA 4.0

The week began with a few tweets from ignorant congresspeople and the president decrying the supposed unfairness of the proceedings. Pompeo chimed in with a remark that the timing was “unfortunate.” His reasoning was that Trump had important business to take care of in Britain at the NATO meeting. You know, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which Trump claims to hate. Personally, I think if they changed the name of it to North Atlantic Trump Organization, he would be fine with it. Like a dog pissing on every tree he passes by, Trump wants people to know he’s been there. Preferably, he hopes they will not only acknowledge his greatness but like him, too. Still, it’s about more than Trump’s ego.  Like I wrote before, it’s also about trumpism remaking the United States in his image—white and rude. He has a good start on that aspect, given that many US residents are precisely that. It’s also about giving the US government to the most reactionary factions of the US ruling class.  That’s why the white supremacist Stephen Miller remains in charge of immigration and why each head of the State Department is more belligerent sounding than the previous one. Admittedly, there’s a fine line involved there, but the trend does seem to hold true.

When Trump was installed in the White House, I wrote (along with many others) that he needed to be opposed in every manner and every arena possible. This is why the impeachment process is important. It is an arena that was chosen by the rulers, but it is also an arena that commands some attention from a large part of the populace—which is why it’s important to pay attention and interpret what the hell is going on.  The trumpists are doing their best to frame the process in a way which ignores the facts and attempts to replace them with another tale whose purpose is to distract. The centrist Democrats are trying to keep the focus on the attempt by Trump to exchange foreign aid for access.  In the end, it looks like the many on both sides are trying to avoid Trump’s removal from office via impeachment. Nonetheless, if trumpist fascism can be thrown from the White House, the struggle becomes one that focuses on the insidious nature of authoritarian capitalism represented by those elites who have thrown their lot in with the Democrats.  In other words, rejecting the neoliberal/neocon capitalist state requires defeating the fascists first. If the Democrats are going to help out, that’s good.

On the anniversary of the FBI-Cook County police murders of two sleeping members of the Black Panther Party in Chicago that reminds us what US fascism can look like, the House Judiciary Committee begins its role in impeaching Donald Trump.  The chair Jerry Nadler from Manhattan, one of Congress’s more liberal members, is immediately interrupted by Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin. For those who don’t know, Sensenbrenner is a right winger from Wisconsin who sponsored the PATRIOT Act and has his name on the 2005 immigration bill.  Indeed, he is known for his rabid anti-immigrant positions. Nadler notes that Trump has committed each of the impeachable offenses enumerated in the US constitution—the only one to do so. He quotes Hamilton—a reminder of the beautiful words the US slavers were capable of when speaking of liberty.

Then comes the cracker Collins from Georgia, who rambles on about things that are not merely irrelevant, his words make no freaking sense.  He has obviously gone to the Jim Jordan school of fast-talking-no-brain-rant-repeat-lies so popular with today’s GOP. He insists that the lawyers about to testify and the American people could not possibly have read and understood the reports from the previous committee in two days.  It seems to me that just because he can’t digest it, he assumes nobody else can. The critical mass of stupidity is reached in Congress and on live television. The same old whine about unfairness is repeated in this committee, too. Like I wrote before, the trumpists are like three-year olds: they think anything that doesn’t agree with their desires is unfair to them and therefore, unfair.  I actually have sympathy for those Democrats who have to listen to these morons every day as part of their job.

The law school section begins.  Noah Feldman describes quite clearly and with many quotes from men who actually wrote the constitution and debated the articles of impeachment.  He notes that during the debates, the point was made by a man named William Davie that unless the president could be impeached, he would do whatever it took to get re-elected, including asking other governments to help out.  This is what the trumpists don’t want to hear and will probably either ignore or deny those comments. Feldman enumerates three high crimes and misdemeanors by Trump, stating that they each are the essence of what the writers of the constitution feared when they noted that a president would do whatever they could get away with to get re-elected.

The next professor Pamela Karlan is up.  She makes the day so far by calling out the trumpist Collins from Georgia for his remark that nobody could have read all the testimony and the reports.  She states that not only is she insulted, but that she wouldn’t be there if she hadn’t read and digested everything regarding the impeachment. She reiterates Feldman’s remarks by Davies.  Another line that stands out from Karlan is this one: “based on the evidentiary evidence…. we have something we have never seen before…”

Next up is an attorney named Gephardt.  He not only agrees that Trump committed impeachable offenses, he notes that the gravity is as much in the offense as it is in the context of the offense.  He goes on to emphasize the obstruction of justice offenses, all in the context of Trump’s acting like a king and like Richard Nixon in 1974. He warns that, left unchecked, Trump will continue his abuse of power and even ramp it up.  He ends his statement saying, “If Congress fails to impeach here, then the constitution has lost all meaning……”

Then we have Jonathan Turley, who uses his time to diminish the proceedings because it is not following what he thinks is the proper process and is uncertain if Trump’s acts are impeachable offenses. This is quite different than his fervor for impeaching Bill Clinton.  He talks about the rancor and anger, even from his dog and the brevity of the proceedings. His point may have some value, since the parameters proscribed by the Democratic leadership cannot begin to dig into all of the crimes Donald Trump might have committed. In essence, Turley’s statement ends with an objection to the decorum he thinks is missing, even from his dog.  One thing he fails to specifically mention is that the refusal of the trumpists in the White House and Congress to answer subpoenas are a primary reason for the lack of decorum and the focus of the proceedings.

Naturally, the next thing mentioned is a request for the whistleblower to be subpoenaed, again.  Personally, I think the smart move would be for that to occur. It could reveal more than just the veracity of the charges.  I don’t know whether or not Turley wants this to occur. Given his statement, my inclination is that he doesn’t. However, it could be a positive result if the parameters were widened to include emoluments and other possible violations.  The breadth of Trump’s corruption is assumed even by his defenders—many who hope to benefit from their allegiance.

During the questioning by those in favor of impeachment, Karlan notes the potential effect of Trump’s request that Ukraine investigate Biden on elections.  As anyone knows (and leaving out the electoral college), the nature of the electoral system in the US is corrupt—gerrymandering, computer fraud, voter suppression, Citizen’s United—and the effort by Trump would only corrupt it more.  In this vein, Karlan actually quotes John Winthrop and his shining city on the hill, claiming that the United States has become that city. I have a feeling that she doesn’t mean it in the same way I do. In other words, she thinks it’s a good thing.

Gerhart notes that every presidential impeachment has been the result of a president getting caught.  None have been able to get away with what they hoped to get away with. He continues, emphasizing the obstruction of Congress that is ongoing is more than enough to impeach Trump now.  Feldman concurs, noting that if a president can refuse to cooperate with Congress, then there is nothing anyone can do. This is the core of why impeachment of the president is part of the US constitution.  He continues by noting that not only did Trump obstruct Congress, he has obstructed numerous times and should be impeached for that, as well. Witness tampering, pardon dangling, ordering his aides to ignore subpoenas—it’s all obstruction of justice and it’s very serious obstruction.

Karlan quotes Brett Kavanaugh to point out that Trump asked for foreign interference in the upcoming election.  This is a refreshing bit of irony in what is essentially a seminar on impeachment law.

Next up, the trumpist from Georgia.  Refreshingly, there is a short break before the trumpist cult takes over the microphone.  One of the first things he talks about is his sore ass from sitting on a chair in the room.  Trumpist humor I suppose. Then it’s on to Mr. Turley, who was called by the trumpists. He launches into what amounts to a certain take on constitutional law.  Like a fundamentalist quoting their book, he handpicks some phrases from case law and takes them literally, something he wasn’t as willing to do when it was Bill Clinton being impeached.  Of course, it is useful to remember that if Trump doesn’t meet the bribery charge, there are other charges he can certainly be charged with. In other words, his point is that the committee needs to be certain its charges can be held up down the road.  He mischaracterizes the Nixon impeachment hearings as hearings where everyone agreed that crimes were committed. This was not the case. I know. I watched them. Once again. Turley comments on the brevity of the proceedings. He repeats that the investigation should be deeper and broader.  Then, he goes back to 1974. Nixon was ordered to turn over the subpoenaed materials by the courts. That was when obstruction would have occurred—if he refused to turn it over. The difference here is that Trump ignores the courts, hoping for a friendly judge. I wonder if he considers the Supreme Court to be such a court.  I wonder if we’ll find out. The problem with Turley’s argument about crimes being established before impeachment is that the evidence required to establish those crimes is being intentionally withheld. If Trump stalls long enough, he walks.

After Turley makes a few intelligent points, Mr. Collins tries to put words in his mouth.  Turley refuses to allow that, restating his points in his words, not Collins. Then, in a substantial dumbing down of the hearing, their counsel takes over.  In essence, he turns the hearing into a partisan defense of Trump and the trumpists. He pretends that the Democrats are the only politicians involved in partisanship.  Turley responds, maintaining his careful wording, essentially telling the Democrats they need to extend the hearings if they want to make these charges stick. I don’t think I am alone when I am suspicious of Pelosi, et al.’s determination to speed up this process.

It’s not like the trumpists want the impeachment process to go on until the charges are widened and the crimes established.  No, they want the shortened process because they know that Trump will never have to provide the documents requested and will get away with his crimes and abuses of power.  As if to verify my point, the trumpist counsel starts talking about Hunter Biden. Then he ignores the fact that there are volumes of evidence not revealed or perhaps even provided as a reason to toss out the proceedings.  Turley responds by stating that there needs to be more time. Underlying his statements like this seems to be a belief that there may very well be impeachable offenses that would garner a conviction if more time is taken (and if the Supreme Court ruled that Trump needs to turn over subpoenaed documents and allow subpoenaed witnesses to testify.)

The other attorneys’ response to the testimony provided by Turley include this crucial fact.  The US Constitution is the supreme law of the land. If Trump violated the constitution, that is the law he is charged under.  This covers obstruction by refusing subpoenas from Congress, demanding favors from foreign officials for personal gain, and so on.  Back to Collins, who just tossed the writers of the Constitution under the bus. He continues his shouting and talks about pandering for the camera, as if he was doing something other than that.  Turley somehow gets a fire lit under his ass and calls the argument about the constitution as law to be circular. In other words, he backs away slightly from his previous argument. Obama’s name comes up deservedly so for his stretching of executive privilege.  Then Collins speaks and makes no sense again.

Ms. Lofgren from San Jose, CA. talks about the Nixon impeachment hearings, quoting a staff report from the time.  She responds to Turley’s suggestion that the congress should wait for the courts before it impeaches by essentially asking if that would not be ignoring congressional duty to go ahead and do its job.  By implication, she seems to be stating quite clearly that Congress is equal to the executive and judicial branches and if those branches are failing to do their duty, intentionally or otherwise, then it is up to Congress to make certain it does theirs.  Speaking of which, the committee goes into recess to go vote on some legislation.

At this point, it seems that the trumpists slightly misread their choice of witness, Mr. Turley.  No fan of Trump but most likely a patrician of a Republican, his primary objection to the process as it is currently being run, is that it too short and will therefore by necessity miss certain elements that would strengthen their case.  Despite the best efforts of the trumpists (which are, well you know if you’ve ever watched FoxNews), he refuses to call the charges baseless—just that he doesn’t see enough evidence yet.

Author Ishmael Reed pointed out in a Facebook post that when Turley referred to the impeachment of Andrew Johnson, he was defending a slaver who gave clemency to many members of the confederacy.  Johnson was also the president who went after the attempts to remove the vestiges of slavery through what was known as Reconstruction. This fact, when combined with the Ivy League and other establishment pedigrees of the lawyers testifying today, once again make it clear that these hearings are part of a power struggle between factions of the capitalist class.  If you have any doubts about the people involved, listen to who their friends are.

Turley tells the audience how he is buddies with current Attorney General and trumpist crook William Barr.  I can see them at the club polishing off a few drinks and laughing about the migrants in the camps—agreeing that just like Hitler’s camps, they are legal.

I end my viewing thinking of the line from Cool Hand Luke: What we have here is a failure to communicate.

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. He has a new book, titled Nowhere Land: Journeys Through a Broken Nation coming out in Spring 2024.   He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: