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Impeachment Is Designed for Presidents Like Trump

Should the House vote to impeach Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans will be left with two choices, neither of which is likely to boost Trump’s reelection chances.

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence exit following Trump's Aug. 5 speech in the White House about the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. (Photo: Evan Vucci / AP)

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence exit following Trump's Aug. 5 speech in the White House about the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. (Photo: Evan Vucci / AP)

It’s easy to understand why a majority of House Democrats have finally gone on record to call for an impeachment inquiry of President Donald J. Trump. Not only has he committed the requisite “high crimes and misdemeanors” to trigger such an inquiry, but an argument can be made that he’s the most corrupt and treacherous commander in chief in modern American history. The stage is set for Congress to act, regardless of how the Senate responds.

Bearing in mind impeachable offenses do not have to be crimes in the formal sense and they may include behavior prior to the target assuming office, Trump’s offenses include but are by no means limited to:

  • Committing campaign finance violations by paying hush money to two women with whom he allegedly had extramarital affairs, Karen McDougal and porn star Stormy Daniels;
  • Obstructing justice in connection with the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller;
  • Defying congressional subpoenas;
  • Using the presidency for personal economic gain;
  • Abusing the pardon power to reward political allies;
  • Attacking the press and the judiciary;
  • Threatening to prosecute political opponents;
  • Abusing emergency powers to build his border wall;
  • Incarcerating undocumented immigrant children in concentration camps;
  • Attempting to strip millions of Americans of health insurance;
  • Promoting tax reform to benefit the super-rich;
  • Gutting environmental regulations and pulling out of the Paris climate accord;
  • Refusing to enforce the Voting Rights Act; and
  • Curbing the use of federal consent decrees to counter police misconduct.

The bill of particulars that can be drafted against Trump is practically limitless. But beyond the specifics, there is a more fundamental reason to insist on impeachment: Trump is a racist and a fascist.

Anyone who doubts that Trump is a racist either is extraordinarily gullible, isn’t paying attention, doesn’t care, or worse, is a racist himself or herself.

Trump has been a practicing white supremacist his entire adult life. In the early 1970s, he and his father were successfully sued by the Justice Department for refusing to rent apartments to non-whites. In 1989, Trump took out full-page ads in major New York City newspapers urging the death penalty for five black and Latino teenagers, the “Central Park Five,” falsely accused of raping a white woman. To this day, he refuses to acknowledge the five teens were innocent, as confirmed by DNA testing.

During the previous administration, Trump was a prime architect of the “birther” conspiracy, alleging that President Obama was born in Kenya. In December 2015, he called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” As president, he implemented a more targeted version of the travel ban, initially directed against seven Muslim-majority nations and later revised following several adverse federal rulings. The modified ban was subsequently upheld in a shameless abdication of judicial independence by the Republican-dominated Supreme Court.

Last month, Trump tweeted that four minority Democratic congresswomen—the so-called Squad” consisting of Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts—should “go back” to the “totally broken and crime-infested” countries they came from. All four are U.S. citizens; only Omar was born abroad.

In response to Trump’s tweet, Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., a celebrated veteran of the civil rights movement, said, “I know racism when I see it, I know racism when I feel it, and at the highest level of government, there’s no room for racism.”

To its credit, the House has since passed a resolution condemning Trump’s posts as racist. But the resolution is non-binding, and it is by no means sufficient.

Intercept reporter Shaun King argued in a recent column that racism should be considered an impeachable offense. Both the history of impeachment and the gravity of racism as an affront to the nation support King’s assertions.

As political science professor Peter Irons, the author of “A People’s History of the Supreme Court,” observed in an NBC.com column last week, President Andrew Johnson was impeached at the mid-point of his first and only term precisely because of his racism—specifically his opposition to post-Civil War Reconstruction programs.

Like Trump today, Johnson’s rhetoric and policies brought the “high office of the president of the United States into contempt, ridicule and disgrace.” And while Johnson avoided conviction and removal from office by a single vote in the Senate, Irons noted that impeachment left Johnson “crippled and ineffective in his two remaining years in office.”

Fascism, too, should be considered impeachable. And lest there be any confusion, Trump is not simply a product or “symptom” of late capitalism in decline, as even some on the left have argued. Trump represents a political disease that is spreading like an antibiotic-resistant superbug across the globe.

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By any standard definition, Trump is a fascist. Trumpism, along with its international analogs, aspires to impose “the open, terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic and most imperialistic elements of finance capital,” long decried by Marxist thinkers.

Trumpism also fits the definition of fascism offered by Robert Paxton in his classic study, “The Anatomy of Fascism”:

Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.

Still unconvinced? Consider, as I’ve written before in this column, Umberto Eco’s list of the 14 common factors of fascism:

  • A cult of traditionalism.
  • The rejection of modernism.
  • A cult of action for its own sake and a distrust of intellectualism.
  • The view that disagreement or opposition is treasonous.
  • A fear of difference. Fascism is racist by definition.
  • An appeal to a frustrated middle class that is suffering from an economic crisis and feelings of humiliation and fear of the pressure exerted by lower social groups.
  • An obsession with the plots and machinations of the movement’s identified enemies.
  • A requirement that the movement’s enemies be simultaneously seen as omnipotent and weak, conniving and cowardly.
  • A rejection of pacifism.
  • Contempt for weakness.
  • A cult of heroism.
  • Hypermasculinity and homophobia.
  • A selective populism, relying on chauvinist definitions of “the people” that the movement claims to represent.
  • Heavy usage of “newspeak” and an impoverished discourse of elementary syntax and resistance to complex and critical reasoning.

Many if not all of these points will sound familiar and with good reason: Our president is a fascist, and fascists do not belong in the White House.

The reticence of some Democrats to initiate impeachment proceedings is understandable. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the moderates and center-right politicians who still control the party are correct when they argue the Senate will never convict and remove Trump. They are worried that a failed impeachment could bolster Trump’s popularity, just as impeachment improved Bill Clinton’s public standing. Still, these concerns are likely overblown, and it would appear Pelosi and her fellow centrists have drawn the wrong lessons from the Clinton saga.

While it’s true Clinton’s approval ratings increased in the aftermath of his impeachment, the effect actually was short-lived. Clinton finished his second term, but he left the Oval Office in disgrace. Republicans used the trial against Al Gore in the 2000 election, putting Clinton’s vice president on the defensive and forcing him to distance himself from his predecessor. Even accounting for the contested Florida vote tally, Gore lost to an incompetent opponent he should have trounced.

But impeachment should not be evaluated along electoral lines alone. It should be viewed at as an end in itself—the process by which the Constitution allows federal officials to hold those who have violated the public trust accountable.

Should the House vote to impeach Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans will be left with two choices, neither of which is likely to boost Trump’s reelection chances. On the one hand, they could vote to dismiss the articles of impeachment lodged against Trump, which Senate rules may permit them to do. On the other, they could allow the president to be put on trial, permitting all the world to hear the evidence against him.

Either prospect scares McConnell and his minions stiff. Dismissing the case against Trump amounts to a massive cover-up while a vote of acquittal would make the Republican officials enablers of the racism and fascism that pervade the president’s administration.

The time for worrying is over. It’s time to act.

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Bill Blum

Bill Blum

Bill Blum is a former administrative law judge and death penalty defense attorney. He is the author of three legal thrillers published by Penguin/Putnam and a contributing writer for California Lawyer Magazine. His non-fiction work has appeared in a wide variety of publications, ranging from The Nation and The Progressive to the Los Angeles Times, the L.A. Weekly and Los Angeles Magazine.

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