Let’s Impeach the President

Could this be Tom Steyer’s wisest investment?

Political mega-donor Tom Steyer is funding an eight-figure TV ad campaign to “demand that elected officials take a stand” on impeaching President Trump.

“A Republican Congress once impeached a president for far less, and today people in Congress and his own administration know that this president is a clear and present danger,” Steyer says in the ad, which directs viewers to a new NeedToImpeach website.

The TV spot will be supplemented by a seven-figure social media buy.

The campaign, which was previewed last week by the New York Times, is not a project of Steyer’s political organization, NextGen America. It is funded directly by Steyer, a donor who has not ruled out a run for office himself and who has built relationships with think tanks and elected Democrats in California and Washington.

Visitors to Steyer’s new website see a compilation of news articles about Trump’s decisions, and a long open letter from Steyer, with a litany of reasons for politicians to remove Trump from office. Finally, there is an offer to sign up with the campaign.

Back in late-2008 and early-2009, a right-wing Boston talk radio host named Jay Severin declared that then-President-elect Barack Obama should be impeached as soon as he had finished taking the Oath of Office, on the grounds that Obama’s political agenda alone constituted a high crime warranting removal from the White House. As absurd as that argument was with regard to Obama, a far more credible case could have been made along those lines with regard to Trump, no?

Granted, the chances of the Republican-controlled House and Senate moving to impeach Trump are about as strong as the chances of this writer getting married to Jennifer Lawrence, but Steyer presumably wants to make sure that if Democrats retake the House and Senate in 2018, they will have a mandate to bring an expedited end to the cruel circus that began the night Trump seized control of the Executive Branch.

Perhaps the cruelest aspect of this circus is Trump’s malignant neglect of Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria–malignant neglect that demonstrates Trump’s manifest unfitness for the office:

Congress need not await the outcome of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russia in the 2016 election, before determining if President Donald J. Trump should be impeached.

The phrase “high crimes” that appears in the Impeachment Clause of the U.S. Constitution, according to the Constitution Society, “refers to those punishable offenses that only apply to high persons, that is, to public officials, those who, because of their official status, are under special obligations that ordinary persons are not under, and which could not be meaningfully applied or justly punished if committed by ordinary persons.”

It is an impeachment threshold that can be found in President Trump’s reckless and callous disregard of his special obligation to protect the lives and safety of the 3.6 million American citizens who reside in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico — a U.S. territory that the President formally recognized, as early as September 21, as the site of a “major disaster”…

In this instance, Americans are unnecessarily dying because of a President’s failure to fulfill his solemn duty to see that those measures reasonably necessary to prevent their deaths are undertaken. As President, Trump has access to a vast array of information. Indeed, his responsive Tweets reveal that he had acquired the information provided by San Juan’s mayor when she detailed the deficiencies of the federal government’s response and the fact that people were dying because of it. Thus, Trump knew or should have known about the woefully inadequacies of his administration’s response posed a “threat to the lives of others.” Yet, he not only recklessly ignored these dire warnings, but callously dismissed them as the words of “politically motivated ingrates.”

A President’s duty to protect American lives is paramount. It is not an excuse for Trump to be either too lazy or uncaring to seek out accurate information or expert assistance from federal agencies, like the CDC. It is certainly not an excuse to suggest, as his Secretary of State reportedly did, that this President is a “moron”. If Trump is really too stupid to understand the gravity of the situation, he had no business running for, let alone assuming, the Office of President.

Steyer’s logic is sound: back in 2007, the Democratic House and Senate failed to impeach George W. Bush for his iniquity in Iraq, despite a progressive push to do so at the time. Because Bush was not impeached, he was never held accountable for his actions, clearing the path for the modern-day rehabilitation of his image. If the same thing happens with Trump, his abuses will also inevitably be airbrushed once he leaves office.

Yes, one can recognize the risks of a President Mike Pence while also understanding the immediate threat to national and international security Trump poses. Steyer wants to make sure that Democrats are not timid if they recapture the House and Senate. His message is similar to the words long attributed to Edmund Burke: All that is necessary for evil to prosper is for good people to do nothing. If Democrats are triumphant in next year’s midterm elections, we shall see if Steyer can motivate them to do something.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.