It is impossible to know what the framers of our constitution had in mind when they wrote the process for impeachment. But we have a historical record showing that the three times it has been used in the past, congressional committees issued subpoenas, called witnesses, and took depositions to collect evidence that a president committed an impeachable offense. That is the same process that is beginning to unfold in the House right now.
But then the president of the United States did this on Thursday.
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) October 3, 2019
Following the president’s remarks, the chair of the Federal Election Commission, Ellen Weintraub, retweeted her statement from last June saying that, “It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election.” Trump just solicited assistance from both China and Ukraine in digging up dirt on his potential 2020 opponent. Here are some of the more notable responses on Twitter.
If a whistleblower had come forward to say Trump had privately told Xi he should launch an investigation into the Bidens, it’d be a huge story. That’s what Trump just did publicly.
— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) October 3, 2019
This is basically Nixon going to the South Lawn of the White House to announce he directed the Watergate break in. https://t.co/Z5M0uS3flb
— Dan Pfeiffer (@danpfeiffer) October 3, 2019
Someone should inform the president that impeachable offenses committed on national television still count. https://t.co/ABObD2Ie4S
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) October 3, 2019
Trump at 10:37:24 a.m., talking about trade negotiations: “I have a lot of options on China, but if they don’t do what we want, we have tremendous power.”
Trump at 10:37:54 a.m., asked about Ukraine probe: “Likewise, China should start an investigation into the Bidens.”
— Ryan Struyk (@ryanstruyk) October 3, 2019
I’ve lived in China & covered it for decades. It is an authoritarian country with no credible rule of law which imprisons & kills political opponents. For a US president to call on such a country to investigate an American is incredible. Will Republicans who know this object?
— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) October 3, 2019
US editor of the Financial Times: https://t.co/g5GkKF5UMB
— Steve Inskeep (@NPRinskeep) October 4, 2019
Even Chuck Todd abandoned his bothsiderims and acknowledged that “a national nightmare is upon us.”
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) October 3, 2019
In their wildest fantasies, our founders probably never envisioned a president of the United States committing an impeachable offense on the White House lawn in response to a question from reporters.
So what happens now? It is feasible that the House could play the above video, reference the law, and hold an impeachment vote. I doubt that is the way this will play out. And yet, to continue with an investigation suggests that more evidence is needed, which is not the case.
Our system is not prepared to deal with a president who commits “high crimes and misdemeanors” via public statements. But this isn’t the first time that has happened.
- While he was still a candidate, Trump said, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” in reference to Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails.
- He told Lester Holt that he considered “the Russian thing” before firing FBI Director Comey.
- He accused Representative Adam Schiff of treason.
Those are just a few examples. Of course, this is also the man who was elected president after the release of an audio tape in which he bragged about grabbing women by the p*ssy—a clear admission of sexual assault.
It is important to keep in mind that we are in uncharted territory these days. I suspect that the House will continue the impeachment investigation the way these processes have played out previously, by gathering evidence to prove that he has committed “high crimes and misdemeanors.” But let’s be clear: Donald Trump just put all of the evidence we need out there for everyone to see. Video cameras caught it on tape. What he said is an impeachable offense.