Why Senate is entirely right to vote down House’s impeachment charges

The curtain is lowering on President Trump’s trial in the Senate. A vote is scheduled for Wednesday. Inevitably, it will be an easy acquittal. So, what have we learned? That the Framers were wise to fret over the specter of impeachment as a partisan weapon.

The House impeachment inquiry was shoddy. The president’s counsel was denied the right to cross-examine witnesses and present evidence. That’s why a handful of Senate Democrats may vote to acquit, joining Republicans.

The lesson’s clear: It is profoundly wrong to proceed with impeachment in the absence of egregious wrongdoing that galvanizes a public consensus that the president should be removed — wrongdoing so serious that it can move the required two-thirds of senators, regardless of partisan ties, to vote for conviction. Pursuing impeachment for lesser wrongs is paralyzing for our governance and divisive for our citizenry.

House Democrats never had anything close to that high standard. Instead, bullied by a hard-left base that has wanted the president impeached since the night he defeated Hillary Clinton, they viewed the convoluted Ukraine episode as a peg on which to hang their predisposition that Trump is unfit for office.

In this, they are aided and abetted still by the mainstream press, which has taken to mocking Senate Republicans for concluding, essentially: “Trump did it, but we’re going to let him get away with it.” That’s a gross distortion of what has happened.

The “it” in question is not an impeachable offense. There is no inconsistency in concluding that (a) House managers proved the president pressured Ukraine to investigate the Bidens, under circumstances where former Vice President Joe Biden is Trump’s potential 2020 opponent, but (b) Trump shouldn’t be removed over it.

Merely saying the president “abused his power” is not enough. All presidents abuse their power from time to time. Recognizing that, the Framers made impeachment-and-removal difficult — available only for truly serious wrongdoing that threatens our security or system of governance. Hence, the two-thirds’ Senate supermajority requirement for conviction.

Here, the president’s misconduct was woefully short of a high crime and misdemeanor that could command a consensus for removal.

Let’s stipulate that a president should never pressure another country to investigate any American citizen, let alone a political rival, for violations of that country’s law. Presidents should protect Americans from overbearing foreign powers; our government should only ask foreign powers for help if the Justice Department is investigating an American for violations of American law.

That said, the president’s offense was minor, albeit worthy of our disapproval. Hunter Biden’s cashing in on his father’s political influence and Joe Biden’s extortion of Ukraine to fire a prosecutor who was investigating the younger Biden’s corrupt company is objectively suspicious. American law encourages the president to encourage anti-corruption efforts in countries, such as Ukraine, on which US aid is lavished.

More significantly, nothing of consequence happened. The Ukrainians got their defense aid. The Democrats’ claim that Ukrainian and US security were compromised is laughable. Kiev was required neither to conduct nor announce any investigations. Volodymyr Zelensky says he never felt coerced by Trump.

Plus, in just nine months, voters can decide Trump’s fate for themselves. There is no need for hyper-partisans in the political class to preempt our election.

That is why impeachment was not warranted. Ukraine would be an excellent campaign issue for Democrats to use to question the president’s judgment. It was a specious issue on which to launch an impeachment probe.

It’s also why there was no bipartisan buy-in for Trump’s impeachment, in contrast to Bill Clinton’s and (especially) Richard Nixon’s. Speaker Nancy Pelosi was right months back when she opined that impeachment should never be commenced in the absence of bipartisan consensus about serious misconduct. Yet, Democrats launched it anyway.

To pull that off, they necessarily had to cut corners. In America, when a person is properly accused of serious wrongdoing, we insist on due-process protections so that any resulting conviction has integrity. But accusers cannot afford due process when they knowingly bring an unworthy case. The Senate is right to reject the House’s unworthy case.

Andrew C. McCarthy, a former chief assistant US attorney, is a contributing editor of National Review. Twitter: @AndrewCMcCarthy

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