Update (1015ET): For the first time since the Capitol riots, President Trump spoke briefly to a small pool of reporters at The White House as he left for Texas today slamming the Democrats ongoing impeachment efforts, calling the resolution “a terrible thing that they’re doing.”
“We want no violence.”
Impeachment is a “continuation of the greatest witch hunt in the history of politics”.
“I think it’s causing tremendous anger.”
How long before those words are construed as ‘inciting’ more violence?
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In seeking his removal for “incitement,” legal scholar and Constitutional expert Jonathan Turley warned earlier that Democrats would gut not only the impeachment standard but free speech, all in a mad rush to remove President Trump just days before the end of his term.
Turley noted specifically that “Congress is about to seek the impeachment of a president for a speech that is protected under the First Amendment. It would create precedent for the impeachment of any president who can be blamed for the violent acts of others after the use of reckless or inflammatory language.”
Nevertheless, on the heels of Vice President Pence’s confirmation this evening that he “pledges to work with Trump through the end of his term” thus confirming earlier reports that he would not acquiesce to Speaker Pelosi’s demands that he invoke the 25th Amendment; it appears House Democrats are raring to go on an impeachment vote on Wednesday.
As Turley noted further on Fox News this evening, while remarking on the Democrats’ apparent rush to get this done:
“They are suggesting impeaching a president over a speech that many of us called reckless. But it’s a type of vicarious impeachment in the sense that he doesn’t call for violence in his speech. He in fact tells his followers to be peaceful, he says the reason they should go to the Capitol is to support members who are challenging the election. And to encourage other members to join them.
So the speech itself would not meet any definition, as a criminal matter, of incitement.”
Which brings us to an interesting potential pivot by House GOP members that was elaborated by Republican New York State Congressman Tom Reed, who wrote in a New York Times op-ed:
“If we make the wrong decision in holding the president accountable, it could damage our democracy,” somewhat echoing Turley’s warnings.
But Reed, while condemning the president’s speech, has an option that while unpleasant, is not as draconian as the Democrats blood-baying needs.
Reed begins by noting that this in no way reduces the wrongdoing:
“All responsible parties, including President Trump, must face justice.”
And, again echoing Turley’s Constitution-based warnings, Reed states that:
“while the president’s words were unwise, intemperate and wrong, they may not qualify as incitement. And an impeachment on the grounds that they do will inevitably erode the norms around what may be considered constitutionally protected speech.”
Reed goes on to note that a full impeachment hearing would delay much-neede efforts to tackle the nation’s COVID-19 crisis and furthermore would stymie any efforts at unity in a nation that is tearing itself apart.
“We cannot give credibility to the belief that Washington chooses to hold people accountable only for mere political advantage, especially to the detriment of the Constitution.”
And so Reed offers an alternative.
“I implore our congressional leaders and Mr. Biden to take a moment to consider what is at stake. Work with us on constitutionally viable alternatives to ensure that no individual is above the law.
Such options include censure…
...I intend to join with my House colleagues in the introduction of a censure resolution Tuesday to ensure accountability occurs without delay for the events of Jan. 6. We must also look at alternatives that could allow Congress to bar Mr. Trump from holding federal office in the future.”
In the case of censure, this would be the first for a President since the Senate censured Andrew Jackson in 1834, and the offer of barring him from office likely meets the real desires of Democrats to ouster Trump from a run in 2024.
Call it a “quid pro quo”.
“We cannot and should not support a rushed, divisive action simply because the emotions of the moment demand it. That is not the American way.”
“The American Way” eh? Due process… innocent until proven guilty? We can only imagine “the squad’s” response to this ‘offer’ from the GOP.
The question is – will Pelosi fold to it? This is her last term after all and she must know, as Turley warned, this rushed impeachment would tarnish her legacy just as much as she hopes to tarnish Trump’s.