A. The story continues - At the end of last week’s entry, President Trump was on the cusp of being impeached – and the process didn’t take long to play out. Supporting materials for impeachment were put together for House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler and ordered to be printed on Jan. 12. Materials in support of House Resolution 24, 1/12/21.
A single article of impeachment, charging the president with “inciting violence against the Government of the United States,” was debated and adopted on Jan. 13. House Resolution 24, 1/13/21. The heart of the charge was the president’s remarks at a “Save America” rally on Jan. 6, which was followed by a march of his supporters to Capitol Hill and the violence that ensued until the National Guard arrived to restore order. This was put in a broader context by accusing the president of (1) making repeated “false claims” that he had actually won the election, the system had been rigged, state authorities had refused to do the right thing, etc., and (2) failing to reprimand insurrectionists after violence erupted or acknowledge personal responsibility for what had taken place. Following past practice, impeachment would have been preceded by an investigation involving the taking of testimony & review of documents, with an opportunity for the president or his attorneys to participate. Several weeks was taken for the impeachment inquiry that preceded adoption of the far less impressive Articles of Impeachment in December 2019. Such preliminaries were dispensed with this time on grounds that rules for an impeachment are determined by the House and there was an urgent need to act quickly. Materials in support, op. cit., p. 21. [The president’s] conduct demonstrates and cautions that, if left in office—or if allowed to hold office in the future—he will be a clear and present danger to the very foundation of our constitutional order and the safety and security of our nation. Under these unprecedented and extraordinary circumstances, the House neither needs nor can it afford to resort to a lengthy impeachment proceeding. To the contrary, it is entirely within the power of the House under the Constitution to act quickly. The vote was 232-197, with 10 Republicans (including Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming) voting in favor and no Democrats voting against.
As should have been apparent, however, there was no time to remove the president from office by impeachment before his term expired on Jan. 20. The Senate wasn’t scheduled to reconvene until Jan. 19, and Sen. Mitch McConnell (still majority leader at this point) had served notice that he didn’t plan to bring the members back early.
It was also unclear whether the president could be tried for the impeachment charge after leaving office. The purpose for this constitutional remedy, after all, is to remove officials from office versus punishing former officials. GOP senators [e.g., Tom Cotton & Lindsey Graham] eye constitutional loophole over convicting Trump, Emily Brooks, Washington Examiner, 1/14/21.
Under these circumstances, the soundest course might have been to adopt a House resolution of censure (which would have garnered solid bipartisan support) and leave the question of whether the president should face legal penalties for future determination.
The real reason for going the impeachment route, we would suspect, was not to punish the president – nor the militants who stormed the Capitol, whoever they may turn out to be, as they are already being rounded up and will be severely dealt with – but rather to embarrass and humble all conservatives. What right did these people have to vote for Donald Trump, attend his rallies, or give credence to claims of electoral irregularities?
Is our suspicion unreasonable? The speed with which the “cancel culture” swung into action suggests otherwise, and here are some illustrative examples.
•Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), the first US senator to announce that he planned to vote against certification of the Electoral College voting, is writing a book about Big Tech (Twitter, Facebook, et al.) censorship. His publisher dropped the project like a “hot potato.” Simon Schuster cancels Hawley’s book, citing Capitol riots, Matthew Choi (Politico), yahoo.com, 1/7/21.
“As a publisher it will always be our mission to amplify a variety of voices and viewpoints: at the same time we take seriously our larger public responsibility as citizens, and cannot support Senator Hawley after his role in what became a dangerous threat to our democracy and freedom,” the publishing house said in a statement on Thursday.
•Harvard University urged Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), one of over 100 House members who voted against certification of the Electoral College voting, to step down from an advisory board on which she was serving. When she refused, they removed her. Harvard kicks out Republican lawmaker for attack on election, Graeme Massie, yahoo.com, 1/12/21.
"Elise has made public assertions about voter fraud in November’s presidential election that have no basis in evidence, and she has made public statements about court actions related to the election that are incorrect," said Harvard Kennedy School Dean Douglas Elmendorf. •Twitter, Facebook, et al. cancelled the president’s accounts; the alternative Parler platform was shut down as a result of actions by Apple Computer, Amazon and others. The progressive purge begins, WSJ, 1/10/21.
Can right-wing populist sentiment be banished from American life by the brute force of social-media censorship? We’re about to find out. After Wednesday’s mob invasion of the Capitol that disrupted the counting of electoral votes, big tech firms have moved, aggressively and in unison, against Donald Trump and his supporters. The companies say they want to marginalize the violent fringe, but their censorship will grow it instead.
There is obvious tension between the “unity” message Joe Biden has promised when he assumes the presidency and making an impeachment trial for the former president a high priority in the early days of the new administration. Is that really the way to bring Americans together, or will it further poison an already toxic atmosphere? Biden’s unity talk haunting him amid Trump impeachment, Naomi Lim, Washington Examiner, 1/15/21.
One should hardly expect Biden to speak out publicly against impeachment now, as he should have done earlier, but he could call Speaker Pelosi and suggest that she put the House Article of Impeachment on the shelf instead of sending it to the Senate for a trial that would presumably have to start by conducting the factual investigation that the House dispensed with.
Alternatively, maybe the attorneys representing Trump (whoever they turn out to be) will be able to derail the impeachment charge by claiming that it’s constitutionally inappropriate.
Either way, it would seemingly suit the legitimate interests of all concerned for the impeachment charge to be quietly resolved.
•Republicans would be relieved of a choice between disavowing their former leader or being accused of a lack of patriotism.
•Democrats would be able to focus on plans for the new administration without worrying about a controversial impeachment trial that might wind up making the former president a martyr.
•The general public would benefit in that badly needed electoral reforms wouldn’t be blocked by insistent claims, supposedly proven by the president’s election defeat and ensuing difficulties, that the 2020 elections went just fine. See, e.g., “Former Del. AG: Trump not to blame for siege,” Meredith Newman et al., News Journal, 1/16/21.
[Jane] Brady reportedly doesn’t regret providing information about the rally because people went to support the president. She also “still maintains that ‘irregularities’ occurred as a result of mail-in voting.” [But] “contrary to Trump’s false claims there is no evidence of widespread election fraud.” Realistically, however, Democrats aren’t anxious to restrict the availability of early voting or strengthen the procedural requirements so as to ensure that only legally cast votes are counted. To the contrary, the House in the new Congress has already introduced a bill (HR-1) that would expand and federalize changes that were made in numerous states before the 2020 elections. Pelosi’s top priority: consolidating power, WSJ, 1/14/21.
H.R.1 imposes California-style election rules nationwide. The bill requires every state to register voters based on names in state and federal databases—such as anyone receiving food stamps or who interacts with a state DMV. It mandates same-day and online voter registration, expands mail and early voting, and limits states’ ability to remove voters from rolls. Overall the bill is designed to auto-enroll likely Democratic voters, enhance Democratic turnout, with no concern for ballot integrity.
If electoral reform is to gain any traction, conservatives must make the case for it. Despite progressive demands to let bygones be bygones in the name of national unity, conservatives should not apologize for election concerns, Sarah Lee, townhall.com, 1/15/21.
So, no, progressives, conservatives have no responsibility to help heal the nation by ignoring what happened in at least two states and apologizing for having concerns about it. In fact, their responsibility – and it should be the responsibility of progressives, as well – is to find out if these election “irregularities” happened in other states and clean up the system so it doesn’t happen again.
B. Outreach – During the week, SAFE made two efforts to support the cause of electoral reform.
FIRST, we sent Dean John Manning of Harvard Law School a response to his Jan. 7 letter to the HLS community and alumni re the “assault on Democracy.” However the US courts may have ruled in a host of legal cases filed under tight time constraints in the face of massive media opposition, we argued, there was substantial evidence of electoral irregularities and fraud in 2020 and the problems must be fixed. SAFE letter, 1/13/21.
So what should be done about the numerous claims of electoral irregularities, which the mainstream media/ social media had done their level best to ignore or discredit and the courts had studiously ignored? My conclusion was that an electoral reform commission (along the lines of the Carter/Baker Commission that reported its findings in 2005) should be created to thoroughly review the claims that had been made and offer proposals for handling future elections more impartially and effectively. Time to accept 2020 outcome, but election rules must be fixed, s-a-f-e.org, blog page, 12/14/20.
Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina is working on just such a proposal. Tim Scott, not Ted Cruz, has the right election commission idea, Washington Examiner, 1/9/21. Would Harvard Law School support his idea?
SECOND, we commended Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) for his proposal to create an election commission noting that SAFE had suggested a similar approach. SAFE letter, 1/13/21.
We recently read of your election commission proposal [in the Washington Examiner, op cit.]. *** It’s great that you are working on this project, which seems closely aligned with our own thinking. Time to accept 2020 outcome, but election rules must be fixed, s-a-f-e.org, blog page, 12/14/20. *** Keep up the good work!
Responses will be posted if received and we will be on the lookout for additional opportunities to publicize this important project. Other conservatives will hopefully be doing the same.