Not up to Congress to decide Trump’s fate? What utter nonsense

Removing the president is not the job Congress? This guy would beg to differ.

Removing a president is not properly the job of Congress? This guy would beg to differ.

I’ve been meaning to comment on a Frank Bruni column from last week, headlined “Of All Trump’s Defenses, This Is the Lamest,” with the subhed, “Only the voters can send the president packing? That’s a joke.”

Actually, that subhed is probably the best part, but the rest is pretty good, too. An excerpt:

Once the Senate concludes its trial of President Trump, it should go into recess. Until next January. The House, too. Lawmakers shouldn’t pass legislation, consider nominations or make any important decisions whatsoever: This is an election year, and the voters will soon weigh in on the direction of America. The nation’s business should await that judgment, lest members of Congress contradict it.

A ludicrous proposal? Indeed. But it’s in line with — and an extrapolation of — a favorite argument against Trump’s conviction and removal from office. His Republican supporters say that lawmakers shouldn’t speak for voters on such a crucial issue. To pre-empt the verdict at the ballot box, they say, is to subvert the people’s will.

Nice try. Lawmakers are elected specifically to speak for voters on crucial issues. That’s the system. That’s their job….

Absolutely, it’s their job. And it’s no one else’s, including the vaunted electorate’s.

From the start, Republicans have complained that the impeachment process is somehow illegitimate — either because it seeks to undo the 2016 election, or pre-empt the one this year, or both.

But we have this Constitution, you see, and it was written by some very, very smart people (smarter than the average modern voter, dare I say), who wanted the voters to have input into who ran things, but not necessarily the final say. So they created a finely balanced tension between governmental elements that were each chosen by differently formed constituencies that should check each other:

  • The House would be elected the way far too many people today think the rest of the government should be elected — directly by the people, and extremely often. House members would represent equal-sized chunks of the population.
  • The Senate would represent states, and would be chosen by those states’ legislatures. It was an excellent idea, although we threw away half of it with the 17th Amendment. The only part we kept was that they still represent the people of entire states. And… they’re elected for six years to shield them from political passions of the moment.
  • The president would be chosen by the Electoral College, but we’ve pretty much altered that beyond recognition. But we kept enough of its anti-democratic essence to allow Donald Trump to be elected despite Hillary Clinton having the majority of votes. So yay, elitism, right, my Republican friends?
  • The president and the Senate would choose justices together.

But to hear certain people talk, everything should be decided by the people, acting directly through their smartphones.


I’ve gotten to where I can’t bear to listen to the Republicans when they speak during the impeachment proceedings, because despite all the pernicious nonsense I’ve been subjected to in covering politics over the last few decades, I’ve never had my intelligence insulted to this degree.

I forced myself to listen to one idiot the other day who was ranting about how the Democrats wanted to tear up every ballot cast in the country in 2016. Really. He said that, despite the fact that MOST ballots were for Hillary Clinton. Presumably, those nasty Dems wouldn’t want to tear those up, if they’re as single-minded in pursuing partisan advantage as he seemed to assume.

Anyway, the Senate needs to go on and conduct a trial and do its job — even if that means acquitting Trump, as it almost certainly will.

And in the meantime, hand me no lies about how this is NOT the job of Congress. It is, precisely. And it’s no one else’s.

There’s plenty of time to hear from the voters between now and November.

12 thoughts on “Not up to Congress to decide Trump’s fate? What utter nonsense

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    And… just to add a corollary… as much as I may fervently want Trump and Trumpism to be gone for good, I accept that it’s the Senate’s decision, and not mine.

    Even though I know that decision will be corrupted and lacking in merit.

    In that case, I will do my job when my senators come up for re-election. Oh, and look! That’s about to happen…

  2. Bryan Caskey

    Ok. So if that’s the worst defense, what’s the best? Try working on the most difficult defense.

    There’s no glory in taking a smaller craft that you know has no chance to win. Try knocking down the best defense, and then you’ve accomplished something. Never mind the maneuvers – just go straight at ’em. 🙂

    1. Barry

      The best is like the one offered by Michael Smerconish on his Sirius radio show. (He’s also a lawyer)

      Trump’s attorneys:

      Yes he did it. He was concerned about corruption and isn’t sending taxpayer money to help out a corrupt country. Tough. Now do something about it…..

      Of course that’s baloney (He doesn’t care about corruption) but would have been his best defense.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        For awhile they tried the “he cares SO MUCH about corruption,” but we don’t hear so much about it any more because it was so laughable.

        Larry David wrote a hilarious op-ed a couple of months back headlined “Imagining What Keeps Trump Up at Night.” The answer, of course, was “I just can’t stop thinking about corruption in Ukraine.”

        Very funny, if you can suppress your despair at what’s happened to this country that it has elected such a person…

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Oh, and as for that part about he “isn’t sending taxpayer money to help out a corrupt country”…

          That’s breaking the law. The Congress writes the laws (and appropriates money), and it’s the president’s job to faithfully execute them.

          That GAO report is one of many salient things the GOP has to ignore in voting to acquit…

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Oh, and for Trump and his followers, I should explain that “executing the laws” doesn’t mean strangling them or shooting them in the head…

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      I don’t think there IS a defense. Which is why his defenders keep falling back on “Yeah, he did it, but it’s not impeachable.” Which, of course, it is. This matter of inviting foreign interference in our politics goes to the core of why the Framers provided for impeachment.

      The thing is, they don’t NEED a defense, and they know it. Terrified of his base, the GOP-controlled Senate is going to acquit.

      Everything else — such as the argument over witnesses and evidence — only serves to show us how low the GOP will go in abasing itself before his followers. Democrats should push hard for those things, because it’s the right thing to do. But in terms of practical effect in this distorted version of America in which we live at the moment, the only thing for fair-minded people to hope for is that the GOP members will pay a price in November for making a mockery of their constitutional duty.

  3. Mark Stewart

    If our senators’ buy this we are all sunk, at least until November. Our Republic, however, might be on the ropes regardless. This is an unbelievable situation which no one ever expected – not Republicans and not Democrats.

    But here we are; who will rise up and protect our nation and Constitution?

  4. Mr. Smith

    It may be ludicrous. But who says that’s a strike against it?
    After all, a similar argument worked to block Merrick Garland’s nomination.

  5. bud

    As awful as Trump is I’m not convinced he’s the WOAT (Worst Of All Time). George W Bush set the bar sooo low. But with acquittal imminent he could become very rash and dangerous. Let’s see how this plays out.

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