by Victor Davis Hanson
An impeachment inquiry looms and the shrieks of outrage are beginning.
The Left is now suddenly voicing warnings that those who recently undermined the system could be targeted by their own legacies.
So, for example, now we read why impeachment is suddenly a dangerous gambit.
True, the Founders did not envision impeaching a first-term president the moment he lost his House majority. Nor did they imagine impeaching a president twice. And they certainly did not anticipate trying an ex-president in the Senate as a private citizen.
In modern times, the nation has not rushed to impeach a president without a special counsel investigation to determine whether the chief executive was guilty of “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
But thanks to the Democrats, recent impeachments now have destroyed all those guardrails. After all, Trump was impeached the first time on the fumes of an exhaustive but fruitless 22-month, $40 million special counsel investigation — one designed to find him guilty of Russian “collusion” and thus to be removed from office but found no actionable offenses at all.
Instead, dejected Democrats moved immediately for a second try. In September 2019 a few weeks after Trump had announced his 2020 reelection bid, the Democratic House began to impeach the president on the new grounds that he had talked to the President Zelensky of Ukraine and said he might delay offensive arms shipments — unless the Ukrainians could demonstrate that they had ended corruption and, in particular, were no longer influenced by the Biden family quid pro quo shakedowns.
Trump was proven right: the Biden family is not just corrupt, but, in particular, Joe Biden as head of the family and Vice President had intervened in the internal politics of an aid recipient, by threatening not to delay but rather to cancel outright all U.S. aid to Ukraine — unless it fired Viktor Shokin, a Ukrainian prosecutor.
Shokin was then looking into the misadventures of Biden’s son Hunter, and why the Vice President’s imbecilic son was receiving lucrative compensation on the boards of a Ukrainian energy company Burisma, yet without any demonstrable expertise or education in matters of energy policy.
Since Trump was impeached, we now know that Joe Biden did lie that he had no connection with or even knowledge of his son’s business. And we know that the fired prosecutor believed the Bidens were recipients of bribes. We know that contrary to Biden’s assertions, he was not following State Department policy.
In contrast, the U.S. had, in fact, lauded Shokin’s efforts to repress corruption. In sum, Biden was undermining the stated policy of the U.S. government to protect his son’s — and his own — efforts to leverage money from Kyiv by monetizing the influence of his own Vice Presidency. In some sense, Biden was guilty of the very “treason” charge — altering U.S. foreign policy for personal benefit — by which Rep. Adam Schiff had earlier falsely accused Trump.
Given that reality, it is easy to argue that the House impeached Donald Trump in 2019 for crimes that he did not commit, but which the current president Joe Biden most certainly had during his Vice Presidency.
But weaponizing impeachment is just one baleful legacy of the Left. There are plenty more of their own precedents that Leftists now would not wish to have applied to themselves:
- Will the next president have the FBI pay social media censors to suppress the dissemination of any news it feels is unhelpful to the reelection of a Republican president?
- Is it OK now for the next Vice President to invite his son onto Air Force Two to cement multimillion dollars deals that benefit both, with Chinese, Russian, and Ukrainian oligarchs who enjoy government ties?
- Should a conservative billionaire stealthily insert $419 million late in the 2024 campaign to absorb the work of registrars in key voting precincts?
- If a Democratic president wins the 2024 election should conservative groups riot at the Capitol on Inauguration Day? Should a conservative celebrity yell out to the assembled crowd of protestors that she dreams of blowing up the White House? And if a Republican wins, should he prosecute any Democratic rioters who once again swarm Washington on Inauguration Day and charge them with “insurrection,” meting out long prisons sentences to the convicted?
- Is Joe Biden now vulnerable to being impeached for systematic family corruption, or using the Department of Justice to obstruct the prosecution of his son in his last days in office, and then being tried in the Senate as a private citizen?
- If the Republicans gain the Senate, will they move to end the filibuster in agreement with Democratic assertions that it is “racist” and a “Jim Crow relic”?
- If the midwestern Electoral College “Blue Wall” seems to reappear, or if Georgia, Arizona, and Nevada recreate new blue walls, will there be a conservative effort to end the constitutionally mandated Electoral College?
- If in 2024 there is a narrow Democratic win in the Electoral College, should conservative celebrities conspire to run ads urging the electors to reject their constitutional duties and not vote in accordance with their state’s popular vote that went Democratic? Should a Republican third-party candidate sue to stop a state’s selection of its electors on grounds the voting machines were rigged?
- If Supreme Court decisions begin to appear to favor the left, will Republicans talk of packing the court, or have the DOJ turn a blind eye when mobs began to swarm the homes of liberal justices? Should the conservative media go after liberal judges with serial accusations of corruption? Should the Republican Senate leader assemble a mob of pro-life protestors at the doors of the court and call out Justices Sotomayor or Jackson by name, with threats that they will soon reap the whirlwind they have sowed, given they have no idea of what is about to “hit” them? Should conservative legal scholars urge the country to ignore Supreme Court decisions deemed liberal?
- Will local prosecutors in red jurisdictions begin filing criminal charges against leading Democratic candidates on various charges, among them accusations of old inflated real estate assessments, campaign finance laws, questioning ballot results, or taking classified documents home? If Joe Biden or Hillary Clinton were to run in 2024, will their past illicit behavior gain the attention of a city or state attorney in Utah, West Virginia, or Wyoming?
- If Joe Biden continues to decline at his present rate, will Republicans demand he be given the Montreal Cognitive Assessment? Will they subpoena Ivy League psychiatrists to testify that an intervention is needed to remove him from office? And will an FBI director and a deputy Attorney General plan to wear wires, and record Biden in his private moments of senility, as a way of convincing the cabinet or Congress that he is demonstrably mentally unfit for office?
- In the 2024 election, should the Republican nominee hire a foreign ex-spy to compile falsehoods about the Democratic opponent and then seed them among the media, and Department of Justice? Should the FBI hire such a Republican contractor and likewise use him to gather dirt on the Democratic nominee?
- If there appears incriminating evidence concerning a Republican nominee, should the FBI retrieve such evidence, keep it under wraps, lie about its veracity, and instead go along with media and ex-intelligence officers assertions that it is a fraudulent production of Russian intelligence?
- Will conservative CIA and FBI directors, and the Director of National Intelligence be given exemptions from prosecutions for systematically lying while under oath in Congress or to federal investigators?
- Will conservative celebrities ritually on social media, without fear of censorship, brag about ways of decapitating, shooting, stabbing, burning, or blowing up the Democratic nominee?
- Since in many states the statues of limitations have not yet expired for arson, murder, assault, looting, and attacks on 1,500 police officers during the summer 2020 riots, will state prosecutors now begin identifying those 14,000 once arrested and mostly released, and begin refiling charges of conspiracy, racketeering — and “insurrection”?
- Will they also file insurrection charges against those who torched a federal courthouse, a police precinct, and a historic Washington DC church, or conspired to riot and swarm the White House grounds in an effort to attack the President of the United States?
- Will they file charges against Vice President Kamala Harris for “inciting” ongoing violent demonstrations with monotonous, emphatic, and repetitive threats in the weeks before her nomination? Contrary to liberal “fact checkers” at time of nationwide violence, Harris certainly did not distinguish violent from non-violent protests, but in fact implied that they were intimately tied to the upcoming election and beyond. So given the hundreds of police officers injured, the hundreds of millions in property damage, and the dozens killed, what exactly did Harris mean by tying that ongoing summer of often violent protests to Election Day?:
“But they’re not gonna stop. They’re not gonna stop, and this is a movement, I’m telling you. They’re not gonna stop, and everyone beware, because they’re not gonna stop. They’re not gonna stop before Election Day in November, and they’re not gonna stop after Election Day. Everyone should take note of that, on both levels, that they’re not going to let up — and they should not. And we should not.”
Was the above more or less inflammatory than Trump’s January 6 remarks for which in part he is under indictment: “We fight like hell. And if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore…I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard”?
In sum, the Democratic leadership along with the media long ago deemed that Donald Trump posed such an existential threat to democracy that they were entitled to destroy democratic norms to destroy him.
Their actions were predicated on three assumptions: one, they had that right because they were more sophisticated, morally superior, and smarter than the rest of America and thus deserved the exemption to blow up customs and norms to achieve the “correct” ends; two, whatever damage they did to long-standing protocols of equal justice under the law paled in comparison to the damage that Trump supposedly would or did do; and three, their conservative opposition either lacked the wherewithal, the brains, or the audacity to emulate such behavior and thus there was no worry anyone would dare do to them what they did to others.
And now? For the first time, given recent polls, the Left is scared that a Republican House and perhaps soon a Republican Senate and White House might follow its own precedents, and use new leftwing guidelines to enact conservative agendas.
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Victor Davis Hanson is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness and the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He is an American military historian, columnist, a former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004.