So rather than asking Republican members of Congress about impeaching Trump, we should be getting them to say what they themselves consider impeachable offenses – arguably locking them in, when and if Mueller can prove they were committed.
These are straightforward yes-or-no questions:
If a president is found to have solicited or knowingly accepted help from a foreign government to influence an American election, isn’t that an impeachable offense?
If a president fires a special prosecutor investigating him, isn’t that an impeachable offense?
If a president directly orders the Justice Department to prosecute his political rivals, isn’t that an impeachable offense?
If a president pardons himself, isn’t that an impeachable offense?1
If a president promises pardons to potential witnesses against him, isn’t that an impeachable offense?
And, bonus essay question:
What level of presidential lying to you consider an impeachable offense?
But I think I know what most of the answers will be: “I don’t want to get into hypothetical questions.”
Even so, reporters should be asking them. Maybe the follow-up should be: “Wait, you mean you think there’s actually a sufficient probability of this that you consider the question hypothetical?”
Note by MF: For the record, I think there are two good arguments that if a President pardons himself the pardon is invalid. First there is the idea that ‘no man should be the judge in his own cause.’ Second there’s the idea that a pardon is a thing one person confers on another, so a self-pardon just is incoherent. [↩]
So, here we have two quotes from the president. They are both short and succinct and as uncomplicated as statements can be:
“I know Matt Whitaker.” –October 10, 2018
“I don’t know Matt Whitaker.” –November 9, 2018
Those two statements would not necessarily contradict each other if they came in reverse chronological order. After all, when you spend some time with someone you had not previously met, then it’s no longer true that you do not know them, but it remains true that you didn’t know them at an earlier period of time. But you can’t know someone in October and no longer know them in November.
There are a lot of people discussing the constitutionality of putting Whitaker in charge of the Department of Justice and speculating about why it was done and what it might mean. Those are all interesting angles on this story which should be discussed. But I just want to pause for one second to point at those two conflicting statements from the president of the United States.
“I know Matt Whitaker.”
“I don’t know Matt Whitaker.”
He has absolutely no conscience or shame, no pangs of guilt or any possibility of feeling remorse when he contradicts himself like this. Say what you want, but this isn’t normal.
It is far too easy to become inured. Bad things happen if we do.