Would Democrats Impeach Obama?

January 23, 2020

Hypocrisy is common in Washington, but impeachment is bringing out more than its fair share. That’s true of some Republicans, and the mainstream media devotes countless hours to it. What gets much less attention is the hypocrisy of the party that to which most journalists are sympathetic: the Democrats.

Take Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. On Tuesday he demanded the Senate call witnesses, claiming they’re required for a “fair trial” and slamming Republican opposition as a “coverup.” But the GOP position is exactly what Mr. Schumer’s was during President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial in 1999. Back then he said it “doesn’t make sense” for the Senate to call witnesses.

More important than hypocrisy about the process of impeachment is hypocrisy about the substance. Removing a president is the most draconian act Congress can take. It ill serves America if the party opposed to the president uses impeachment as a political weapon to tarnish his standing and weaken him for the next election.

When considering the Democrats’ high-minded arguments, ask yourself: What if Hillary Clinton won in 2016? After she took office, it would have been revealed that her campaign hired the opposition-research firm Fusion GPS, which assigned Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence official, to reach out to Russian counterparts to solicit dirt on Donald Trump. Recall that the since-discredited dossier Mr. Steele peddled to the media in the fall of 2016 was made up of unsubstantiated rumors from former Russian agents.

It’s naive to believe the Kremlin was unaware that Mr. Steele asked Moscow pals for dirt on Mr. Trump. Those spies are retired, but they rely on Vladimir Putin for their pension checks. Who among congressional Democrats would now be calling for Mrs. Clinton’s removal if she were in the Oval Office? I doubt any. I’ve searched in vain for Democratic criticism for her soliciting foreign involvement in the 2016 election—the principal charge of their impeachment case against President Trump.

Furthermore, while Democrats say Mr. Trump should be removed for seeking a quid pro quo—a Ukrainian investigation of Joe and Hunter Biden in return for U.S. military aid—what about President Barack Obama’s March 2012 open-mic moment? At a summit in Seoul, he asked Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to tell his boss, then-Prime Minister Putin, that “on all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this can be solved but it’s important for him to give me space. . . . This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.” In other words, if Mr. Putin didn’t create problems during Mr. Obama’s re-election fight with Mitt Romney, Mr. Obama would show “flexibility” on missile defense and other important issues of national security and foreign policy after the election. Again, crickets when it comes to Democratic criticism.

Then there’s the House Democrats’ second charge, that Mr. Trump’s refusal to make his advisers and aides available for testimony is obstruction of Congress. What Democrat screamed, “No one is above the law!” when Mr. Obama rejected Republican lawmakers’ demands for years during the “Fast and Furious” scandal that his aides appear before Congress and produce documents? No congressional Democrat said a peep when the Obama Justice Department held in July 2014 that “the President’s immediate advisors are absolutely immune from congressional testimonial process,” adding that “this immunity is rooted in constitutional separation of powers.” 

Democrats are now hyping a Government Accountability Office report finding that Mr. Trump’s Office of Management and Budget broke the law by delaying the Ukrainian aid. But that $125 million was released 18 days before the end of the 2019 fiscal year, the deadline to obligate the funds. Not only is the GAO’s legal reasoning suspect, but the Democrats ignored the office when it found the Obama administration violated the law seven times, most prominently in trading detainees from Guantanamo Bay for the deserter Bowe Bergdahl, as well as twice spending government funds to lobby, and preventing a regional Housing and Urban Development director's far from an immediate presidential adviser email accounts from testifying to Congress. Again, why did no Democratic leader criticize Mr. Obama, let alone demand his removal?

Use of the impeachment power comes with a responsibility to apply it fairly to any president, regardless of party. Democrats eager to remove Mr. Trump didn’t even complain when leaders of their own party acted similarly. I’m not suggesting Mr. Obama or Mrs. Clinton, if she’d won, should have been removed from office. Far from it. But given that their actions didn’t merit even mild criticism from Democrats, is it any wonder many Americans question if Mr. Trump’s acts really rise to the level of impeachable offenses?


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