Via Jeryl Bier, a little supporting evidence for the White House’s talking point today that the opposition has been hellbent on impeaching Trump since day one and simply found a convenient excuse in the Ukraine matter. WaPo, February 24, 2017:
At first glance, one might react to those numbers by saying, “See? The other party is always gung ho to impeach the president.” Right, but those numbers for Bush and Obama came five years into their respective presidencies (in Bush’s case, three years into an unpopular war). In Trump’s case, the numbers came five weeks into it.
I wonder what those numbers look like on Earth 2, where Trump won the election but there was no Russian plot to hack the DNC and John Podesta that could be cited later by lefties to delegitimize his presidency. Here on Earth 1, Russiagate obviously strongly influenced those impeachment numbers in early 2017 — and not just the actual facts of Russiagate either. BuzzFeed published the Steele dossier on January 10, 2017, deepening suspicions about collusion between Trump and Russia. Even before that, in December 2016, outrage over Russia’s campaign shenanigans had convinced a majority of Democrats that Moscow had changed the actual vote totals to help Trump win, a claim no member of U.S. intelligence has ever made.
52% of Democrats believe Russia tampered with vote tallies to get Trump elected (per Economist/YouGov poll).
There's no evidence for this. pic.twitter.com/LSFl3GuAAW
— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) December 31, 2016
Combine paranoia over Russia with Trump losing the popular vote and ideological revulsion at his brand of right-wing populist nationalism and lefties were primed from day one to want to deny him his office. Once they saw evidence this year of Trump leaning on a different foreign country to try to damage the current Democratic frontrunner, foretelling another election in which Trump wins with help from abroad, impeachment was a done deal.
The WaPo poll isn’t the only flashback going around on social media. Wolf Blitzer took his own trip down memory lane on impeachment with this clip:
Check out this exchange I had with then private citizen @realDonaldTrump on Oct. 15, 2008. We spoke about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and he then offered his thoughts about impeachment. pic.twitter.com/mXlsG9SjbB
— Wolf Blitzer (@wolfblitzer) December 18, 2019
Trump also sounded open to impeaching Obama in 2014:
Trump was also asked if the Obama had committed any impeachable offenses. He said Obama could certainly be impeached for his executive action on immigration.
“Well, he certainly did something that was unconstitutional,” Trump said. “Now, it depends on Justice (John) Roberts. If he wants to just curry favor in the Beltway like he did with Obamacare, because that’s the only reason he did it. Because he knows he was wrong, but it certainly depends on what happens. I mean, I think certainly he could be impeached and certainly they could shut down the government.”
Presidents don’t get impeached for unconstitutional policies, and prior to the rise of Trump any rank-and-file Republican would have disputed that Bush deliberately lied about Saddam’s WMD program before invading Iraq. But Trump’s focus on massive policy errors as better grounds for impeachment than petty corruption is a potent argument in a populist era, enough so even to draw sympathy from anti-Trumpers like Damon Linker:
[T]here are two utterly damning stories that have appeared over the past week: first, the inspector general’s scathing report on the alarmingly unprofessional conduct of the FBI’s Russia investigation, and The Washington Post’s “Afghanistan Papers,” on the mountain of lies that have been told by three administrations about the prospects for success in what is now easily the longest war in American history…
Reading either or both of these reports, or just listening to coverage of the basic findings of each investigation, leaves one with the unmistakable impression that America’s political leadership is deeply, pervasively corrupt. That certainly doesn’t exonerate Trump of his own flagrant acts of corruption. But it does force us to assess the relative gravity of his transgression. Yes, it’s very bad that the president acted like a two-bit mob boss trying to shake down a vulnerable member of the democratic neighborhood. But is it categorically worse than administrations of both parties lying to the American people about a war for close to two decades? Or secret courts approving surveillance warrants on the basis of uncorroborated, politically motivated nonsense?
That idea, that Trump’s manifold personal flaws are small potatoes compared to the flaws of America’s ruling class, is the pure essence of why he prevailed in 2016. In impeachment it’s run up against a long civic tradition that presidents should never be removed for bad policies no matter how terrible, only for deliberate schemes to enrich themselves by abusing their office. Trump could decide to nuke Afghanistan tomorrow and even some Democrats in the House wouldn’t consider it an impeachable offense but his petty grifting in the form of emoluments remains on the backburner in Democratic committees as a potential reason to remove him from office down the road. Doubtless that’s incoherent to many Americans.
Here he is again in 2014 spelling out what a terrible stain on a president’s legacy impeachment would be, lest you think he wears the Democrats’ scorn as a badge of honor.