It’s just not true that good motives, when mixed with bad ones, compel acquittal under the law. If a politician takes a bribe to do what he thinks would have been best for the public anyway, he still goes to jail. If he’s president, under a Constitution that refers to impeachment specifically for “bribery,” as well other “high crimes and misdemeanors,” he should still be removed.
It’s also not true that “abuse of power” is not impeachable, or that a statutory crime is necessary for impeachment. And it’s not true, as Dershowitz argued Wednesday, that the Framers’ rejection of “maladministration” as a basis for impeachment means that abuse of power isn’t impeachable. The Framers rejected the word “maladministration” because it covered mistakes and incompetence, not because it also could mean abuse of power. In fact, they swapped “high crimes and misdemeanors” into the final document precisely because it does cover such abuse.
It couldn’t be any other way, if you think about it for even a moment. Trump’s lawyers are right that if a president does what he honestly thinks is simultaneously in his personal electoral and the national interests, that’s not impeachable, in the following sense: If a president cuts taxes because he thinks it will get him reelected and it will create jobs, that’s fine. That’s ordinary electoral politics.
But if he cuts taxes because he has an agreement with a major backer that, in exchange for tax cuts, the backer will fund a huge super PAC to support his reelection, that’s impeachable — because that’s a corrupt quid pro quo for his personal benefit.