Laurence H. Tribe* – Newsweek
After just one week of public impeachment hearings, Donald Trump has unmistakably emerged as America’s anti-president, the very model of the charlatan George Washington warned might be overtaken by “the insidious wiles of foreign influence.”
We have learned that Trump is so obsessed with the legitimacy of his 2016 election—and so terrified of becoming a private citizen (subject to indictment and imprisonment) after the 2020 election—that he embraces a conspiratorial myth of Ukrainian responsibility for Russian lawlessness hatched by an oligarch in Vladimir Putin’s orbit. We have heard an official’s first-hand account of a president so beholden to Putin that he blithely dismisses Russia’s aggression as not “big stuff” compared with a public announcement by Ukraine’s new president to the effect that, contrary to fact, its government is investigating (nonexistent) corruption by Trump’s political rival.
We have heard direct evidence of a president utterly indifferent to Ukraine’s survival and to the lives of its patriotic defenders. We have seen a president wholly unconcerned with the danger to our national security of strengthening Russia’s hand in any negotiations with Ukraine, disinterested in the threat to global stability of positioning America as an unreliable ally and brazenly willing to usurp Congress’ authority for over five months to direct the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money to Ukraine’s defense.
We have witnessed a president who imagines he can deny all guilt simply because, caught red-handed, he finally released the appropriated funds, many months after promising to do so and well after doing irreparable harm in the interim. And we have watched a president blatantly engage in witness intimidation through his Twitter feed on live television during the testimony of one of the career diplomats who had the courage to resist his lawless demand that everyone in the government he heads defy Congress’ impeachment proceedings.
Anyone who genuinely wondered as recently as this spring what impeachable offenses this imposter of a president has committed must now wonder instead which of his multitude of impeachable offenses to highlight and how best to label them.
There will be time, once the House Intelligence Committee concludes its public hearings and transmits its report to the Judiciary Committee, to determine how best to wrap the indisputable abuses of power, betrayals of the nation and corruption of the presidential office into appropriately labeled articles of impeachment. What must not get lost in the process of categorizing and naming this man’s grotesque betrayals of his oath, however, is how shamelessly he has exposed himself as not merely “unpresidential”—the moniker he has proudly embraced more than once—but as anti-presidential.
More than unpresidential, Trump represents the perfect exemplar of what Alexander Hamilton darkly envisioned when he described the danger that a demagogue might one day assume the presidency and require removal through the awesome power of impeachment. Such a demagogue, Hamilton prophesied, would be “a man unprincipled in private life[,] desperate in his fortune, bold in his temper…despotic in his ordinary demeanour.” Such a man, Hamilton wrote, would one day “mount the hobby horse of popularity—to join in the cry of danger to liberty—to take every opportunity of embarrassing the General Government & bringing it under suspicion—to flatter and fall in with all the non sense of the zealots of the day” with the object of “throw[ing] things into confusion that he may ‘ride the storm and direct the whirlwind.'” Such a man, we should all be able to see now, is Donald J. Trump.
Many challenges confront those who believe this anti-president must be impeached and removed from office before he has the opportunity to manipulate another election. Perhaps the most ironic and least well understood of those challenges is the strand in the American character and culture that falls in love with antiheroes, or at least embraces them in film, literature and the other virtual realities in which so many of us spend increasingly significant parts of our lives. Implicitly invoking characters like Kratos in God of War, Dante in Devil May Cry or Big Boss in Metal Gear, Trump lumbers across the stage to bask in the dark light of hateful and increasingly violent chants.
A recent campaign ad produced by Brad Parscale, manager of Trump’s re-election campaign and a Steve Bannon acolyte, depicts Trump as a swaggering bully—reminiscent perhaps of Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry or Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator—and proudly announces “He’s no Mister Nice Guy.” Elected in no small part because of, not in spite of, his image as a non-political battering ram who won’t hesitate to badmouth his opponents and smash every institution in sight, Trump thrives on many of the very features that make him so dangerous to the rule of law. There is no guarantee that he will ever be held to account for his depredations. But labeling him as the anti-president that he most assuredly is represents a start toward that goal.
*Laurence H. Tribe is the Carl M. Loeb University professor and professor of constitutional law at Harvard. He is the co-author, most recently, of To End a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment. Follow him on Twitter @tribelaw. The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.
Annex: Hunter Moyler, Newsweek:
‘70% Of Americans’ Trends After Poll Shows Overwhelming Majority Believe Trump’s Ukraine Actions Were Wrong-
A new poll revealed that 70 percent of Americans believe President Donald Trump’s request for an investigation into a political rival was wrong, prompting the poll results to become a trending topic on Twitter Monday.
The poll, released by ABC News and Ipsos, asked if Americans felt that Trump’s request to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was wrong. Of those polled, 51 percent felt that Trump was wrong and should be removed from office, while 19 percent said that the US president was wrong but should retain his elected position.
The conversation between Trump and Zelenskiy, where the US president asked that Ukraine investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, and Biden’s son Hunter, sparked an ongoing impeachment investigation into Trump’s actions.
The survey from ABC News and Ipsos Poll was conducted on November 16 and 17, among 506 adults. ABC News reported that 58 percent of respondents were following the impeachment hearings “very or somewhat” closely.
US President Donald Trump waves after delivering remarks in the Roosevelt Room at the White House on November 15, 2019 in Washington, DC. Zach Gibson/Getty
On Twitter, a number of users gave their two cents about the poll’s results and their possible implications for impeachment and the 2020 presidential election.
John Harwood, a journalist who is an editor-at-large for CNBC, wrote that “the truth is being made plain” and “it matters.”
Ryan Fournier, who, along with Charlie Kirk, co-founded the organization Students for Trump, wrote that the Democrats who want to impeach the president should learn how “to impeach 70,000,000 Americans”—evidently referring to the number of Americans he believes still harbor earnest support the president.
“Trump is not one man,” Fournier wrote. “He is all of us!”
In response to the poll, Twitter user @Bashowicks wrote that the 70 percent of Americans who thought that what the president did was wrong would be “on the right side of history,” while the rest revealed themselves to be fine with “GOP corruption and a foreign country controlling our elections.”
Rob Reiner, a filmmaker known for directing Misery and The Princess Bride, referenced the poll’s results and wrote that “[f]lop sweat is pouring out of Trump and the GOP. Their desperate attempts at obfuscation is pathetic and not working.”
“70% is a super-majority,” wrote user @HawaiiDelilah. “No matter whether or not the Senate votes to convict and he is removed, Donald Trump will be going into the 2020 election as a weak candidate, with the vast majority of Americans knowing he is responsible for wrongdoing.”
“70% of Americans has been pretty consistent against the remainder who seem to be stalwarts in their ignorance and/or bigotry,” tweeted author Kwanza Osajyefo. “It’s disappointing how gullible that segment is to propaganda and conspiracy juse because it fluffs their fragile egos.”
Some other users, like @Tyler_Fay, noted that just 506 people were surveyed for the poll, which they believed could not possibly accurately reflect the opinions of the United States as a whole.
However accurate the results, user @startlepup implied that the poll would ultimately have little bearing on the outcome of the impeachment hearings, because “100% of Repub[l]ican senators do not care what 70% of Americans think.”