December 13, 2018 | Reading Time: 4 minutes

Trump Says He Fears Impeachment

Can he be indicted? Is impeachment a moral duty? Best to think these through.

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The president lit up the news Tuesday during an Oval Office interview with Reuters. Asked whether he’s concerned about the prospect of impeachment, given that his former attorney, Michael Cohen, was sentenced Wednesday to three years in prison for bribery, fraud and other crimes, he said no. No, not worried. Not worried at all! But if Democrats do impeach him, Donald Trump said, “the people would revolt.”

“It’s hard to impeach somebody who hasn’t done anything wrong and who’s created the greatest economy in the history of our country. I’m not concerned, no. I think that the people would revolt if that happened.”

That got a lot of people’s attention, because it spoke to a threat we all face from right-wing violence in this country (more accurately called fascism, but I digress). Right on cue, some of Trump’s ghouls got on social media to warn “the libs” that if they’re scared now, before Trump’s theoretical demise, they ain’t seen nothing yet.

That stance is hard to square with reporting this morning from NBC News. Turns out, even as he was huffing and puffing, Trump was out of his mind with fear. In addition to Cohen’s sentencing, Senate Republicans said things you don’t want to hear when Senate Republicans are the surest thing standing between you and prison.

US Sen. Marco Rubio, he of jellied spine, said everyone is subject to the law.

“If someone has violated the law, the application of the law should be applied to them like it would to any other citizen in this country, and obviously if you’re in a position of great authority like the presidency that would be the case.”

Worse came from US Sen. Bill Cassidy:

“Am I concerned that the president might be involved in a crime? Of course.”

That was Tuesday.

Wednesday brought news that AMI, the owner of National Inquirer, negotiated a deal with federal prosecutors over its role in bribing a woman to keep quiet about an affair she had with the president, thus defrauding the American people by depriving them of critical information. In reaction, here’s what a Trump ally told NBC News:

“The entire question about whether the president committed an impeachable offense now hinges on the testimony of two men: David Pecker and Allen Weisselberg, both cooperating witnesses in the SDNY investigation.”

Pecker is AMI’s chief executive. Weisselberg is the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization. He was at the center of cash transfers between Pecker and Karen McDougal, the woman in question. Weisselberg has been granted immunity. The guy who knows where the bodies are buried, as it were, is working with the feds.

All of this brings us to two things. One, I can’t talk about anything else today though I’d like it. Two, there are so many angles to consider with respect to crime and impeachment. Specifically, we need to talk about whether a sitting president can be indicted, and whether impeaching a president is a political choice.

Laurence Tribe, the Harvard professor, argued this week that that Watergate-era legal opinion stating that a sitting president can’t be indicted is nonsensical and unconstitutional. Referring to other legal experts, Tribe said the decades-old brief, on which nearly all of Washington is basing its assumption, rests “on the odd theory that a sitting president is just too busy to meet the demands of an ordinary criminal trial but not too busy to stand trial in the US Senate on impeachment charges.”

Nick Akerman, a Watergate prosecutor, echoed that claim. He told NPR Monday: “That was the main argument that was made there—about the president being too busy. But the bottom line is this president has gone into federal court in Los Angeles, suing somebody who claims he doesn’t know, and spends most of his time on a golf course. So the idea that he’s too busy just doesn’t cut it here” (my italics).

Cass Sunstein is another constitutional authority. He argued that if Trump committed “an impeachable offense,” it wasn’t matter of if he should be impeached but when. The Constitution makes impeachment a moral duty, not a choice: The “constitutional obligation is to protect We the People. It is not entitled to look the other way.”

Again, I don’t know what’s going to happen. No one knows what’s going to happen. Not even the president, who fears that the worse, knows what’s going to happen.

But these are the arguments that will inform what’s going to happen.

Best to think them through as best we can.

Tweet of the day

What Road House tells us about politics

So much of American politics can be summed up in this short clip from the movie Road House. Here, the late Patrick Swayze is a “cooler” teaching other bouncers how to behave when the bucket o’ blood they work in gets crazy at night. As you watch this, keep in mind how Nancy Pelosi, “the cooler,” handled the president this week.

(Warning: explicit language!)

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John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.

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