Impeachment pros and cons


1. Trump is unfit to govern. As explained in an excellent piece by Bob Bauer in Lawfare, we are experiencing an ongoing “governing crisis,” as a result of Trump’s character flaws. Vice President Mike Pence, who (unlike Trump) has political experience and seems at least competent, would ascend to the presidency. While liberals might worry that a unified Republican government led by a competent president would pass damaging legislation, the alternative—an incompetent government mired in a continuous crisis—is worse.

2. An impeachment could help strengthen political norms that Trump has broken. Chief among them:

a. The norm against conflict of interest and concealment of financial interests.

b. The norm against political interference in law enforcement functions.


1. Impeachment might fail. If proceedings do not rouse sufficient public opinion against Trump, then a majority of House members will not vote for impeachment, and a supermajority of Senators will not vote for conviction. A failed impeachment could strengthen Trump and weaken his critics. The impeachment of Clinton actually increased public support for him as measured by the polls.

2. Trump’s worst behavior does not rise to the level of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Specifically:

a. The attempt to obstruct justice is alleged, not proven; even if Trump did attempt to obstruct justice, he failed, as the investigation of the Russia ties continues.

b. The leaking of intelligence to the Russians may not have happened, and even if it did, it may have been justified, or reasonable under the circumstances, or excusable in some way.

c. The financial conflicts of interests are not illegal, and were known during the campaign, and hence endorsed, implicitly at least, by voters.

d. Trump’s various other actions—attacks on the press and the courts, boorish political attacks, and much else—have not resulted in any identifiable harm to any person or institution.

3. Therefore, impeachment of Trump would only weaken the presidency by normalizing an instrument that could be used for partisan purposes, or as a matter of routine, by Congress against the president, even a competent one. A weakened presidency and empowered Congress is a recipe for gridlock in our polarized age.

4. Impeachment would create lasting resentment among Trump’s supporters, and strengthen their conviction that the government is controlled by corrupt elites. This would in turn feed the populist movement for years to come, worsening political turmoil and gridlock.

My vote: No.