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KEVIN LEININGER: Trump, Democrats should learn from impeachment fiasco, but probably won’t

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has only herself to blame should President Trump benefit from the flawed impeachment process. (AP photo)
Indiana Sen. Todd Young, left, said the impeachment was pushed by the far left; Sen. Mike Braun, right, hopes President Trump will learn from it anyway. They;re both right. (AP photo)
Kevin Leininger

If you’re as tired as I am of having your morality and intelligence impugned by people who embrace open borders, socialism and the legal killing of children until the moment of birth, take heart: This week’s expected dismissal of impeachment charges against President Trump by the U.S. Senate will prove yet again they are not nearly as smart as they think they are.

But if congressional Democrats had not overplayed their hand, they might have achieved the goal that seems to have motivated their rush to impeachment in the first place: to damage Trump’s chance of victory in November. Given that the articles of impeachment drafted by the Nancy Pelosi-led House did not even accuse Trump of committing an actual crime, there was never a chance the Republican-controlled Senate would remove him from office less than a year before the election. As a result, Indiana U.S. Sen Todd Young no doubt spoke for many Republicans when he said “the far left has been desperate to get rid of President Trump since day one, and that has been made abundantly clear throughout this process.”

But it is one thing to argue Trump did nothing impeachable; quite another to insist some of his actions have not been worthy of criticism. Or as Mike Braun, Indiana’s other Republican senator, put it, “Hopefully (the impeachment process) will be instructive (for Trump). I think he’ll put two and two together. In this case, he was taken to the carpet.”

Would the Senate have voted merely to censure Trump had they been given the option? We’ll never know, because Democrats — in a spasm of futile exhilaration — plowed ahead with a hastily sloppy process that undermined their own seriousness. That lack of seriousness is even more evident now that Trump’s victory is all but assured, with some Democrats vowing to move to impeachment Round Two because the Senate acquittal won’t really be an acquittal at all because Republicans refused to call witnesses.

Frankly, I would not have minded testimony in the Senate, which would have given Trump the opportunity for witnesses he was denied during the House hearings. It would have been fun, for example, to hear Joe Biden testify under oath about his family’s connections with Ukraine — the same country Trump supposedly blackmailed for political advantage. Ultimately, however, Democratic complaints about the lack of Senate witnesses rings hollow because they had a chance to hear from John Bolton and others during their hearings but chose not to do so, thereby sending an incomplete and fatally flawed case to the Senate for adjudication. And they sent the case to the Senate only after holding onto it for a month, making a joke of the insistence that every day Trump remained in office posed a danger to the republic.

“It’s the fault of Nancy Pelosi and others for failing to charge an impeachable offense,” former Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz told Fox news.

In court, when judges have legitimate reason to believe a case is without merit they can end the proceedings by issuing what is called a summary judgment. That is, in effect, what the Senate is prepared to do. Far from being an abuse of power, such a dismissal would impose a fitting punishment on reckless and expensive prosecution that should have heeded the lessons of history.

This was not the first time a president has refused to cooperate with Congress, after all. Claims of executive privilege are in fact quite common and are usually settled by the courts, as they were in 1974 when the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ordered President Richard Nixon to release incriminating tapes of secretly recorded White House conversations. Nixon resigned soon after.

Did this episode change anybody’s mind about anything? A poll this week by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal found that 52 percent of Americans believe Trump abused his authority by asking a foreign government to investigate a political opponent, but it also found that 46 percent of registered voters say Trump should be removed from office while 49 percent say he should remain — numbers that had changed little since December. The results, predictably, fall largely along party lines.

As I said earlier, the strategy of dismissing all Trump supporters as somehow unworthy of respect is growing more tiresome and therefore more impotent with each passing day. Such tactics, and Trump’s in-your-face response to them, is in fact one big reason for his popularity. But having taken their best shot at Trump and missed, he may now become only stronger and even more willing to follow his own worst impulses when, in fact, he would do himself and the nation a favor by heeding Braun’s advice.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Kevin Leininger at kleininger@news-sentinel.com or call him at 461-8355.

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