The discouraging conclusion that one cannot avoid is that legal arguments — even rational arguments — don’t much matter in today’s America. All that matters is giving enough color of plausibility to an action to prevent deliberately ignorant supporters from feeling like there is no excuse for behavior they support. And so, one sees arguments like this, from the House Democrats’ statement as they handed their latest impeachment over to the Senate:
“There is no ‘January exception’ to the Constitution that allows a President to organize a coup or incite an armed insurrection in his final weeks in office,” the Democrats argued. “The Senate must convict President Trump, who has already been impeached by the House of Representatives, and disqualify him from ever holding federal office again.”
Of course there’s no “exception… that allows a President to organize a coup or incite an armed insurrection in his final weeks in office.” Such an act would be a treasonous crime, however, and fall outside the auspices of a politically motivated legislative body.
The problem is that some politicians — Rhode Island’s Democrat Congressman David Cicilline prominent among them — think they are the exception when it comes to adhering to laws, standards, and basic good governance. Of course, they would claim that President Trump led the way, but for good reason is it a cliché on the political right to observe that he is most notable for fighting them according to their own rules.
But even Trump didn’t come anywhere near the level of disregard for process and the rule of law that this second, purely political impeachment displays.