Thursday, November 14, 2019


Most of America wants President Trump out of office, but impeachment is unlikely to lead to a conviction, and there's a good chance that Trump could win (or "win") the 2020 election. The workarounds aren't much better: Removal via the 25th Amendment requires the support of a majority of Trump's Cabinet plus, ultimately, a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress (impeachment can at least be done in the House by majority vote, although conviction requires a two-thirds vote in the Senate). Juleanna Glover, writing for Politico, has proposed a secret ballot in the Senate, which she says might result in enough votes to convict. (Trust me, it won't.)

These ideas are unworkable -- but here's one, from Bloomberg's Thomas Geoghegan, that's almost workable:
There’s another way to dislodge President Donald Trump from the White House. Instead of impeachment, Congress could remove him by statute....

Here’s how the process might work: The House of Representatives could begin with articles of impeachment, to put Trump’s “high crimes and misdemeanors” on the record.

But then instead of transmitting them to the U.S. Senate, the House would pass and send a bill instead. The preamble would recite the grounds adopted for impeachment, and then take note of Trump’s denials and his claim of innocence. That’s how documents settling legal disputes are often drafted.

Then would come the operative clause: Trump would agree to resign within 30 days of enactment in return for a broad grant of immunity from future criminal prosecution and civil liability for himself and his family, including his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. It would cover events and disputes that took place during Trump’s term in office and just before (consistent with statutes of limitation), and bind both federal and state authorities. Perhaps a more limited immunity grant could also be extended to his attorneys, counselors and chiefs of staff, at least with respect to matters pertaining to the impeachment....

Unlike the impeachment process, which requires a two-thirds vote in the Senate for removal from office, a normal bill could pass by simple majority. If that sounds unfair, remember that Trump would have to consent, and agree not to veto the measure.
Could this happen the way Geoghegan describes it? Absolutely not. Obviously, Trump would love to avoid all future lawsuits and prosecutions, but it's at least equally important to him to avoid shame. To Trump, avoiding shame is one of the most important goals in life. He'd rather fight a hundred legal battles than acknowledge culpability once.

So this couldn't be done openly. All the provisions would have to be tucked into a bill in such a way that they avoid public scrutiny. Maybe they could be slipped into a thousand-page budget resolution at the last minute, or included in a piece of intelligence legislation that's kept secret from the public.

Trump's departure would need to appear totally voluntary, and there would have to be no obvious connection between the departure and the quiet resolution of all pending cases against him and his family, as well as all ongoing investigations.

Trump would never agree to say he was leaving office for health reasons -- he may be an overweight 73-year-old, but he'll continue to insist that he's the healthiest man alive. (Anything less would be shameful.) He wouldn't agree to pretend that he was leaving office to tend to a (fake-)sick family member -- what, a Trump having a middle-aged wife or young child with a serious illness? That would suggest he'd married someone (or fathered someone) with bad genes! Unacceptable!

So how would you get him to agree to leave office? In addition to ending his legal battles, you'd have to flatter him. You'd have to invent a title -- King of America? -- and say that he's not being kicked out, he's being promoted, to a position created especially for him, because he's just so awesome. It would be a purely ceremonial position, of course -- he'd have nothing to do with running the government, and he'd be required to do nothing for the country except play golf, watch TV, and tweet (you know, exactly what he does all day now). He might understand that this all part of the ruse, but if you can convince him that what's happening to him is perceived by the public as a promotion, he might go for it.

It's possible that he'd drive a hard bargain. Other sweeteners that might be necessary could include renaming buildings for him, holding a military parade for him (with tanks driving down Pennsylvania Avenue this time!), and celebrating his "promotion" on a prime-time TV special in which Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, AOC, Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney, and others lavish him with praise.

It might be worth it, just to get him the hell out of there.

No comments: