By Jonathan Turley
Harvard Professor Laurence Tribe was on CNN last night reassuring viewers that the Constitution clearly and unequivocally allows for the trial of a former president. In what has become a signature of Tribe’s commentary, he declared any contrary view as “stupid” while engaging in gratuitous personal insults. I have previously written about Tribe’s past personal attacks on those who hold opposing political or legal views. While such attacks thrill many on social media, it should have no place among academics. What is more notable however is how Tribe’s views have changed since the Clinton impeachment when we testified at the impeachment hearing of constitutional experts. While he once questioned whether Bill Clinton could be impeached for a murder unrelated to his official conduct, Tribe has suggested that Trump could be impeached for a tweet alleging criminal misconduct by Barack Obama.
What is striking is Tribe’s claim that this is neither a close nor a credible question. As with his past assertions on Trump crimes, Tribe declared that the Constitution is clear and any argument against trying ex-officials is “stupid.” Many scholars who have reached conclusions on the issue, including myself, have stressed that this is indeed a close question for them. There are a variety of opinions but most academics recognize that either interpretation is credible. For example, Professor Cass Sunstein sees strong arguments on both sides and agrees that the answer is not clear. However, he believes that the House cannot impeach a former official but the Senate can probably convict one. Tribe however has been assuring the public that the question is clear and any opposing views can be dismissed as nonsense.
While Tribe raised how my own views have changed from “not long ago” in reference to an article written 21 years ago, they have not changed nearly as much as those of Tribe in that “brief” time. Tribe’s own evolution is rarely discussed beyond conservative legal sites. Tribe previously adopted extremely narrow legal interpretations when asked about the alleged crimes or impeachable offenses of figures like Bill Clinton. However, he has adopted broad interpretations in justifying prosecution or impeachment of Trump from issues like emoluments with the same assurance of clarity and certainty (despite opposing rulings from various courts). He was calling for impeachment from the earliest days of the Trump Administration. That includes impeachable tweets.
In March 2017, Tribe slammed Trump for saying that his campaign and Trump Tower was wiretapped or surveilled by the FBI. It turns out that the FBI in the Obama Administration did in fact conduct surveillance on the campaign after universal refutation by many in the media. Tribe however insisted that Trump could be impeached for the tweet, stating “Using power of WH to falsely accuse [Obama of an] impeachable felony does qualify as an impeachable offense whether via tweet or not.”
So just tweeting an accusation against a political opponent is an impeachable offense since it was done from the White House. Tribe is also quoted in another interview in saying that the campaign finance violation allegations brought against Trump lawyer Michael Cohen are “serious crimes” and, if Trump is not indicted, the Congress can still bring impeachment proceedings against him based on Cohen’s allegations: “The alleged crimes make Trump impeachable. But whether and when the House should proceed to impeach is a complex judgment call.”
That is in sharp contrast to Tribe circa 1998.
Both Tribe and I testified in the Clinton impeachment where Tribe maintained that the Constitution was clear and that Clinton could not be impeached for the felony of perjury. Democrats agreed (as did a later federal judge) that Clinton knowingly committed perjury under oath, but Tribe insisted that impeachment was simply not that broad. In an ironic foreshadowing of Trump’s claim that he could shoot a person on Fifth Avenue, Tribe even questioned whether a president could be impeached for a murder separate from his executive duties. In addition to categorically ruling out the perjury crime as impeachable, Tribe questioned if other crimes like bribery would be impeachable despite its direct reference in the constitutional standard. Tribe said that if Clinton bribed the judge in the Paula Jones case “it would impair, surely, and shed negative light on his integrity, his believability, his virtue, but it would not make [serving as president] impossible” under the Constitution.
Tribe cautioned against unnecessary impeachments and said that Congress should rely on the availability of later criminal prosecutions:
Removing a President, even just impeaching him, paralyzes the country. Removing him decapitates a coordinate branch. And remember that the President’s limited term provides a kind of check, and if the check fails, he can be prosecuted when he leaves. To impeach on the novel basis suggested here when we have impeached only one President in our history, and we have lived to see that action universally condemned; and when we have the wisdom not to impeach Presidents Reagan or Bush over Iran-Contra; and when we have come close to impeaching only one other President for the most wide-ranging abuse of presidential power subversive of the Constitution would lower the bar dramatically, would trivialize a vital check.
That would also seem to be true when you are maintaining that there is an open and shut case for criminal incitement.
Tribe in 1998 rejected even criminal bribery and perjury (and possibly murder) as impeachable offenses in opposing the impeachment of Bill Clinton. Now however he believes that a tweet can be impeachable if made from the White House or apparently a campaign finance violation that occurred before inauguration. The tweet is particularly interesting since Tribe stated in 1998 that there must be a certain leeway given to partisan decisions and statements for a president: “letting partisan considerations affect one’s decisions, for example, is always an impeachable abuse of power in a judge. Almost never would it be in a President.” While Tribe has occasionally referenced his previous nexus to official functions, he is also for these alleged impeachable offenses that seem far more attenuated than perjury or bribery committed while President.
IMPEACH BIDEN NOT TRUMP
Wow. In just the past 4 years, how many judges should have been impeached based on that view?
It’s no new revelation that the left tailors their views on laws, rules, morals and the Constitution solely on the immediate political need and how they can exploit situations.
There’s nothing to impeach Trump on, either now, or ever. Using this as a way to admit that the Deep State and Uniparty simply “decide” our leaders rather than the people is the real cause for alarm.
You just need to have an army of unemployed millennials to go out and pay black people for their ballot to “win”, now it seems.
That’s hardly democracy.
And if that fails, just call Eric “Trump won’t win. I made f*cking sure of that* Coomer.
Our democracy fell on Jan. 6th, but with so many people now watching the illegitimate administration defending the career market manipulators, barring normal people from buying stocks….censoring their enemies…taking billions in “donations” to suddenly enhance the lives of the Billionaires…
I think average Americans have had enough.
That’s why Trump was so successful. He did what he promised, and didn’t take money to be bought like some career puppet, like Biden for example.
The best they could do was indoctrinated the foolish with silly disinformation points, like Trump didn’t build the wall, or didn’t help blacks, or didn’t do all the great and good things he did.
It’s not holding any water now, and people are pissed.
From FOX News, January 31, 2021 – Trump parts with lead impeachment lawyers a week before trial
Actually, they parted with him. Unnamed sources say it was because his defense attorneys weren’t willing to make the trial a platform for reasserting Trump’s election fraud claims.
Maybe it’s time for Rudy to make his move. Bringing him back might add another episode to the inevitable TV mini-series.
@Greg: Well, if “unnamed sources” say it, it MUST be absolutely 100% factual! After all, who could afford to get on the wrong side of the ex-President?
Better grab a blanket; your desperation is showing.
Rudy! Rudy! Roooodeeee!
And they don’t even mention Fast and Furious.
More from PJ Media: Trump’s Entire Impeachment Trial Defense Team Leaves Him High and Dry
Yeah, it’s only speculation. Here’s some more:
Trump hasn’t left yet.
@Greg: Hell, I could defend Trump in this. Show me the proof. Show me the statements that incited violence. Then, it’s over. You’ve been asked. Your mirror image AJ has been asked. I’ve asked hundreds of times. NO ONE has any statement even remotely inciting violence. There is none. Certainly not as inciteful as remarks made by Obama or numerous other vile Democrats.
The damage to the Democrats is already inflicted. NO ONE believes Democrats have any respect for the Constitution at all. NO ONE believes Democrats respect the rule of law. NO ONE believes Democrats care about this country or its people. Democrats have thoroughly exposed themselves for what they are; totalitarians lusting for a police state. They have made Trump a victim and a hero.
Trump’s followers can’t see what’s directly in front of their noses. What do you require as evidence that Trump incited violence? Written orders specifically directing people in the mob to go smash windows, break in doors, beat Capitol Police officers with flag polls and hockey sticks, spray them with bear spray, hit them with fire extinguishers, crush them in doors, invade offices, steal documents, and call for the hanging of the Vice President?
There was absolutely no lawful means whereby the crowd he invited to walk over to the Capitol and intervene could intervene, yet that was what they were encouraged to do. And then, once the violent siege was underway, he ignored desperate calls for help for two damn hours.
I know that he won’t be convicted, because Senate Republicans have become spineless. What I also know is that they won’t get away with this for a second time without paying a heavy political price, and it won’t be Democrats doing it to them. They’ll be doing it to themselves—and all because they’re afraid of a man who is destroying their party.
This isn’t about vengeance. It’s about accountability, about making certain that a dangerous precedent isn’t set, and about making certain that Donald Trump never attempts to hold public office again. We’ve already seen what he brings. If it happened again, the results for the nation would be disastrous.
Virginia rules in favor of State laws
Wisc SC rules in favor of State laws
AZ the Pulitzer audit will be done
PA gets more mail in votes back than were sent ,more votes than voters ,chain of custody issues, missing thumb drives for machines.
MI machines compromised, precincts that dont balance so cant be recounted.
GA still needs to deliver 500K ballots as promise for forensic audit.
No where in President Trump’s speech is the word “intervene” yet you will wordsmith his speech to mean what any intelligent person knew it meant, to have “their voices heard.”
So from now on, anytime any Democrat tells a crowd to “let their voices be heard” that Democrat should have impeachment charges brought against them.
Never mind that Kamala, Willie Brown’s whore, told the TV interviewer that the riots by BLM/AntiFa were not going to stop before the election, were not going to stop after the election and THEY SHOULD NOT STOP. Kamala gave her tacit permission for the rioting, looting and killing by BLM/AntiFa to continue.
IMPEACH KAMALA HARRIS NOW!!!!
We all realize that Beijing Biden is doing such a lousy job that you have nothing to brag on when it comes to him so you, like the left wing scum that calls themselves “journalists” have to remain fixated on Trump. How disappointed we all know you are in Beijing Biden.
Well… evidence. How’s that? Is that asking too much? Just accusing Trump of doing what Democrats have been doing on a daily basis for over 4 years isn’t really that convincing. Some actual evidence, along the lines of the proof Biden extorted Ukraine, Hillary had classified information on her server, Hillary LIED about having classified information on her server, Obama spied on innocent Americans, including Trump’s campaign, or that Democrats committed widespread election fraud, is required. And, if there was such evidence, it would not have been kept secret. There IS none.
When did Trump tell anyone to intervene? He told them to PEACEFULLY march, and he wasn’t using the term as YOU do when you describe rioting, looting, burning and trying to kill police as “peaceful”. Unless, of course, you have some proof. But, if you did, you would have offered it at any one of the dozens of times I’ve asked you for it before. You don’t. It doesn’t exist.
He won’t be convicted because, like last time, he committed no crime. The spineless are the Democrats, who fear free speech and exposure of their corruption and incompetence. It is nothing BUT vengeance. But, it is a major mistake. If Republicans can keep Schumer from eradicating the filibuster and there is another election, less riddled with fraud than the last one, Democrats will lose their grip in Congress. At that point, I hope Republicans have learned their lesson and run every vengeful, anti-American, treacherous Democrat (the vast majority) out of office.
4 paragraphs and you cannot offer even a hint at proof Trump did anything wrong. I’m sure you miss the significance of that, but I don’t.
“This is your wake-up call, Mr. Pugmire.”
January 19, 2021 – Trump Supporter Shocked Over Clemency of ‘Crook’ Who Stole His Life Savings in Ponzi Scheme
Meanwhile, Biden supports shocked that Dictator Biden destroyed thousands of jobs, sent our troops back to endless war in Syria, and opened the border to human traffickers overnight.
Thousands of jobs hypothetical jobs that didn’t actually exist and would have only been temporary if they had at some point become real… Renewable energy and the infrastructure necessary for it will create a lot more jobs, and the beneficial effects on the economy and the environment will be permanent.
@Greg: Obama pardoned TERRORISTS who KILLED PEOPLE.
Thousands of jobs that were providing thousands of good paychecks to thousands of families. You show Democrats simply don’t give a damn about people. The idiot Biden’s stupid cancellation of the Keystone XL helps NO ONE but his businesses partners and his family, who will be kicking back his percentage. You ranted and raved for 4 years about the imaginary influence Russia had on Trump yet you support the scumbag, lying criminal that is in full and total control by the CCP.
You ranted and raved for 4 years about the imaginary authoritarian Trump, yet you support the lying criminal idiot Biden ruling by edict and destroying jobs, lives and the country, shit he couldn’t even get past his majority in Congress.
What a totally corrupt regime.
@Greg: You go tell the 10K journeymen welders and pipefitters that like Antifa their jobs are hypothetical. Their house and car payments are just an idea, and their families are myths. Then convince all the elderly and low income that its a good thing they cant afford to heat where they live.
Can we see the grand plan they have for the installation of this infrastructure?
When its driven by consumers the companies build it where there is demand then take a tax write off.(aka government subsidy) btw the giant Windmill blades are not recyclable.
Wait til this new green shit hits the auto plants.
@kitt: Greg has to try to maintain their lie that no jobs would be created by building the pipeline. If no jobs were created, then none were lost.
Trump worked hard to bring good paying manufacturing jobs that Democrats ran off back to the country. Democrats are satisfied with there being nothing but service jobs available as replacements. That’s why they’ve pushed for the $15 minimum wage; they have no idea how to create an economy that provides good jobs, so their solution is to artificially jack up the wages of bad jobs. Like the jobs they destroy with high taxes and regulations, they never seem to be able to foresee the real-world consequences of their socialist ideas.
Fuel prices are already up 10%.
So you are saying that the thousands of jobs that were currently active in the building of the Keystone pipeline did not really exist? Were they just an “idea” like AntiFa?
How do you think those already existing miles of the Keystone pipeline got there, Comrade Greggie? By some magic wand?
What an absolute idiot you are.
GM has already announced that ALL of its vehicles will run on “green” energy by 2035. Great. Maybe that is when reality will hit those who support that their green (electric) energy has to come from somewhere and that is most likely a natural gas/low emissions coal powered plant.
I’m gonna love seeing all these idiots like Comrade Greggie stranded on the highways and byways of our nation.
You’re still stranded in the McCarthy Era.
@Greg: We are stranded in an era where almost every Democrat is a McCarthy, though lacking his focus on an actual threat.
Ah, poor Comrade Greggie, he doesn’t understand that the Venona Papers proved McCarthy more right than wrong.
Guess that is because Comrade Greggie never reads anything the CPUSA disapproves of.
@Greg: Trump wants to talk about election fraud and Trump’s lawyers wanted to take the easy argument about process and be done with it.
The process is unconstitutional and we know that because if it was Constitutional, Roberts would show up and preside. I bet the SCOTUS would back him 8-0 if that question came to the Court.
February 4, 2021 – Trump Will Not Testify In Senate Impeachment Trial, Adviser Says
They know they wouldn’t be able to keep him from going off on another prolonged election fraud tirade, which would put Senate Republicans in an exceedingly awkward position.
@Greg: If there are questions about him “inciting violence” by discussing the election fraud we have all seen was committed, what would anyone expect if he testified? I doubt any Democrats would want to have that information dragged out into the open as all the networks were covering the unconstitutional proceedings live.
No matter who testifies, there is STILL not one word of evidence that Trump incited a damned thing.