If there’s any sort of practical reasoning behind the impeachment of former President Donald Trump, Dr. Ben Carson says, it’s because Democratic lawmakers want to get their inner third-grader out of their system.
Appearing Tuesday on Fox News, the former head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development said that the impeachment and upcoming trial was designed to “punish” Trump without any kind of practical benefit.
Carson was commenting on a story involving Dr. Deborah Birx, the former head of the Trump White House coronavirus task force, who said that there was “a parallel [COVID] data stream coming into the White House that were not transparently utilized” — and was a bit peeved at the immature tone of the remarks.
“What is a little troubling is people are always finding ways to stir up the problem so that we take our eyes off of the real issue,” Carson said.
“We will never solve problems if we keep pointing fingers at each other saying, ‘You did this. You did that. Now I must retaliate against you.’
Here’s video of the exchange; the relevant portion begins at 3:00
“Look at what is going on with the impeachment — makes absolutely no sense whatsoever,” Carson continued.
“The man’s already out of office, and yet we’re spending all this time and effort on that because we must punish him. And then the other side will say, ‘Well, we must punish you.’ It’s like a bunch of third-graders. It’s so, so tiring.”
The juvenile tone in Washington, D.C., isn’t a particularly new thing. However, what’s striking is how serious and solemn Democrats are assuring us this all is.
In a speech before a procedural vote called for by Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul on the constitutionality of impeaching and convicting a former president, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York insisted this was about ensuring Trump could never run for office again.
Schumer quoted Article I, Section III of the Constitution — “Judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States” — to argue it was both constitutional and necessary to try Trump for inciting the Capitol incursion on Jan. 6.
“If the framers intended impeachment to merely be a vehicle to remove sitting officials from their office, they would not have included that additional provision — disqualification from future office,” Schumer said, according to remarks posted to his Senate page.
“It makes no sense whatsoever that a president, or any official, could commit a heinous crime against our country and then defeat Congress’ impeachment powers — and avoid a vote on disqualification — by simply resigning. Or by waiting to commit that offense until their last few weeks in office,” he continued.
“The theory that the Senate can’t try former officials would amount to a constitutional get-out-of-jail-free card for any president who commits an impeachable offense. Ironically, the Senator from Kentucky’s motion would do an injury to the Constitution by rendering the disqualification clause effectively moot.”
This is a peculiar argument, inasmuch as the disqualification argument would apply to sitting officials, as well. Furthermore, there’s only one case of a former official getting impeached — Ulysses S. Grant’s secretary of war, William Belknap, in 1876.
Why does this prove it’s constitutional to try an official after they’ve left office? According to Schumer, because the Senate said so!
“Not only did the House move forward with the impeachment, the Senate convened a trial, and voted, as a chamber, that Mr. Belknap could be tried ‘for acts done as Secretary of War, notwithstanding his resignation of said office,'” Schumer said.
“The language is crystal clear, without any ambiguity.”
The Senate said it was constitutional in 1876, despite the fact the right to try former officials was nowhere in the Constitution. Therefore, the current Senate in the 117th Congress can’t vote that it’s unconstitutional to try a former president because the Senate in the 44th Congress voted that it was constitutional.
Dr. Carson is right — this is the kind of logic your third-grader would use, if your third-grader was a speechwriter for the Senate majority leader.
It’s worth noting, too, that Sen. Paul’s procedural vote made it clear a trial would be a waste of time. The Democrats need 17 Republican senators to vote to convict Trump in the eventual trial. They got only five to agree the trial was even constitutional — enough to move forward by a majority vote, 55-45 in an evenly split Senate, but not enough that there would be any chance of a conviction.
Why even move forward at that point, except to maintain appearances? After all, trying Trump comes with opportunity costs; President Joe Biden can’t move forward with his agenda while the Senate is tied up with the impeachment.
It’s about stirring America’s emotions up. It’s about scoring points in front of a camera. This isn’t about demanding accountability so that healing can begin, nor is it about disqualifying Donald Trump from holding office in the future.
Washington, D.C., can be a pretty adolescent place, but as a pandemic rages during a politically tempestuous time in American history, perhaps it’s time to put childish things away.
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