Is he above the law?

The President and Republicans in Congress have been complaining that the impeachment proceedings in our nation’s capitol are politically motivated. It is a thoroughly hypocritical argument, designed to ensnare stupid people.

Here’s why it’s stupid. The Framers of the Constitution knew that everybody in Congress and in the White House would have political motives. Despite this fact, the Framers empowered the House of Representatives, by a simple majority, to decide when to impeach the President, regardless of political party. And they empowered the Senate to decide whether to remove an impeached President from office, also regardless of political party. Nothing has happened in the current impeachment process that isn’t built into the system by the Framers.

To prevent a Congressional majority from removing the President from office for purely political reasons, thus overturning the will of the people, they required a two-thirds majority in the Senate to remove an impeached President from office. That is a pretty high bar to clear. They envisioned that only rarely would a party that does not hold the White House have a two-thirds majority in the Senate. So far, they have been right as rain.

If people in Washington are governed solely by political motives, then the House will impeach the President, and the Senate will acquit him, and both processes will be purely for show. But here’s the thing. Some, if not most, Congresspeople are patriotically motivated. They care about what is best for the country. A person can be both politically and patriotically motived at the same time.

The question is not whether the impeachment process is politically motivated. Of course it is. The Democrats are politically motivated in their prosecution, and the Republicans are politically motivated in their defense. The questions is: are the actors also patriotically motivated?

Why do I say the argument is hypocritical? The Republican argument – to wit, that the Democrats are politically motivated – is politically motivated. It is an attempt to discredit and disqualify the entire process, and prevent the public from finding out the facts of the case, and thus retain their grip on power.

This whole line of argument was pioneered by Tom DeLay, who was charged in 2005 with money laundering and campaign finance violations. DeLay made the then-novel assertion that Ronnie Earl could not try him, because Earl was a Democrat, and DeLay a Republican. Therefore, he claimed, the charges must be politically motivated. It was an obvious attempt to get his case in front of a Republican judge, so he could get it thrown out. And that’s exactly what happened. DeLay was convicted, but acquitted on appeal by a Republican judge named Melissa Goodwin.

The problem with accepting this line of argument – that a politician cannot be criminally tried by a prosecutor of an opposing political party – is that it ends up putting all elected politicians above the law. All they have to do is claim political persecution and maneuver the case into the court of a judge from their own party, and presto! Acquittal.

This President has taken a page out of DeLay’s play book, and designed whole new variations on it. Any judge who is not Anglo, and finds against him in court, must be racially motivated, he says. Any prosecutor investigating his alleged crimes – even straight arrow Republican Robert Mueller – must be engaged in a witch hunt. And so on. This President’s politically motivated strategy is to viciously attack anybody who has the authority to hold him accountable for his words and deeds. He seeks to be above the law.

If you doubt that, consider this simple fact. Just a few days ago, in a case involving his tax returns, the President’s lawyers argued in open court that even if the President murdered someone, there is no law enforcement agency that would be authorized to arrest him, nor even investigate the matter. That’s how absolutely above the law this man seeks to be.

Phil Jones is a Christian songwriter and minister living in Buda.

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