A president can be impeached, tried, and removed from office for “high crimes and misdemeanors,” including bribery and treason. That seems clear on the surface, but what specific acts fall within these categories? Well, that is less clear, but a lot of hints are out there.
Let’s consider a couple of examples. Bribery seems clear-cut. You offer money or other goods to a person in order to get him/her to do something for which you are willing to pay a bribe. While through Torreon on the way to Durango, Mexico, I inadvertently made an illegal left turn and was pulled over by a municipal cop. A bi-lingual dance of intentions ensued.
Old Fashion Extortion
The Mexican cop took my New Mexico driver’s license and explained en español and a little English that I could get it back by going to the office and paying the fine two days later. He did not directly ask for money, although he clearly knew he was putting pressure on me. He had first inquired where we lived and where we were going, so he knew we needed to get to Durango, a good day’s drive, the next day. We offered to pay the fine right then and there, but he kept dancing around the issue. Clearly, he did not want to directly initiate an act of extortion although that is exactly what he wanted to accomplish.
So I called my good friend Marcus in Santa Fe on the phone. They talked in fluent Spanish for quite a while, then the cop handed the phone back and Marcos said that the cop would accept a 500-peso (about $26-) bribe. We knew it was a bribe and he knew it was a bribe. But in reality, he extorted it from me because he knew that not paying it would screw up our hotel reservations in 2 more cities before we reached our destination. We would have to find another hotel (ours was fully booked, a soccer team had just arrived) and stay two more days in Torreon. It would cost a lot more time and money if we did not pay him off. I have had three such experiences, in one of which the cop simply made up a violation I had not committed—he charged only 200 pesos.
Torturous Treacherous Trumpery
Now when Trump said to the newly elected president Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, “…I’d like you to do me a favor though,” both knew exactly what that meant. Trump made it quite clear (as did more than one of his henchmen) that if the new president did not publicly announce an investigation into Joe Biden, he would continue to withhold the military aid Congress had legislated. Until then, US policy had consistently worked to defend Ukraine against Russian aggression.
Congress funded anti-tank weapons, etc., to help the Ukrainians defend themselves from Putin’s invasion and occupation of parts of northern Ukraine. The Pentagon vetted the process to avoid corruption. Trump had no legitimate policy reason for withholding the funds and shocked some of his advisors by doing so. But he saw Biden as his main Democratic rival in the upcoming 2020 election and wanted to disgrace Biden in the media. He extorted the Ukrainian president, who was desperate to defend his tiny nation.
Were Trump’s actions Treason, or mere treachery? Is he a traitor, or merely a narcissistic sociopath with no moral compass who has no problem abusing the office of the Presidency for his personal gain? Many of Trump’s misdeeds certainly fall within the category, “misdemeanors.” I often refer to them as Trumpery. However, many of them are far worse, even falling into the international classification of “crimes against humanity.”
Certainly, the broad range of inhumane and dishonorable deeds of this anti-president easily fall into the categories of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” The entire practice of this presidency is impeachable. But that devolves into a matter of politics.
Well, Moscow Mitch, is it to be an actual trial in the Senate, or another diversion?