Billionaire Tom Steyer thinks we need to impeach Donald Trump. He does more than think about it, though: He is funding and is heavily involved in running an organization called “Need to Impeach,” and he spent yesterday in Minneapolis for a “Need to Impeach” rally, which consisted mostly of him answering questions and responding to comments from the audience, and to give a few interviews, including one to yours truly.
I admit that I liked him and am more than a little embarrassed at how many of my questions were about how unlikely it is that Trump will be impeached.
In my defense, it probably is unlikely, most especially if “impeachment,” which technically is the first step, requiring the support of a mere majority of the U.S. House, also implies removed from office by the U.S. Senate, which requires a hard-to-imagine two thirds vote in the U.S. Senate to convict a president of the “high crimes and misdemeanors” alleged by the House.
Still, knowing the future is not among my gifts. And Trump probably is guilty of impeachable offenses. It’s just hard to imagine that two-thirds vote in the Senate, considering that even the most anti-Trump Senate Republicans have never suggested that impeachment was the appropriate remedy, and that some of the most anti-Trump Republicans are leaving the Senate. (Jeff Flake, for example.)
But while Steyer amiably indulged my skepticism and answered my questions, some of his comments amounted to: So what do you, journo-skeptic, propose to do about the menace that the current incumbent poses to the American experiment in self-government?
Point taken. Maybe I just fell into an old journo-trap of thinking that the job is to ask the hardest and most skeptical question I can come up with. So let me give Steyer space for a long response to my line of questions, most of which amounted to: How can impeachment and removal, requiring a two-thirds vote in the Senate, actually happen?
The only way that [impeachment and removal] will happen is that the American people, including independents and Republicans, decide that something [Trump] has done is so bad that he has to go.
And I would have thought that the recent evidence of a $500 million payment from a Chinese company to [Trump’s] firm, might be something that bad. It’s a smoking gun to me. It’s clearly an emolument. It’s clearly illegal. It’s clearly unconstitutional. Directly and explicitly [me: that’s a reference to the “emoluments clause” of the Constitution]. It’s an enormous amount of money, directly paid to him from a Communist government. It’s amazing.
But that happened, without anybody paying any attention, so I guess I guess no, that’s not it.
“So what can we do?” he asked — and then answered: “We can keep trying to tell the truth.
“We’re trying to stand up for American values and our democracy. And we’re pushing as hard as we can. For what would be the right thing [that’s a reference to impeachment]. So if you’re saying to me, ‘Yeah, but it could be a long steep slog, Tom, there are forces arrayed against you.’ I agree.”
Steyer claims to have started other public campaigns, mostly in the California context, that he was told were hopeless, and to have succeeded. He added:
But of anyone wants to take this job, [“Need to Impeach”] will gladly hand them the keys and walk away. But right now, it’s a job that needs to be done and no one else seems to want to do it. We have a lawless president who is undermining our laws and getting away with it, and no one wants to speak up. So, you know what, I must have a self-immolation problem.
We do have 5.4 million people who have signed up with us. We are, by far, the biggest organizers of people under 35 in nation. So if someone want to take this off my hands, I will hand them the keys to the car this instant and they can drive it away. But there doesn’t seem to be anyone who wants to do what we’re doing right now. And y’know what: it’s really important that it be done.
It’s not like [Trump]’s gonna go straight. That’s not gonna happen. He’s gonna get more crooked. He’s not gonna stop obstructing justice. He’s obstructing justice at this second.
He’s not gonna stop profiting personally from business with foreign governments, cuz he does it every day. So the events are just gonna keep going on and so are we.
[Impeachment] is never going to happen unless and until the American people decide it should. And that’s probably right. This should probably never happen unless the American people have decided they want it to.
As I mentioned above, I was starting to feel awkward about the line of my questioning, so I brought up the fact that most of the smarty-pants experts believed it was impossible at various points in 2016 that Donald Trump could be elected were proven wrong.
“That’s what I say,” Steyer responded. “Everybody who claims to know so much about how these things are going to go, and how the polls look, and what tactics will work and what wont, nobody’s been right. So what are we gonna do to stand up for what’s right. That’s all we’re saying. We do a ton of grass roots stuff all over the place, but the basic question is who is going to stand up for our democracy, and we’re trying to.”
Steyer also spoke at a public meeting in the St. Anthony Main neighborhood of Minneapolis last night. He made just a few opening remarks and then took questions from the audience, which was totally on his side.
If you have time and inclination to get deeper into the question of what constitutes an impeachable offense, and what Trump has done that might qualify, Steyer/Need to Impeach put a panel of legal scholars who discussed how some things Trump has or may have done might fit the framers’ original idea when they put impeachment into the Constitution, there’s an hour-long video of that panel here. I admit I learned a lot from it.