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750+ historians make a pithy case for impeachment

A large (and growing) number of prominent academic and/or popular historians of our poor, dear nation have signed a letter endorsing the impeachment of President Donald Trump. As of Tuesday morning, the number of signatories has cracked 750, but I gather the list is growing still.

The text of their petition is short, and pretty darn pithy for a bunch of highbrow scholars. Read the whole thing for yourself, here, but in case you don’t click through, the first paragraph says:

“President Trump’s numerous and flagrant abuses of power are precisely what the Framers had in mind as grounds for impeaching and removing a president. Among those most hurtful to the Constitution have been his attempts to coerce the country of Ukraine, under attack from Russia, an adversary power to the United States, by withholding essential military assistance in exchange for the fabrication and legitimization of false information in order to advance his own re-election.”

Being historians, they relied for backup on Alexander Hamilton, who wrote, as Publius in the Federalist papers, that impeachment was designed to deal with “the misconduct of public men” which involves “the abuse or violation of some public trust.” They believe the facts suggest that Donald Trump’s conduct fits the definition of “impeachable.”


In their own collective voice, the historians opined:

“It is our considered judgment that if President Trump’s misconduct does not rise to the level of impeachment, then virtually nothing does.”

***

I came across a quote that follows up on two of my recent columns, one about the question of whether a president has to have committed an literal crime to be convicted of “high crimes and misdemeanors” for impeachment purposes, and one about the cravenness of Sen. Lindsey Graham, who has destroyed his former reputation as a straight talker since his conversion to the Trumpian religion.

Apparently, during the 1999 impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton, for which Graham served as one of the prosecutors (representing the U.S. House, of which Graham was then a member), he argued that:

“You do not even have to be convicted of a crime to lose your job in this constitutional republic if this body determines that your conduct as a public official is clearly out of bounds in your role.”

Is that still his position?

(Hat tip to Max Boot, who cited that quote in a recent Washington Post column.)

Comments (24)

  1. Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 12/17/2019 - 11:21 am.

    Seems the problem is that “Scholars” will be considered by the right wing propaganda and conspiracy folks to be automatically deep state never Trumper’s. Reality is that those are terms those folks use for any facts, opinions, etc, they find contradictory or uncomfortable, as they push for their dictator want to be! As a child we better understood that as the “boogie man”, the person responsible for all things we didn’t like or agree with. Amazing how many right wingers/Trump supporters still believe in and reinforce the “boogie man” just with different terms!

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 12/17/2019 - 03:53 pm.

      Oh for Pete’s sake anyone who disagrees with Don Trump is a deep state never Trumper. Even those with an 8th grade education.

      • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 12/17/2019 - 09:52 pm.

        Well Frank we agree, I just didn’t want to be so presumptuous about it! Next thing you know folks are going to call me a scholar and part of the deep state conspiracy. And I’m just a poor retired industrialist living in the North side for the last 35+ years.

  2. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 12/17/2019 - 11:37 am.

    Incredible: That of these hundreds of scholars of American history across the nation, one finds only three from the University of Minnesota who are willing to conclude publicly that Donald Trump deserves to be impeached. I did not realize that our Minnesota historians were so Republican, or so detached from current events.

    Or, maybe only those three Minnesota signators to this statement are connected to the national scholarly community, to network this way? Which is bad on a whole other level, of academic relevance.

  3. Submitted by Misty Martin on 12/17/2019 - 12:24 pm.

    I pointed out to a friend of mine today, who is a supporter of President Trump, that we were now in a political climate where the President can say or do “anything” (didn’t President Trump make that very same statement the other day) and he doesn’t have to face any consequences for his actions/statements/tweets/telephone conversations, etc. The way I understand history, President Nixon resigned before his taped conversations could be made public and he didn’t want the public to hear the terrible things he had said in private on those “Watergate tapes” regarding the attempted cover-up of the Watergate fiasco. We now have a president who doesn’t care what he says, who he hurts, what he does, and his adoring public says: “What’s wrong with that?!?” My friend still thinks Trump’s a better choice than anyone on the Democratic side, mainly because he is 100% Republican party and an evangelical. That’s what we’re up against in this next election – and it’s scary. When leaders do bad things and too many voters could care less – what is America coming to?

    • Submitted by Raj Maddali on 12/18/2019 - 06:04 am.

      I disagree with Trump on a lot, including his racist talk. However for each of his actions there are courts and Congress and ultimately the people who vote. What more do you want ? Speech codes ?

      Compare that to Amy Klobuchar and other Minnesota Democrats who supports an unconstitutional proposed law to stifle my free speech.

      Democrats didn’t descend from Heaven.

      • Submitted by Janis Froehlig on 12/18/2019 - 12:37 pm.

        Here’s what I wish: that the popular response to Dem-led legislation articulated the purpose of the legislation, and either how that goal is misguided or the legislation would fail to meet that goal.

        Dude, no one’s after your right to speak your mind. No one is after the freedom of the press.

        What we’d like to see is voter-funded media versus corporate (another form of governance, and one that has access to literally-mind-bending technology/information), and some enlightenment (discussion and action) around how to enforce the constitution’s implicit ban on assembling NOT peaceably. Online fora are a human assembly, and they do incite violence. There’s a seriously unfortunate confluence here, in which huge tech companies are caught.

        So, I’ll say it again: it’s not lawful to assemble with violent intent. You *currently* do not have the right to belong to online groups (whether that includes specific conversations is one concept that’s at issue) that purport or imply violent intent. People do. These people are pretty PO’d they can’t do this.

        No one is looking to curb individual speech, except maybe the people who have to sit and listen to hateful racist/sexist rants. We have the right to unfriend.

        Ironically, employers are skeptical of people who don’t ‘t use their Facebook accounts, or don’t have them. If you want to separate corporate power from government power, you’ll need an electorate who understands the marketing techniques of the corporations who feed it. Good luck with that. Teachers are striking because they’re overwhelmed, and even they haven’t scratched this stuff.

  4. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 12/17/2019 - 01:41 pm.

    It all seemingly comes down to if the Ds can get to 51 votes on the rules: Get the first hand witnesses and let the chips fall where they may.

    We see thousands of ads supporting Trump on impeachment and, as reported, 1 on the other side. Ad pressure on vulnerable / convince able R Senators is needed: Support Trump and also support a fair process to insure a valid and true outcome.

  5. Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 12/17/2019 - 01:47 pm.

    “what is America coming to?” or, is it what has America come to?

  6. Submitted by Connor OKeefe on 12/17/2019 - 01:50 pm.

    I think that the real impact the 3 lefty “scholars” had while testifying before the Judiciary Committee was to set the respect for scholarship back 100 years. No one not suffering from swamp fever considers liberal arts academics “highbrow” in the current year.

    I’m not going to waste the time, but I’ll bet a search of recent writings from any of these 750 will uncover a pile of incoherent raving worthy only of a short trip into the nearest waste basket. That’s a sad statement about the state of our academics, but it’s the truth.

    • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 12/17/2019 - 09:39 pm.

      Yep, not worth the time to waste to call BS and not have to support it, seems fair doesn’t it? Favorite Trump and company tactic, Call BS with zero evidence. Looks like a new way to try court cases, just call it and all evidence BS and all the criminals go free! Best strategy ever, facts are BS and BS is fact! You can’t make this stuff up! You read it here first on Minnpost.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 12/17/2019 - 09:52 pm.

      But of course you haven’t actually *read* any of them,
      nor do you have the background to understand them if you did read them.
      And of course this column cites 750+, which is slightly more than 3, even to a ‘righty’.

    • Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 12/18/2019 - 02:29 pm.

      The Judiciary Committee had four scholars testify, three who favored impeachment of Trump, one who said Trump did wrong but that the House should just let the slow courts waste time in appeals until after the 2020 election that Trump is well on his way to corrupting! In other words, let Trump get away with his unconstitutional actions.

      The scholars there were not “liberal arts” scholars. they were professors of law, Constitutional law, to boot.

      One despairs at the ignorance on the right of such detail. Academic historians are professors of liberal arts, but there’s a world of difference between the liberal arts as an area of learning and profession, and liberal political leanings. Duh.

      But, then, we have an ignorant president, who is intellectually lazy, to boot. What can we expect from his defenders?

    • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 12/18/2019 - 04:10 pm.

      It’s funny that all those who belittle the state of academia and academics seem to have miracle conversions when they need a Doctor, Dentist, Lawyer, Engineer or any other highly educated provider.

      Then that guy from Harvard looks pretty good to them; but for some mysterious reason those same academic standards and processes that made all these guys they like, only kick out incompetents for areas they may have some disagreement with.

      Happy to say those 750 historians are all wrong; but that oncologist has some pretty good ideas..

  7. Submitted by Mike Chrun on 12/17/2019 - 10:06 pm.

    Poster boy for Asimov’s famous quote: “There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’”

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 12/18/2019 - 07:23 pm.

      Maybew that’s why the sainted Isaac ultimately decided that only robots could properly assure the future of the human race.

  8. Submitted by William Hunter Duncan on 12/18/2019 - 08:37 am.

    Hmmm….

    The last forty years have seen epic growth in income inequality, the ongoing collapse of the miidle class, the growth of the total surveillance state and the eternal war profiteering complex, the loss of trillions of tons of topsoil, the ever greater polluting of the land and waters, ever more complete control of the land and waters by corporations, banks and private equity, the extermination of pollinator species, vast increases in debt for Millenials especially, trillions of dollars of deferred maintenance in infrastructure, epic increases in drug addiction, suicide and homelessness.

    I call that in part the epic failure of our “thinking” class.

    So when those representative of that class come together like this, I am not necessarily impressed. Not when they have been so wrong about so much for so long. Particularly that bit about Russia. So little to say of the vast pathologies of economics/law and order here in America, so ready to support the war machine.

    • Submitted by Janis Froehlig on 12/18/2019 - 12:56 pm.

      I’m not a part of that class, and for a long time I railed against it. I found out, though, how much work there is to do in getting America to think (s*, we barely read, but when we do it’s cartoons and cat memes), and vote in well-read, thoughtful ways (like in actual primaries and local elections). Yep, our “thinking class” has been utterly snobbish, not out of spite, but because of a sense of overwhelm.

      That said, I think a whole lot of *very* articulate folk here in MinnPost comments could afford a few minutes to find obscure comment-sections on YouTube where a little bit of thought-infusion would be helpful. We are *all* at fault for our communal stupidity…. oh, wait, are we too busy?

    • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 12/18/2019 - 04:06 pm.

      The thinking class doesn’t pass legislation. Besides they are all part of the elite and deep state right? It wasn’t the “thinking class” that just gave $1.5T to the wealthy, eased coal pollution laws, beefed up the military industrial complex budget, claimed wind turbines give you cancer, and climate change is a hoax, etc. etc. etc. Look to the great leader, or are you saying Trump is a member of the thinking class?

    • Submitted by Solly Johnson on 12/18/2019 - 06:12 pm.

      A very good article from Truthdig regarding never-ending wars and similarities with Afghanistan, which supports your arguments.

      https://www.truthdig.com/articles/the-15-year-long-american-war-youve-never-heard-of/

    • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 12/21/2019 - 09:36 am.

      WHD: One of your favorite topics from my local state representative no less:

      “Pollinators are essential for food production and for the survival of native plant populations. But pesticides, destruction of habitat, and climate change have put pollinator populations in jeopardy. Minnesota’s state bee, the rusty patched bumble bee, is now an endangered species”

      And he isn’t a right winger!

  9. Submitted by Joe Musich on 12/18/2019 - 07:57 pm.

    But the historians never made their mark in entertainment television. So apparently their credentialing is unworthy to some. We are seeing a live remake of the Gangs of New York taking place before our eyes. And many are mindlessly cheering the brutality. And many who have responsibility of being referees are denying their duties for their own political and thereby financial enhancement. Obama hit the big time with his hope campaign. These same brutal forces have done all they can to destroy the very idea of having hope with force.

  10. Submitted by BK Anderson on 12/19/2019 - 09:49 am.

    The conservative movement has no patience for “experts”, since reality has a well known liberal bias…

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