Whenever the latest Republican Talking Point (tm) -- it was a perfect call, it wasn't quid pro quo, it wasn't improper, it wasn't illegal, the hearings are in secret, we can't call witnesses, we didn't get all the transcripts, we only got the transcripts yesterday, the process is bad, this is a sham -- gets refuted or isn't working, it changes to a new one. The latest seems to be, "When Bill Clinton was impeached it was because he committed a crime, but Trump hasn't."
Well, if Republicans want to play these word games, I am happy to play along.
First, committing a crime is not a prerequisite of getting impeached. Abuse of power isn't against the law. It is impeachable though. But even more to the point, there's a very good reason that committing a crime isn't in the Constitution as a requirement to be an impeachable offense -- when the Constitution was written, there was no U.S. Criminal Code yet. (Fun Fact: the official Revised Statutes of the United States wasn't approved until June 22, 1874. The U.S. Constitution was written in 1787.) This isn't to say that there weren't federal laws in the United States for 100 years -- of course there were. They just weren't officially codified yet. And most certainly weren't codified at the time the clause on impeachment was written.
But the other point is equally important, if not even more valid. To say that Bill Clinton committed a crime, which is why he was impeached requires one very important thing -- the commission of a crime. And a person hasn't committed a crime until they've been charged and convicted of one. After all, and this is the cool part, as pretty much everyone has known since their schooldays -- say it all together -- "A man is innocent until proven guilty."
Bill Clinton may well have been impeached for the charge of lying under oath, but as much as everyone may believe he did so, and insist he did so, and even did so -- he was never convicted of perjury, let alone tried or even charged. So, by law -- despite Republican insistence to the contrary -- Bill Clinton never committed a crime. One can insist he lied under oath and show how he did so and say that that act is a crime. But without a conviction, Bill Clinton legally is innocent of committing a crime. The same as if one is arrested for some action, charged, tried and found not guilty Not even the same, more so, since none of that even occurred.
It is fair to say that you believe Bill Clinton committed perjury. It is fair to say you believe Bill Clinton should have been impeached. It is fair to say that you believe Bill Clinton should have been convicted -- or acquitted. It is not fair to play word games and say Bill Clinton got impeached because he committed a crime and Trump didn't.
Because committing a crime isn't a requirement of the impeachment clause, there was no U.S. Criminal Code at the time the Constitution was written, and because...well, he didn't.
Trump likewise did not commit a crime. He only tried to extort and bribe a foreign leader, put U.S. national security at risk and abused power.
And though I know all this is very serious, sometimes life needs a little song and dance to keep one's enthusiasm and attention up. So, here's Judy Holliday from the musical Bells are Ringing with a song from the Broadway show that was filmed for the movie, but cut -- "Is It a Crime?"
(The footage happily was saved, but never fully edited which is why this is a single master shot, with the color shifting a bit.)
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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