How to Talk about Impeachment: Preventing Harm to the Country

In the Atlantic, Yoni Appelbaum has a very long article making the case that the House should start the process of impeaching Donald Trump as a way to start reining in his abuses. At its core, the article argues that impeachment serves as a check on abusive Executive power, whether or not it succeeds. It describes five benefits of starting an impeachment proceeding.

In these five ways—shifting the public’s attention to the president’s debilities, tipping the balance of power away from him, skimming off the froth of conspiratorial thinking, moving the fight to a rule-bound forum, and dealing lasting damage to his political prospects—the impeachment process has succeeded in the past. In fact, it’s the very efficacy of these past efforts that should give Congress pause; it’s a process that should be triggered only when a president’s betrayal of his basic duties requires it. But Trump’s conduct clearly meets that threshold. The only question is whether Congress will act.

I don’t agree with everything in the article. I’ll also note that it dismisses the possibility Trump will be charged with bribery, with virtually no real consideration of the issue.

 The Constitution offers a short, cryptic list of the offenses that merit the impeachment and removal of federal officials: “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” The first two items are comparatively straightforward. The Constitution elsewhere specifies that treason against the United States consists “only in levying War” against the country or in giving the country’s enemies “Aid and Comfort.” As proof, it requires either the testimony of two witnesses or confession in open court. Despite the appalling looseness with which the charge of treason has been bandied about by members of Congress past and present, no federal official—much less a president—has ever been impeached for it. (Even the darkest theories of Trump’s alleged collusion with Russia seem unlikely to meet the Constitution’s strict definition of that crime.) Bribery, similarly, has been alleged only once, and against a judge, not a president.

I’ve argued there’s a good deal of evidence Trump did enter in a quid pro quo agreement — Trump Tower and dirt on Hillary for sanction relief and help with Syria and Ukraine — that would meet even the narrowed standards of bribery laid out in John Roberts’ McDonnell decision.

In any case, the Atlantic piece is very worthwhile. And it serves as welcome background for what I was initially trying to write when I wrote that bribery post.

First, there are more reasons than just Trump’s compromise by Russia to pursue impeachment. Rashida Tlaib laid out the following in the op-ed that preceded her “motherfucker” comment.

We already have overwhelming evidence that the president has committed impeachable offenses, including, just to name a few: obstructing justice; violating the emoluments clause; abusing the pardon power; directing or seeking to direct law enforcement to prosecute political adversaries for improper purposes; advocating illegal violence and undermining equal protection of the laws; ordering the cruel and unconstitutional imprisonment of children and their families at the southern border; and conspiring to illegally influence the 2016 election through a series of hush money payments.

David Leonhardt laid out the reasons this way:

He has repeatedly put his own interests above those of the country. He has used the presidency to promote his businesses. He has accepted financial gifts from foreign countries. He has lied to the American people about his relationship with a hostile foreign government. He has tolerated cabinet officials who use their position to enrich themselves.

Appelbaum describes all the ways Trump violated his oath of office this way:

The oath of office is a president’s promise to subordinate his private desires to the public interest, to serve the nation as a whole rather than any faction within it. Trump displays no evidence that he understands these obligations. To the contrary, he has routinely privileged his self-interest above the responsibilities of the presidency. He has failed to disclose or divest himself from his extensive financial interests, instead using the platform of the presidency to promote them. This has encouraged a wide array of actors, domestic and foreign, to seek to influence his decisions by funneling cash to properties such as Mar-a-Lago (the “Winter White House,” as Trump has branded it) and his hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue. Courts are now considering whether some of those payments violate the Constitution.

More troubling still, Trump has demanded that public officials put their loyalty to him ahead of their duty to the public. On his first full day in office, he ordered his press secretary to lie about the size of his inaugural crowd. He never forgave his first attorney general for failing to shut down investigations into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and ultimately forced his resignation. “I need loyalty. I expect loyalty,” Trump told his first FBI director, and then fired him when he refused to pledge it.

Trump has evinced little respect for the rule of law, attempting to have the Department of Justice launch criminal probes into his critics and political adversaries. He has repeatedly attacked both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Special Counsel Robert Mueller. His efforts to mislead, impede, and shut down Mueller’s investigation have now led the special counsel to consider whether the president obstructed justice.

As for the liberties guaranteed by the Constitution, Trump has repeatedly trampled upon them. He pledged to ban entry to the United States on the basis of religion, and did his best to follow through. He has attacked the press as the “enemy of the people” and barred critical outlets and reporters from attending his events. He has assailed black protesters. He has called for his critics in private industry to be fired from their jobs. He has falsely alleged that America’s electoral system is subject to massive fraud, impugning election results with which he disagrees as irredeemably tainted. Elected officials of both parties have repeatedly condemned such statements, which has only spurred the president to repeat them.

These actions are, in sum, an attack on the very foundations of America’s constitutional democracy.

Russia is but one of the reasons why Trump should be impeached.

Indeed, in the last day two new pieces of evidence about the damage Trump has done with his conflicts of interest have come out. A CREW report cataloging all the conflicts of interest generated from the use of Trump properties to curry favor with him.

  • CREW has identified 12 foreign governments that have made payments to Trump properties during his first two years in office, each of which is likely a violation of the Constitution’s foreign emoluments clause. At least three foreign countries held events at Trump properties during his second year in office, and two of them did so after having held similar events elsewhere in previous years.
  • Instead of pushing back on President Trump’s refusal to divest from his business, allies in Congress have embraced the arrangement. 53 U.S. senators and representatives made more than 90 visits to Trump properties during his second year in office, up from 47 visits by 36 members the prior year, and similarly, at least 33 state-level government officials visited Trump properties, likely resulting in taxpayer funds going into Trump’s coffers.
  • More than 150 political committees, including campaigns and party committees, have spent nearly $5 million at Trump businesses since he became president. In Trump’s second year in office, CREW tracked 33 political events held at Trump properties—13 of which Trump himself attended, meeting and speaking with wealthy donors.
  • Special interests held at least 20 events at Trump properties during the president’s second year in office. Since Trump took office, at least 13 special interest groups have lobbied the White House, some for the first time, around the same time they patronized a Trump property, suggesting that making large payments to Trump’s businesses is viewed as a way to stay in his administration’s good graces.
  • Over the past year, President Trump made 118 visits to properties he still profits from in office, bringing his two-year total to 281 visits. CREW also identified 119 federal officials and employees who visited Trump properties over the past year, up from 70 the prior year.
  • In addition to making frequent visits to his properties, President Trump and other White House staff have promoted Trump businesses on at least 87 occasions. Trump himself mentioned or referred to his company 68 times during his second year in office, more than double the 33 times he did so the prior year.
  • Paying members at Trump’s resorts and clubs have received benefits beyond getting occasional face time with the President. Four Mar-a-Lago members have been considered for ambassadorships since his election, and three other members—with no federal government experience—acted as unelected, non-Senate-confirmed shadow officials in Trump’s Veterans Administration.

Yesterday, the Inspector General for the General Services Administration released a report showing that GSA recognized that Trump’s Old Post Office property might present a problem under the Emoluments Clause, but basically blew off reviewing what to do about it.

We found that GSA recognized that the President’s business interest in the OPO lease raised issues under the Constitution’s Emoluments Clauses that might cause a breach of the lease; however, GSA decided not to address those issues in connection with the management of the lease. We also found that the decision to exclude the emoluments issues from GSA’s consideration of the lease was improper because GSA, like all government agencies, has an obligation to uphold and enforce the Constitution; and because the lease, itself, requires that consideration. In addition, we found that GSA’s unwillingness to address the constitutional issues affected its analysis of Section 37.19 of the lease that led to GSA’s conclusion that Tenant’s business structure satisfied the terms and conditions of the lease. As a result, GSA foreclosed an early resolution of these issues, including a possible solution satisfactory to all parties; and the uncertainty over the lease remains unresolved.

Congress doesn’t have to wait for Mueller to begin reviewing Trump’s conflicts of interest. Indeed, it’d be a far better use of the Oversight Committee’s time to chase down these issues than to interview Michael Cohen and in the process endanger a witness central to the Mueller probe.

Importantly, by focusing on the other ways — other than potential Russian compromise — that Trump has placed his self-interest above the good of the country, an impeachment inquiry might step beyond the debate as it currently stands, where impeachment is considered a political question, to one where it becomes a question of preventing ongoing damage to the country (on top of the legal remedy provided by the Constitution, as I noted in my bribery post).

Sure. An impeachment inquiry may not get 20 Republican votes in the Senate to impeach. But it might. In his first post after laying out why impeachment is necessary, Leonhardt laid out numbers showing that Trump is actually weaker than a lot of people assume.

In the days after I revealed that I had shared information with the FBI, I met with a few Republicans — that was a big part of the reason why I did go public. Remember, I didn’t go to the FBI about Trump, I went about information about the election year attack; but I suspected — and indeed confirmed — that even key members of Congress did not understand the full scope of the attack. My goal in meeting with those Republicans was to point out the damage they were doing by running interference for Trump instead of making sure that the country mounted an adequate response to those aspects of the attack that were not public. I started one meeting with a key Republican member of Congress (we both agreed we would not reveal we had met) literally by saying I was taking a leap of faith in even meeting with him. We agree on literally nothing in politics, except that we love our country. As I left that meeting, that member of Congress told me we may agree on more than I knew.

But that conversation was not about Donald Trump. It was, instead, about how the focus on winning a political fight over Donald Trump was distracting from ensuring the well-being of the country.

We are almost four weeks into a government shutdown that serves just one purpose: to ensure that Donald Trump doesn’t have to face Ann Coulter’s criticism, and the ego damage, of admitting he failed to implement a campaign promise he never delivered over two years of two-house Republican rule. We’ve had stupid government shutdowns before. But never before have we failed to fund the government because one narcissistic man put his own ego above the good of the country.

Now, more than ever, it should be easy to talk impeachment not as a way for Democrats to win partisan advantage by taking down Donald Trump, but as a way to protect the country from the harm he is doing. For the same reason, Democrats should be especially careful about how they talk about impeachment (as this great Balkans Bohemia thread argues); because to actually prevent further damage, impeachment needs to be a sober, legitimate process. That’s what impeachment needs to be about: not a political question. But a question about how to protect the one thing we all share — this country.

118 replies
  1. viget says:

    Well said Marcy.  We need someone to speak eloquently about this very point.

    In years past, it would have been someone like Ted Kennedy, may he rest in peace.  Or maybe Biden.  But no one else seems to have the spine to do it, it seems.  Wonder if Mitt Romney is going to try to steal the spotlight here  .. shudder…

  2. Omali says:

    I find this very confusing.

    March 23, 2017

    WASHINGTON — By letter dated March 23, 2017, the GSA contracting officer determined that the Trump Old Post Office, LLC is in full compliance with Section 37.19 of the lease.

    The contracting officer’s letter, including exhibits, is available in the GSA FOIA Reading Room.

    The full language of section 37.19 is below:

    No member or delegate to Congress, or elected official of the Government of the United States or the Government of the District of Columbia, shall be admitted to any share or part of this Lease, or to any benefit that may arise therefrom; provided, however, that this provision shall not be construed as extending to any Person who may be a shareholder or other beneficial owner of any publicly held corporation or other entity, if this Lease is for the general benefit of such corporation or other entity.

    Is it the “other entity” business that allowed him to skate?

    • Trip says:

      The wording is confusing, but what is meant is that ownership via stocks of a public company like Verizon (ex), which millions of people might have shares in, including elected officials, is exempted from the rule. Trump’s properties and businesses are all privately held entities meaning he, and his family alone, benefit from any profit (and no others).

  3. jonb says:

    wow..did this member of Congress acknowledge the harm his fellow members were doing and did he or others want to do anything about it?

  4. Omali says:

    “publicly held corporation or other entity,”. This is what throws me.

    Does the modifier “publicly held” apply only to ‘corporation’, or does it also apply to ‘other entity’?

    • Rayne says:

      Publicly-held corporation versus privately-held corporation (including non-public LLCs) versus nonprofit.

      Edit — forgot to add that I think somebody in the GSA swagged this decision, assumed the Trump umbrella org would stuff the ‘Trump Old Post Office LLC’ into a blind trust. Somebody in the GSA needs to answer for this because no such assumption should have been made.

  5. BobCon says:

    I agree that impeachment needs to be deliberate process to avoid political damage. The fear I have is that events will outstrip our ability to process them. That’s not a reason to stop the impeachment process, but it is a big challenge.

    The great book “A Bridge Too Far” (inspiration for the fairly good movie by the same name) does an excellent job of describing the complications the allies faced in the late summer of 1944. Their plans to rout the Nazis kept getting preempted because the Nazis kept collapsing ahead of schedule. The Allies struggled to keep up, and ended up launching the ill fated Operation Market Garden because they were unable to get their heads around the chaos. Too many details escaped them, and the plan failed because it depended on capturing the now famous bridge too far.

    Probably the best lesson to draw is that it’s a mistake to base a plan for impeachment on any single dependency. It will be important to stress from the outset that this doesn’t depend on a single blue dress, and force Trump’s defenders into making multiple last stands in multiple places.

    • rip says:

      Wonderful analogy – A Bridge Too Far.

      The supply lines and the intelligence need to be kept up-to-date. Makes me think of Muhammad Ali’s tactics of falling back and then striking as the opponent is off balance.

      • Tom says:

        I think impeachment proceedings should advance on a broad front, in the manner of Eisenhower, backed up by Montgomery-style planning and preparation.    A careful, deliberate compiling and exposing of Trump’s wrongdoings over the past several years may have a greater cumulative effect than any attempt to go for the jugular right out of the gate.    My sense is that information relating to Trump’s lies, cheating, bribery, poll-rigging, profiting from the Presidency, and other examples of corruption will have a greater impact with voters than matters relating to campaign finance law violations or conspiracy with the Russians.   Again, I’m baffled at the apparent equanimity with which the public seems to accept the President’s groveling to Putin.    Does it take a selfie of Trump and Putin having a bubble bath together in a heart-shaped tub to wake people up?

  6. P J Evans says:

    The non-stop lies coming from everyone in the White House – and several of the cabinet departments – ought to be more than enough to trigger impeachment. Add to that the obvious corruption (and incompetence) of various cabinet officers, and impeachment should have started at least a year ago.

    • Mainmata says:

      And it might well have begun a year ago if the Democrats held the HOR but, of course, they didn’t. A Democratic majority on the Intelligence Committee would have issued its report (pretty radically different than the Nunes Mess and that could have formed the basis of an impeachment indictment.

  7. Mister Sterling says:

    This is the perfect argument. Congress needs to impeach Trump now not because of the what he did in 2016 or 2017, but because of the harm he is doing to the republic today. He has been doing great damage to the republic since he took office. 728 days

  8. pseudonymous in nc says:

    The Clinton impeachment was a kind of toxic inoculation for future Republican presidents.

    Impeachment is and is not a political question. It asks whether an individual’s continued power within a political system undermines the integrity of that system. It is a secular excommunication. It is a health inspection at a restaurant. It is an HR tribunal for public office. And the problem the US faces is that the integrity of the system has been so degraded — consider the recent references to the McDonnell case — that one could argue the system’s de facto structures perfectly accommodate King Stupid and his crime family. But the impeachment process allows a discussion of what the integrity of the system should look like.

    To that extent, the ConFraudUS theory of the case (together with the SDNY investigation) exists in parallel to impeachment. It names institutions put in place to enforce the integrity of the political system — sources that we would like to believe actually function — and shows how they were circumvented and degraded.

  9. jaango says:

    Given my long history of  political writing, I am opposed to Impeachment!!

    To wit, my belief in the Constitution’s inherent ‘decency personified’ is not a consequential element thusly, impeachment denigrates our democracy, even more.  More so, when I question the validity that an approximate 50% of my fellow citizens don’t vote and subsequently, my behavior for criticizing both the Democrats and Republicans’ unwillingness to adopt public law that requires everyone to vote but with a sole exception that is ‘under medical care’.  Of course, the ease of Futility, benefits the ‘influencers’ on both sides of the political aisle.

    Anyhow, my Yaqui/Apache/Chicano/Military Vet ‘history’ tells me that today’s majority will continue to pander to me via an advocacy for Impeachment, and yet, all that Impeachment Is, will not address my Unmet Needs relative Public Law.  And of course, the next Democratic-oriented President will pander to me as well, as historically been the case, and in particular, Obama.  And as a longtime and a staunchly progressive-oriented Democrat, Arizona’s Congressman Grijalva has a sense of a demonstrable history for inclusion and assimilation for providing oversight at Interior.

    • Rayne says:

      I’m going to point you to my reply to Stephen. Nothing about this presidency will repair the loss to my father’s people — indigenous like the Native Americans — the theft of their land, birthright, and culture. Little about presidencies before this one did and I don’t expect much from the next.

      Impeachment and removal of Trump has nothing to do with the losses the indigenous peoples have experienced. It’s just as Marcy described in this post and in others’ posts — Trump has violated laws and failed to do his job. He must be fired.

      The particular point Marcy makes about protecting this country by preventing further harm beyond what Trump has already done is wholly relevant to Native Americans and Hawaiians. His signing orders shortly after his inauguration to permit the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipeline are just one example; opening federal lands to mineral/gas/oil extraction without regard to cultural impact is another. I dread the idea he may trash the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the same way. Impeachment and removal from office could put a stop to Trump’s reckless selling out of Native American and Hawaiian interests.

      • P J Evans says:

        His treatment of Puerto Rico, as well – and then there’s the ongoing abuses by immigration authorities, including trying to deport people who were born in the US.

    • timbo says:

      Really?  What do you think of the President urging that his legal advisors find way to ignore the 14th Amendment?

  10. CCM says:

    DT is everything the founding fathers feared in a president. An autocrat under the influence of a foreign enemy state. They would have tarred and feathered him. Impeachment is too kind

  11. LowdenF23c says:

    Well said, Ms. Wheeler. And, in my view, we should use the American flag as our banner as we march towards impeachment. It’s high-time progressives reclaim our share of the national symbol. We seek impeachment because we are patriots.

  12. Robert Britton says:

    Long time lurker, first time commenting. (Honestly, I admit I am an emptywheel addict. I visit your EW twitter account a half dozen times or more per day! Excellent and very thoughtful insights!)

    I’m a simple man with BS from a low-value SUNY school program in business. But I’m deeply into trying to do my civic duty as a citizen, and a part of that is trying to be informed by facts, by views (usually of those who are experts in their respected fields, rather than talking heads.), and by trying to also keep the pulse of the thoughts of my fellow Americans, left, right, or center.

    We have a pretty large part of our population who today still worships Donald Trump, and there’s pretty much NOTHING that he has done or could do that will cause them to stop supporting him. Sure, over the last day or so, polling has shown Trump’s support, even among his base, is slipping slightly including a bit in the overall GOP. (It was even reported yesterday that the senate now has enough supporters to re-open the government, yet Mitch McConnell, in partnership with Trump, continues to hold the government hostage. Maybe the pressure will mount and the GOP may finally find their backbones and begin miraculously begin to take their sworn oaths of office with the seriousness that it should have been understood for so long now.)

    As a “Joe the Plumber” type guy (“Bob the IT Guy” actually), my view is that the root issue isn’t solely about impeachment or even isn’t about what is right, what is lawful under the Constitution, or about what the constituency desires (and I think as a whole, many desire this president to be held accountable: for his failure to uphold his oath and do his duty, for his behavior, and for his crimes, though he remains unindicted on those fronts. There are so many valid reasons that Trump should not only have been censured a long time ago, but impeached. )

    The issue that scares me the most is far deeper than that.

    There is something inherently (fatally) flawed about our country, society, culture, governance, and our democracy. Yes, we should impeach Trump (should have begun months ago, clearly). The issue that scares me is how we as a body public have either changed so greatly or have revealed a hidden part of our fabric of American society that is like a flesh-eating bacteria just consuming ourselves and all the aspects of goodness and decency that we once had as “one nation, indivisible”. No, we were never perfect or without serious issues (slavery). But my God, are we that deplorable that we accept this new normal in our governance, our culture, our society? Have we as a majority become so impotent and unwilling to do the right thing anymore? Do we even know what is right anymore, morally or ethically? Or has the siren song of greed, of immorality, or of simple idleness (or laziness) corrupted our national being?

    A few men are fighting to maintain their power, influence, and opportunity…opportunities to exploit, to enrich, and worse, at the expense of many. But the root issue reaches far beyond just a few culpable men, but to the many…the entire body politic and citizenry.

    I’m not positing some conspiracy theories about some Rothschild or Illuminati group that is nefariously destroying our nation, though I do know that the reality is that there are global corrupting powers (Russia, Iran) who would like to bring American down. I am simply pointing out that the issue here is far deeper than Donald Trump. Each citizen has responsibility for where we are today.

    Trump should be impeached. But that is not going to restore America. There still will be the Cohens, the Manaforts, the Kochs, the El Chapos of our country. There still will be big money in politics, and policies affecting inequality will only mean that those with more $ will have even greater power over our country, over governance, and our society. And there will be the Putins and the mullahs and all the other global powers who will continue to work to undermine our global influence and our national stability.

    Until we the people grab the republic by the short hairs and begin to enact laws and *fight* to get money and corruption out of governance, to take that war on not just with Trump, but the far broader enabling (should I say, disabling) aspects of our republic that have facilitated and enabled the current state of affairs: Tribalism. Populism. Demagoguery. Money in politics. The sick cycle of the co-dependency between the media and those things, and even the dangers of social media platforms.

    Soap Box: We need to stop belittling the uneducated working class who latched onto Trump who consoled them (in an evil-minded and exploitative way, mind you). They are just as much citizens of our country as any of us, though they have been led astray. Putting up memes about the coal minor, or insulting and degrading them (MAGATs), while perhaps seeming to feel good and nice and snarky, will never bring America to a status of “one nation, indivisible”. We need to uplift those who need uplifting, even if they come along kicking and screaming. We will never be a great nation until we are united, informed, educated. Indivisible. Strong and capable of taking on dire global issues like climate change, global inequality, or the corrupting global influence world powers like Putin et al.


    I’m a simple man who tries to do his civic duty. Yes, Impeach Trump. But we must directly and aggressively to battle the core underlying issues: the corrupting power and influence of money in governance and in politics, to find a way to unify our citizenry, to work for the common good. DT is just a symptom of a far greater threat and challenge to our nation, not the root cause.

    (Note: This is the part where the intellectual giants like Marcy, BMAZ, et al, whip my thoughts and opionion’s ass. I try not to sound stupid. But as a guy who grew up very poor and worked hard to even get a B. S. from a low-value public college, I know that my ability to express an intellectual thought stream can be limited at times.)


    • Trip says:


      While I agree with a lot of what you’ve said, there is a subset of Trump supporters who, in essence, lament the loss of the civil war to the Union, the supremacy of whiteness, Christianity and men, and who thrill in the sadistic tendencies of their leader toward any groups not held in their regard. After apprx 155 years, kind cajoling will not break that spell. Acknowledging that there are less of them than everyone else is promising and must be the focus.

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      Bob,  You have no idea how deeply this resonated, at least with me.

      Some around here are aware that for years now, I’ve had a powerful interest in adult illiteracy.  That is a whole other thread, other than to say that someone may be superb at fixing car and truck engines, while having an impossible time reading a post like this, to say nothing of reading a loan or mortgage document.  That leaves them vulnerable to sources like Fox (highly visual), Facebook, and other misinformation.  It leaves them vulnerable to being lied to, cheated, and fleeced.

      We live in a nation where people who own things (stocks, bonds, options, trademarks, licenses to practice, mineral rights, fishing rights, land ownership, capital funds) have subverted and demeaned the value of labor.

      By ‘labor’, I mean anyone who analyzes blood samples, provides physical therapy, cuts hair, fixes motors, designs airplanes, teaches, fills prescriptions, writes, polices, sells items in shops, etc, etc, etc.  Many of these people read quite well; others do not.  My  point is that all of them are primarily participating in the economy and political system as ‘labor’, rather than ‘capital’.  Capital (of the neoliberal variety) runs the system, and it has its own, very powerful, very socially alienating logic.

      My personal view is that starting with the oil shocks of the 1970s, which were (invisibly to most) accompanied by deforestation and severe impacts to global fisheries that altered underlying economic fundamentals in ways that we still don’t understand, the economy shifted in ways that were not well understood — at the very moment when neoliberal economics, and computers, were emerging to claim that ‘capital’ (rather than labor) was the source of all wealth.  Labor had to defer to capital, on the ‘trickle down’ assumption that capital increase wealth for all.

      Neoliberal economics shaped the belief systems, but computers and spreadsheets made all the economic babble and mathish claims seem ‘legitimate’,  and  ‘obvious’ — without recognizing that money is actually a social tool that deeply embeds, and creates, forms of power (debt, homage, dependence, claims of omniscience).

      The  neoliberal economists imagined ‘homo economus’, an abstracted being (more like a bot) with ‘full knowledge’ in all economic decisions: bots (as well as sociopaths) are ideally designed for transactions — BUT they entirely absent of any social context, or any need to function within a moral society that could provide the necessary web of associations and social support to make life meaningful, worth living, and pleasant.  It’s my sense that the emergence of spreadsheets deeply embedded mathematical manipulations into daily life; so deeply that these activities became invisible to their  users.  People didn’t step back to ask themselves what effects their uses of technology were having on their beliefs, and the ways in which they thought about themselves, or what they owed (or didn’t owe) others.  In a sense, spreadsheets absolved people of moral or social responsibilities: they just had to ‘cover’ their ‘bottom lines’.

      Neoliberal economics implies that any and everything can be transacted: bought and sold.  In this ideology,  corporations have the same legal standing as humans, and money is just one more ‘good’: money = speech.  Citizens United is the apotheosis of neoliberal confusions and dehumanizing beliefs.

      To revisit the ‘illiteracy’ wrinkle:  the same mechanic who may be a whiz in fixing your car engine or making sure you can fly safely across the continent may not able able to read this post, due to problems with the way his brain is wired.  And yet, he may find it quite simple to  use spreadsheets.  S/he is then vulnerable to the romance of neoliberalism, which exalts him only as  he is the holder of capital, but as labor views him almost as a replaceable widget.

      Enter scoundrels of neoliberal ideology — like ‘Bubble Boy’ Alan Greenspan — lauding ‘capital’ over labor, clueless that many of their fellow citizens did not read well (‘let them watch Fox’).   Not that they had the empathy or discernment to give a sh!t; their lives were exalted, and if the decisions they made in order to serve capital had negative effects on labor, it was not really their responsibility.  Their job was to ensure that capital formation, capital markets, capital flows, etc, etc, etc, all worked.  And if in the background, resource grabs were occurring, climate was warming, measures of social dysfunction were climbing… those items were simply not on their spreadsheets: not part of their ‘bottom line’.

      And so these unctuous neoliberal shills for capital — economists, senators, Congressmen, think tankers —  rejiggered ‘the rules’ that ran the economy (tax laws, ongoing legal education classes taught to people who would later be judges).  At these believersInHomoEconomus rewrote the tax laws, the court decisions: meanwhile, capital concentrated, but unfortunately in the background fisheries, forests, ocean health, and other natural resources were becoming degraded and/or more scarce.  (See also: Richard Cheney, kahuna of resource grabs, extraction, and scarcity.  But I digress…)

      And so in the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, the ground shifted to ‘capital’ against a background of increasing climate destabilization and resource pressure.  It must be pointed out that capital is very comforting: it is an abstract concept that never shows up late, hung over, or cantankerous.  Capital is easy to manipulate with  math formulas.  And if  you have enough of it and can get a government (or a nation of  ‘functional illiterates’) to pay you interest on ‘capital’, it accumulates exponentially.  As we have seen.

      The alarming thing about ‘capital’ is that it creates a set of rules that are ideal for sociopaths, for people who have no sense of social obligation, little sense of right and wrong.  In other words, capital floated out of social context, became abstract, and became an instrument of power, of rapacious plunder and social dysfunction.  And all this against a background of growing resource pressure, plus horrendous demographics (particularly in ‘sh!thole countries’).

      Some historian will perhaps analyze how computers, spreadsheets, graphs and charts, and networking emerged in the 90s and 2000’s and – viola!  They made it simper to set up tax havens, once the legislation was in place, so that owners of ‘capital’, could screw every farmer, rancher, medical assistant, teacher, etc, etc, etc.  by extracting wealth silently, like a tire leaking pressure: invisible, silent, unnoticed.

      Well, I’ve now spent a chunk of my day ‘thinking’ about all this.  It’s as much luxury as necessity for those of us who believe in civic duty.

      To ‘do battle with money’ and clean up corruption, I believe that we need to see money more clearly for what it is: a tool with huge social implications.

      And we need to figure out ways to bring all of our fellow citizens into the conversation.  Trump is a symptom, of really stupid beliefs about money, of valuing capital (ill got, laundered, or cheated) over the remarkable skills and talents of our fellow citizens.  Including, and absolutely with a kind of fond affection, those whose brains are wired in ways that prevent them from actually reading and comprehending your comment. Or mine.

      Godspeed.  Your comment was exquisite.  Mine too long.  (Apologies!!)

      • Rayne says:

        Mmm. Probably Milton Friedman and his Chicago School to blame for deprecating labor as a mere fungible resource while elevating the market (represented by capital) as the means to allocate fungible resources including labor.

        Until we see human beings as sources of intellectual capital which aren’t fungible and the market as an easily corrupted tool, the Chicago School adherents will double down — whichever entity can allocate more resources wins.

      • Robert Britton says:

        Hi friend. Great reply! Thank you!

        I’m glad my comment was resonating with you.

        One of my passions is Economics and business in general, and the impact of capitalism and inequality in particular….especially inequality. I grew up below the poverty line and know the lifetime of difficulty and challenge it has provided. My dad had a 7th grade education, my mom dropped out in 8th grade. He was a master mechanic who was so very skilled from a “hands on” perspective. But he couldn’t understand even fundamental concepts without difficulty. I saw in my dad growing up the impact of a lack of knowledge and education. So I tried in my own life to strive for knowledge. I read voraciously, and finally eeked out my own B.S. from  SUNY EMPIRE State College Forum Mgt. Program. It was a struggle. I’m 54 this July, and my life is still reeling from the impacts of a lack of education and opportunity that a good education would have provided. It also suffers in other ways too: Socially, economically.

        By profession, I’m a Director of IT. Small to Mid-market companies. I’m white, male, 53, and in IT…barely. Companies love young H1B overseas workers (can you say “lower costs, maximum ROI?”)


        This may seem like a silly view, but I believe many poor people have a self-esteem issue regarding capital: Those with capital matter. Those without, don’t. It amazes me how many poor people practically worship and idolize the wealthy, regardless of any other factors. The more money one has, the more worthy that person is, even if they obtained capital through ill-gotten means.

        Wealth is not the only measure of a man (or woman). What about love? Contribution to society? What about service? What about community and family?

        I have often wondered if the lack of education is having far greater consequence on our culture (and government) than many think. We find it all too easy to deride the uneducated and the poor, rather than FIGHT to ensure that we redistribute wealth in such away that the poorer districts have the greater allocation of resources to help educate in those districts, not just for the children, but those left behind as adults, too.

        Capital leads to *POWER* and influence. Our democracy has been deeply undermined many times by the machinations of the wealthy. One of my heroes is Teddy Roosevelt because he did so much regarding the needs of the poor and with inequality. But if you read is biography, he wasn’t always a believer in helping the poor and ignorant. That didn’t  happen until later in his life. But he did a lot to help bust up trusts and the influence of the Robber Barons, and FDR continued that work. It had a lasting impact. For a while.

        Now, for many decades, numerous wealthy influencers have been making war on America. They use their money to control and leverage politicians and to get policies enacted that benefit them. We are in a dangerous time. Robert Reich (or Joseph Stiglitz) said that inequality here in America is WORSE than when the Robber Barons were in control back in the day here in America. And, as Thomas Piketty pointed out in his work, Inequality is a globally rampant issue.

        Which brings me back to my main, uneducated, but general view about the poor and their self-esteem issues regarding capital: They don’t have capital, therefore, they don’t think they matter. They don’t deserve food, benefit, living wage, health care. Only those with capital matter. It amazes me to see so many poor people vote against their own interests. And it amazes me the “upside down” messaging we have today: “Right to work” isn’t about the rights of workers, but the right to union bust. “Citizens United” isn’t really about a “citizen” or their rights, but the rights of corporations and the wealthy. Voters are getting bamboozled into supporting policies that actually work AGAINST them.

        Lack of education. Influence of propaganda, and influence of those who have all the gold.

        Inequality has had such a massive impact on so many fronts, including generations of citizens who lack education.

        I hope my response here isn’t offensive. Like I said, I’m just an average Joe. But I see how much damage is being done in our society when everyday people are starved of the benefits that the lack of money and capital is having on their lives. Money/Capital provides a means for war…not just with bullets, but with dollars …that shape policies that benefit the few at the expense not only of the many, but against the climate, environment, and so much more. (And don’t even get me started about “shareholder value” vs. “stakeholder theory”. It’s been a long time that business schools have educated students on the value of ensuring that STAKEHOLDERS are the beneficiaries of capitalism,  not just the shareholder.)

        I guess I find myself seeing the dangers on so many fronts from capitalism. People don’t like the “R” word: Redistribution. It is well past time since real policies were enacted to address many of the issues stemming from a concentration of wealth and power, and I’m not confident that there’s enough of a will to rectify.


          • robert britton says:

            Thank you, Friend. I was worried about posting here, to be honest. I’m a lightweight when it comes to some of the heavy hitters and intellectuals here. But I’m glad I shared my view and glad that it resonated with you.

        • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

          @ Rayne, agree on all points. Emphatically.

          @Bob IT, I’m older than you, got into tech sideways and late (long story), but got sidetracked with health problems for a number of years.   As for H1B’s, I live near Redmond ;-)))) My friends and their kids tend to be better represented by Venn diagrams than any specific ethnic category, so… we live in interesting times, indeed..  But I think that I get what you are saying, in terms of feeling economically at the whim of unpredictable, impersonal forces.

          I do want to make several points: one about Piketty, and two recommendations.

          I have never finished Piketty’s ‘Capital’, but what struck me  — powerfully — when I read the first half, was his explanation about how his analysis was based on the development of databases.  He had the decency to tip his hat to the heroic work done by previous generations, through the 1930s – up through the 1990s, as people tallied economic data by hand.  IOW, they could not see larger economic patterns primarily because no matter how hard they worked, they were never really able to keep up enough to see The Big Picture.  He did not pretend to be smarter; he admitted with charming humility that he stood — if not on the shoulders of giants — on the shoulders of steadfast, careful, meticulous predecessors.And it was their diligence in keeping records over decades and centuries that enabled he and his colleagues to use computing power and databases to see what had never been seen before: how capital accumulates through generations, and consequently, vast wealth has little relationship to virtue or work.

          If most wealth has been inherited, then doesn’t that call into question the assumptions of  virtue at the core of capitalism’s driving narrative?

          With databases, Piketty could start to map out The Big Picture of economic success across generations: it was mostly the result of inheritance laws, legal structures, and legal decisions.   This was like the iceberg hitting the lower deck of the Titanic; like any big ship, the neoliberal, free-market mantra is taking a while to sink and a lot of people are fighting for intellectual lifeboats.  (Others, still in denial, are doubling down, but so it goes.  Right wing think tanks and AEI are not famous for pondering the implications of databases… but I digress.)

          I believe that we are on the cusp of profound shifts in economic (and business) thinking: partly due to databases, but also because ‘the old ways ain’t workin’ for enough people.  IOW, even if you corrupted every database or fired every database manager, there are currently new and important ways to think about data, about economic patterns, on a very large scale.  And all this thinking makes a mockery of free-market, Laffer curve folderol.

          That is overdue IMVHO; remember, Adam Smith’s ‘moral philosophy’ centered on a market economy given his life in Edinburgh in the 1770s.  That fairy tale of ‘free market’ economics — despite being used as a fig leaf for political decisions and policies in recent decades — is long overdue for a revamp.  It did not scale as networks, routers, and satellites circled the globe.  Databases are like an information tsunami against that old free-market fairy story that sanctifies capital, and businesses who track data all know it.

          Specific example: on holidays, I used to work part time in a bookshop.  We chatted with customers, sold them books, off they went.  No records were ever kept of who bought what.  IOW, that business did not track customer data.

          Later, I worked (briefly, mercifully!) at the origin of eComm, selling… books!  And it finally dawned on me that every sale was actually ‘increasing’ the value of the business’s data, the business’s database(s) that had been designed to sell books, but inadvertently created information about each and every sale.  IOW, the new bookstore model ‘informated’: it created information about information.  (See Zuboff, “In the Age of the Smart Machine” where she explains the business and social implications of ‘informating’.)

          IOW, the older, physical store model was exceptionally social: lots of goodwill, good humor, chats, in the physical bookstore.  The online store had other benefits (order at 2 am, get things you could never find in a physical store, yada,  yada).  However, the online store — because of its digital nature, as well as its scale — was generating and creating a new kind of ‘capital’ that we generally call ‘data’. Or ‘information’.  Which is then fodder for ‘business analytics’.

          As a result of these experiences, before I had ever heard the phrase, ‘data is the new oil’, I was puzzled in some murky fashion as to why the old economic rules that exalted capital, made in an era of steel mills and railroads that obsessed on ‘capital expenditures’ and ‘capital investment’ simply could not, would not, explain the emerging, much more service-based, digital economy.

          The service and information based economies are mostly about l-a-b-o-r.  As you point out, some of this labor is highly skilled and we now have a global competition for labor.  It’s no wonder, given those dynamics, that states like mine on the ‘Left Coast’ are putting more emphasis on education, on pre-kindergarten education, on lifelong learning, and on heath and wellness.  In this kind of economy, neoliberal economic blather about ‘tax cuts’ – as if the economy is some kind of enclosed, static system – is the policy equivalent of destroying fertile soil by pouring salt on it.

          Two recommendations that might make you more optimistic:, which is a cross-disciplinary, extremely contemporary presentation of new economic ideas.  Also, the podcast (just starting up) Pitchfork Economics.  I find great reasons for optimism as these emerge into the larger conversation.  I don’t think it’s any accident that the originator of Pitchfork Economics is extremely familiar with digital businesses. (I don’t know him, but he seems like a fascinating person.)  Also, as a ‘tea leaf’, this week Edward Luce at no less a capital worshipping publication than the Financial Times did a thoughtful piece about ‘new economics’.

          The tides are shifting.

            • Jockobadger says:

              Thanks much for the recommendations readerOTL!  Great post.  I work in Redmond myself – live up by Crossroads.  Coffee sometime?  First thing I do when I get to my office is break out the EW for my morning outrage.  Gets me going on the day.

              • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

                What a hoot.  Small world, eh?

                Sorry that I didn’t make it back until late on Sat, but I’ll try and see whether I can reach bmaz to send contact info.  (FWIW, Crossroads is such a global village these days — even more languages spoken than in my neighborhood — natural languages, as well as code languages  ;-)

          • Rayne says:

            Big data helped Piketty make an inescapable case for r>g but it was visible and the subject of literature — the very crux of one of the post popular novels ever by Jane Austen, published 200 years ago. But when a woman tells us capital and its power to demand returns interferes with individuals’ freedom and security, they blow it off as a fluffy romance instead of trenchant economic commentary in fictional narrative form. But that’s a post for another day.

            • Hobbs says:

              Please, m’am, post that another day soon!  Which novel? P & P?  It is a truth universally acknowledged that a young man in possession of a good fortune… etc.?

              • Rayne says:

                “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

                Chattel. Women were chattel when this line was written, and capital nearly the sole province of men.

                That’s the famous opening line from Pride and Prejudice, the only one of Austen’s works to open with a theme-like statement. But as you pointed out it wasn’t her only work to note other economic challenges of the period.

      • Raven Eye says:

        On literacy:

        A few years back I heard an NPR interview with an Irish writer.  This was a guy who had been involved in more than his fair share of trouble and violence.

        His case for literacy was that, as a lad and young man, his literacy was limited.  He lacked sufficient tools (vocabulary) to express himself — it was just easier to lash out with verbal or physical violence.  It was only later in life that he was able to improve his literacy and vocabulary, and find more productive ways to express himself.

        That interview stuck with me (though, sadly, not his name).  I believe that he is correct in his analysis, though I have no data to support that belief.  But when I look at the emphasis on STEM, and the production of those fungible workers, I worry.  Is this also the case with many who respond to the drum beats, but miss the notes of the fife?

        • Tom says:

          Speaking of literacy, the fact that Trump doesn’t read (except newspapers, I gather) and apparently has no interest in fiction means he probably has never inhabited another person’s skin or seen the world from a different point of view the way one does when reading a good novel.    The result is he lacks both imagination and empathy.

          • Trip says:

            Only someone who has the capacity for empathy, or more specifically the ability to exercise compassion, will benefit from reading, seeing or hearing about what’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes. Aside from the deliberate ignorance of facts and disregard for education, Trump would not suddenly develop a heart for others through literature, or other arts.

            Oxytocin deficiency, mangled DNA, wiring defects, childhood neglect or abuse? Nature/Nurture…who knows?

            It’s like saying an educated person like Ted Bundy wouldn’t have been a psychopathic killer had he been more well read. I’m not saying Trump reaches that level, but he certainly exhibits strong sociopathic traits. Maybe with intensive therapy for years and years, he might be able to approximate these feelings, but he’d likely never admit that there is anything wrong with him in the first place.

            • Trip says:

              Adding, since I couldn’t edit: This is a guy who cut off healthcare for a sick child, in his own family, over a will dispute.

  13. scribe says:

    I agree with most of what you said, EW, and also about the need for the process to be a sober, deliberate one.

    What I have repeatedly said, though, is that we also need to look at the negative side of the problem:  the Democrats now control the House.  They set the agenda there, which includes impeachment.  If they fail to impeach, fail to hold the necessary prefatory hearings, fail to do and follow through on the necessary preliminary investigations, fail to attempt to do (or even attempt) the necessary oversight, or drag their feet saying “it’s too early”, then by not impeaching they have ratified all of what Trump has done, not done, said and not said.

    From the perspective of a purely political calculus, looking toward the 2020 presidential, congressional and senatorial election, that might make sense.  I suppose they have polling numbers in their vest pockets which tell them they have a good chance of winning the presidency, retaining the House and maybe taking over the Senate, against either Trump or the generic Republican.  “Why bother?” having an impeachment fight when the low-hanging fruit of winning is there to grasp is the thought.

    The short answer to that is it would be (yet another) failure of the Democratic leadership to actually hew to the Constitution and the interests of the country, and another reason for deepening the level of distrust, cynicism and outright defiance of the government both in the country and in DC.  All we have to do is, as I’ve said for years and time and again, is to look back to the Nixon impeachment.  In calling off the hearings – settling the case, so to speak – rather than carrying them through to the end, Peter Rodino and the Democrats gave a bunch of signals, none of them good.  To the population at large:  Nixon might have been a crook but you don’t get (and don’t deserve) a definitive answer, and (unlike in the article, highlighting the need for senators to actually vote) you don’t know where your senators stand, because you really don’t count that much.*  To Nixon:  a green light to crawl out from under a rock in 3 or 4 years to talk with David Frost and opine “if the President does it, it can’t be a crime”.  To governmental actors (of both parties):  all that Nixon (and friends) did is not enough to generate a successful impeachment;  you have to do more.

    So, in 5 or 6 years, we had the administration violating … the Boland Amendment,  supporting all that went on in Central America and all that went with that.  And getting practice for what turned out to be Iran-Contra while showing the Congress to be neutered.  Still, not enough for impeachment.

    And so it went.  But the abiding truth is that abuse of power, or arrogating power, has not been enough to generate impeachment.

    The second, more subtle answer is this:  there are a lot of Democrats who are perfectly fine with the kind of governance Trump has delivered because they get the proverbial tingle up their leg thinking about being able themselves to rule by decree, to turn the FBI-IRS-CIA-DoJ into their personal vengeance force, and to smash their opponents.   The authoritarian impulse knows no partisan boundaries;  all are susceptible to its charms.  Indeed, many Democrats’ issue with Trump is not that his way of doing things is wrong but rather that he, not they, has the power seat.

    Short version:  if Pelosi & Friends manage to not impeach Trump their lack of moral courage will result, in another 10 years or so, in a government so closely approximating a banana-republic dictatorship as to be indistinguishable.  Not that they would mind, so long as they get to hold the whip.

    *As an aside, the Atlantic article mentions the high level of political violence in the late 60s and early 70s, more on the left than on the right.  Giving the back of the hand – you don’t matter so we won’t follow the Constitutional design and force your senators and representatives to take a stand – to the people at large is just the kind of thing which feeds rage. Something like 4,300+ bombings (and a lot of dead and wounded).  I’m old enough to remember those days, and rage was abroad in the land.  There were even the Days of Rage – read the wiki for a decent summary  and make sure to suspend your opining that “they were doing it for a good cause”.  Compare that behavior to, say, the Charlottesville rally of two summers ago – right down to running a car into a crowd.  Consider how that kind of behavior – blowing up a statue the night before a demo, then speaking from the wrecked pediment – would be met today.  Consider also that there is a hell of a lot of anger, rage even, out there, on both sides today.  And defiance of the law, too.  Manifold examples of it.  There’s a good argument to be made that TPTB want that kind of rage because it gives them all the reason they might need to crack down.

    • timbo says:

      Yes, that’s why we’re here today—lack of confidence in the Constitution to be used effectively to correct the course of the country and its policies and laws.  Both the GOP and the DP have put more faith in their own party apparatus, without regard to intellectual rigor or individual integrity, than they have in having a stable and prosperous country overall. Or, to put it another way, many people have in both camps have come to believe in the rhetoric they spout that is easily disprovable or ludicrous on its face.  Something has to give as  society and the economy realities becomes less in sync with the rhetoric and beliefs of the party so-called leadership and  that ‘leaderships’ pandering to hackneyed goals and myths.

      • Rayne says:

        The both-sides-ism isn’t helping whatsoever. Take a good hard look at where NRA money went since 2012. Take a good hard look at the state legislatures and governors which were key to Trump’s 80K win, where swaths of minority voters were disenfranchised. The bashing of both parties when one of them has been trying to do the right thing isn’t helping; read Piketty’s Capital and you’ll see what the left is up against. What helps is getting off one’s ass and making work beginning at local level — you might actually learn how the “party apparatus” works. Don’t like the parties? then help Indivisible.

  14. Bay State Librul says:

    It’s all about preponderance of the evidence. We don’t need “beyond a reasonable doubt”

    Is impeachment a civil or criminal matter or both?

    We have over a 50% certainty that “abuse of power” occurred, and is occurring.

    Impeach now, pink-slip him, he has already violated our “pursuit of happiness” rights

    • Alan says:

      The standard is whatever each individual senator decides it is.  No one can call a mistrial, or move to overturn on the grounds of juror bias, failure to follow the law, etc.

  15. P J Evans says:

    The latest: he’s written to Pelosi asking her to cancel her planned (and not publicly announced) trip to Brussels, Egypt, and Afghanistan, because shutdown and government security.

    Steve Scalise knew about it before the letter hit the news. How?

    And where the F does a president get off telling the House Speaker, especially one not in the same party, what to do?

    • Trip says:

      Trump doesn’t have an original thought or comeback.

      Remember when Clinton called him a puppet (of Putin) and his retort was “You’re the puppet”, during the debate?

      Trump’s entire repertoire is basically, “I know you are, but what am I?” Pelosi cancels the state of the bullshit bluster, and so then he is compelled to do the same, in some manner.

      Translation: Nanner nanner nanner.

      • P J Evans says:

        I understand they were actually loading a [military] bus when that decree was issued. It’s my impression that this isn’t something that presidents normally deal with personally; they may be informed but they don’t try to personally control what Congress does and where they go, nor do they try to stop scheduled – and justifiably-unannounced –  trips at the last instant.

        Well, add that one to the impeachment files, too.

  16. Ollie says:

    So Mr. Spite and other nasty things just released a decision he made regarding House Speakers trip and Ms Cruella Sanders released via tweet. An hour prior to departing to Afghanstan, Egypt and Brussels, Trump stated that since the gov was shut down, he thought it best for her to stay home. This is in retaliation to her canceling his speech in the House.

    Yeah. Impeachment proceedings should move forward. I appreciate greatly Marcy your tight outline of the pros for impeachment. It’s easier to send to my fellow senior citizens. You do such great work. Thank you.

    “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country”. I remember that day those words were spoken and how important they resonate w/us as a country today.

  17. Kick the darkness says:

    After reading the Atlantic piece and this post, I went back and re-read the “off-ramp” post from early January.  If impeachment is a stick and an off ramp is a carrot, I tried to think if those approaches could be used simultaneously to force the likely hood of a Trump resignation, or would impeachment proceedings just cause him to dig in?    The one thing I worry about with impeachment would be that for a not insubstantial segment of the country it would be the ultimate way to turn Trump into a martyr.  Of course, that may be the end result no matter what.  But as his NPD increasingly collides with the reality of his position, Trump may very well look to make a martyr of himself in some way, shape or form.

    I agree impeachment is arguably the correct remedy for Trump.  The patriotic thing to do for our country.  And justified, probably more than we currently know.  But a big part of the reason we are stuck with Trump in the first place is the political alliances holding the union together have deteriorated.  Would martyrdom of Trump through impeachment lead to a further unwinding?  Not violence in the street-that sort of thing-just a heightened sense of political incompatibility.  Should that even be a consideration?  As always, I value reading the collective thinking here as we get closer to whatever is to come.

    • Rayne says:

      If we were to peel back the layers of propaganda which have reinforced polarization of the public, halted the rightward use of the Overton window, would the union repair itself?

      I think it’s easy to forget it wasn’t just Trump’s or even any political party’s doing alone that brought us to this pass.

      • Kick the darkness says:

        Had to look up the Overton Window.  Painful to think an immigration policy of separating children from their parents would now appear to fit within an “acceptable” frame.  Irrespective of impeachment, I hope that is at the top of history’s indictment of this administration.  On repair-it’s been a fractious union from the beginning.  Maybe the sons and daughters of our long-standing cultural factions just move on to new grievances.  But of the five benefits Applebaum says will accrue from impeachment, 3 of them-shifting attention to Trump’s defects, skimming the froth off conspiratorial thinking, and moving the fight to a rule-bound forum-strike me as unlikely in the current political climate.

        • Rayne says:

          The left has had difficulty wrapping its head around the underlying concept of the Overton window. It requires absolute pushback on every tug to the right and then some, merely to re-center the window let alone push it left.

    • BroD says:

      I get the concerns about rending the fabric of the nation but if I were called to vote on the question of impeachment today, I don’t see how I could avoid voting in the affirmative.

      • Kick the darkness says:

        Let’s hope Trump is not around by 2020, as a political figure that is.  But if he survives, and runs again, that is, in effect, a vote we may get to cast.

    • Cathy says:

      In the seventies DOJ essentially bluffed a VP into resigning by convincing his lawyers that prosecutors intended to indict. Impeachment doesn’t need to be the stick, but a stick is needed. Even listening to Sen. Klobuchar’s questioning of Wm. Barr (highlights from BusinessInsider) lays out a plausible, “Mr. President, they’ve got you dead to rights,” once Barr’s confirmed as AG. [Note Klobuchar’s questioning echoes Marcy’s analysis of Barr’s 2018 memo]

      For all we know a carrot-and-multi-stick strategy may be afoot while the President is distracted by Speaker Pelosi…I think he’d prefer impeachment – the spectacle would be irresistible to his narcissism.

  18. scribe says:

    “And where the F does a president get off telling the House Speaker, especially one not in the same party, what to do?”

    Same place the Speaker got off, telling him how, when and where to perform a Constitutionally mandated duty. You do recall that the Constitution requires the President to provide an annual State of the Union report. Historical practice which has risen to solid precedent is that it may be oral, written or both. She’s trying to tell him where and how to provide it, which is not within her job description.

    And I suspect that she would not be flying commercial for her trip, especially to/from Afghanistan. She’d be flying military, the budgeting for and authority for which would be an interesting legal research project. But I suspect “military requirements” could be used to bump her from the plane.

    • Rayne says:

      I didn’t interpret it that way at all.

      Article II, Section 3 —
      He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information on the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; …

      It says nothing at all about the location or manner in which he shall give that information to Congress.

      She retracted an invite the House is not obligated to extend. She clearly has good reason because it’s an NSSE and there are too many concerns about the level of security to be expected from an unpaid workforce. She offered to schedule an alternative date.

      Maybe he’s use to stiffing workers but she doesn’t want to.

      And after the Obama presidency when he gave his weekly address to the nation over the internet, Trump can do the same thing and on TV and radio, too. It’s not like he’s new to producing reality TV shows.

      • Alan says:

        One observation–put your own value judgment on it–

        Pelosi clearly got under Trump’s skin. I doubt the converse.

        • Rayne says:

          Swear to gods he and McConnell are only prolonging this shutdown to keep the House from subpoenaing his federal tax returns. Can’t believe he’s stupid enough to take a stick to a beehive but then I can’t think like a malignant narcissist.

        • P J Evans says:

          It’s easy to forget that she’s been involved with politics all her life, as well as being a mother and grandmother. She’s used to dealing with small children.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Rayne has the better argument.  The Constitution requires no specific period the president’s report should cover, no place and no manner in which that report should be made.  SOTUs were submitted in writing for over a century; there’s nothing unusual about it.

      There is undoubted stagecraft in Pelosi’s letter, and it will sting the president in the brain he usually thinks with.  But she, too, has the better argument on the law and the practical circumstances.

      Security is an issue, fairness is a bigger one.  Security could be provided, but only at the cost of ordering people to work and do their best for a man who refuses to pay them, a man whose track record at paying past debts is among the worst.

      Fairness is something that Mr. Trump has as much familiarity with as paying his debts.  Mr. McConnell, as supine as Lindsey Graham, would be wrong to allow this president to televise his brains and beauty from the Senate, its members and guests abundantly well-paid, many on the public dime, while those who make such things happen in an orderly and secure manner hope the soup kitchen is still open when they get off work.

  19. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The most important thing that Gerald Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon did was to deprive the American people of a documented record of his crimes and abuses. That allowed many bad things to happen. Ultimately, Donald Trump is one of them.

    Nixon, obviously, avoided trial and probable imprisonment. His reputation recovered, his closest supporters and the Republican Party got off scot-free, using phrases like bad apple, who could have known, he paid in the end, and the false and oversold, the cover-up is worse than the crime (not). The mythology of Nixon’s supporters and those ignorant of history blossomed.

    Beyond personal liability, the US lost a chance to understand that presidents do bad things and sometimes commit crimes. It lost a chance to revise how Congress oversees so important a constitutional post. Congress lost the opportunity to pull back from reflexively giving the president powers the Constitution expects Congress to wield.

    We lost the opportunity to establish a precedent of accountability. Any effort to re-establish accountability requires a well-documented, largely public record of presidential abuses.

    Subjecting so bad an actor as Donald Trump to an impeachment inquiry is a necessary step in recovering that lost ground. It is necessary to recover the idea of impeachment as a rarely used but essential tool of public government. Finally, it is necessary because Donald Trump has become the Republican Party and the Republican Party is him. (Thanks, Mitch and Paul.) Surviving Donald Trump would do us little good if his twin replaces him, looks only forward, not back, and makes normal the excesses Trump has and will committed. Assuredly, Trump will commit more as he panics and squirms to avoid his first encounter with accountability.

    • timbo says:

      What?  23 people were sentenced for participation in the Watergate scandal, including many key GOP operatives, White House staff, etc.

      This does not include the resignation of Spiro T Agnew over his tax scandal problems.

      It might rightly be argued that the Reagan Administration was even more corrupt than Nixon’s, perhaps more like Trump’s current administration:

      IMO, it was the lack of fortitude on the part of the DP in its investigation of Iran Contra that has almost directly lead us to where we are now.  To be sure, during the Iran Contra scandal, there was strong evidence that the GOP had used CIA operations as a slush fund for financing domestic elections but the DP didn’t seemed interested in following up very hard on that.  Note also the lighter sentencing and lesser penalties in general given, followed by pardons of Casper Weinberger et all by George Bush, etc:

      Iran-Contra also set the precedent that Presidents can get away with being involved in illegal activities simply by pardoning their co-conspirators.  In Watergate, only Nixon received such a pardon.  Now the pardoning of political allies in scandals was made okay for not just elected officials but appointed officials and their henchmen as well.  This is what has to stop now.

      There has to be a reckoning over this one way or the other.  Unfortunately, we’re experiencing the “other” at the moment.  The Congress must reassert its oversight over the executive and the general scamming, graft, and outrageous usury that is being encouraged by the current ill system.  It may need to reevaluate its relationship to the judiciary as well…but we may well soon find out whether or not that is necessary as well.

  20. Bill Durbin says:

    One thing bothers me. Nancy Pelosi seems to be opposed to impeachment. I consider her the best politician in the country. Why is she opposed?

  21. Alan says:

    @ Bill Durbin

    Not clear to me that Pelosi is opposed to impeachment, but it does seem like she’s opposed to doing it now, and opposed to ramping up the rhetoric on it now. My best guess is that she thinks more is needed (maybe from the Special Counsel) or the political timing is not yet right (first thing after the Dems retake the House, before any other issue), or that it needs more behind-the-scenes bipartisan support first.

    • Rayne says:

      Pelosi isn’t against impeachment, she’s careful about the approach — it’s to be done deliberatively, not rashly, and we’re a mere two weeks into the 116th Congress’ term. She’s probably got polling data as well. When both the House investigations and Special Counsel’s Office have done more work, released more findings or indictments, polling will probably change at the same time.

      But also keep in mind Marcy’s post here is one of the things which will both change the way House members and influenced audience will talk with others about impeachment, improving public acceptance. That’s a broad hint on my part. *wink-nudge*

      • BobCon says:

        This is right, and she also knows how the press works. Throw a motion to impeach on the House floor now and the news is over in a month or less. McConnell will announce he is not moving on a bunch of evidence-free charges and that will be that.

        By letting the committees do their work, she is maximizing the exposure and maximizing the evidence that comes out. It’s worth stressing that Mueller is only dealing with a fraction of what Trump has done, and it’s not clear how much evidence Mueller will present to the public. In order to make the clearest case to the public (and their intermediaries, the press) it’s necessary to work methodically, at least to the extent that the release of bombshell news doesn’t take over.

        • Rayne says:

          Yup. By allowing it to look like she was *forced* to look into impeachment due to the weight of key developments, she’ll overcome some of the reflexive resistance (“whatever you do, Brer Fox, please don’t throw me into the briar patch!”). As a woman we run into the buzzsaw all the time when we have complaints with the system — look at the headwind AOC flies into every day. But she doesn’t have decades of it built up against her as Pelosi does. It’s going to be fascinating watching how these two deal with what lies ahead.

          The challenge, of course, is timing. How long before he does something really incredibly stupid needing urgent response — bombshell news which could swamp everything?

  22. AitchD says:

    Pelosi is one of a tiny number of sitting elected officials (in the world) who know perhaps as much as can be known. Often she learned things before anyone out there learned or heard. Lifelong career, peerless. It comforts me that she will be protected by the U.S. military in the coming days, and more.

  23. scribe says:

    Actually, Trump just pulled her military flight. Wrote a snarky letter about it, too, telling her she could travel commercial if she wanted.

  24. Rusharuse says:

    Using the military against the speaker of the house. Disclosing to the enemy the travel plans of same. Maybe there are some laws against this kind of shit?

  25. Eureka says:

    Leopold & Cormier fresh off the presses:  title self explanatory, and Trump encouraged the then-planned Cohen RU (here, Putin- not an intermediary) meeting:

    Trump also supported a plan, set up by Cohen, to visit Russia during the presidential campaign, in order to personally meet President Vladimir Putin and jump-start the tower negotiations. “Make it happen,” the sources said Trump told Cohen.

    Donald Trump Told Michael Cohen To Lie To Congress About Moscow Tower Project

    • P J Evans says:

      “Make it happen” – that’s the motto of this president. Other people do the work, he gets all the credit, or they get all the blame. But do the necessary work himself? Oh hell no!

      • Eureka says:

        Your comment, PJ, is a good reminder that all Trump does himself (lol, Himself) is shockingly accurately spit out Putin’s agenda.  Like how long’d it take his handlers to get him to pronounce ‘Montenegro’ properly?  (And I missed the end of that news cycle, if we ever found out _who_ is giving him his lines on RU foreign policy obscurities.  It’s got to be someone right in his ear.)

        • Eureka says:

          * to be fair, the Afghanistan thing was probably harder for him to keep straight.

          But I still want to know who is transmitting these messages (they get freshened up more frequently than Trump e.g. sees Putin) and who is handling Trump’s education stateside.

          • P J Evans says:

            Miller, possibly. Or one of the “former” WH staff, who is still on speaking terms with the guy in the Oval office.

    • Eureka says:

      emptywheel on Twitter: “To clarify: It’s NOT the first time we have evidence Trump has suborned perjury. Nevertheless, if this is true it’s still a big scoop. Will unpack it tomorrow.”

      emptywheel on Twitter: “This story is worthwhile–but needs a ton of context.… ”

      emptywheel on Twitter: “I’ll write about it tomorrow. But for now, please focus on the substance of the scoop — the Trump Tower stuff — and not the claim this is the first evidence of suborning perjury.”

    • Eureka says:

      Clarification (of my description) based on context/prior know facts:  the quoted ‘Make it happen’ phrase doesn’t get repeated, but a sentence later in the article makes it seem like the Putin meeting was indeed intended for Trump as previously known (i.e. the word ‘candidate’ is used).

      The way the quoted para is written, and following in the context of Trump directing Cohen’s behavior about Cohen, made it initially seem to me like this sentence applied to the planned Cohen trip to the St Petersberg IEF where Putin was present.  So that’s why I mentioned it in surprise as part of the ‘news.’  “Make it happen” remains news, AFAIK.

  26. Michael says:

    One weird thing regarding the whole Bruce Ohr thing- nobody seems to agree on when the meetings took place. Ohr claims he THINKS he met McCabe in August and Strzok sometime later, John Solomon claimed he met McCabe and Strzok on July 31st in one article and August 3rd in another , Chuck Ross claims he met McCabe in early August and Strzok in late September or early October and Schiff claimed the meetings took place in November. Shouldn’t there be a written record of the meetings somewhere?

  27. P J Evans says:

    I copied and posted that first one over at Kos, where people are hoping that the subornation-of-perjury story will get impeachment moving – or at least get the Senate to move.
    (I’m hoping that the House will start investigations soon, so that we don’t have to wait for Jan 2021.)

    • Rayne says:

      Both Schiff and Castro from the House Intel Committee tweeted about hearings — Castro said, “If the BuzzFeed News story is true, President Trump must resign or be impeached.

      Neal Katyal also tweeted he thought the House should begin an impeachment hearing.

      This is the tide coming in, get ready to surf these big swells. Right now is the most dangerous time when information warfare will create a counterattack to swamp this news before the ball can get rolling.

      • Eureka says:

        One of the replies to the Katyal tweet:  “No one will ever find Mitch now”

        I do wonder if the momentum this is getting will be a tipping point… I am hemming and hawing as to whether McConnell would show up to re-open the govt. over this.  What do the corrupted GOP guard need to make a break for it and pretend to be duly- elected American MOC?  How far do the polls need to tip, and will this ‘help’?

        ADD: naive musings, yes.

        • Rayne says:

          I hesitate to say this but the left (and any rational, law-abiding person right of center) is going to have to go big and push this hard themselves with consistent messaging.
          — McConnell refuses to be an actual leader and reopen government because he is trying to obstruct resources needed for investigations and court work related to Trump-Russia and other tangentially related cases.
          — We have to begin hearings ASAP because of the risk to government and country based on the rolling damage Trump is doing with help from McConnell.

          The polls will tip if we are as consistent and savvy as AOC is using social media. The news media already smells blood but they can be swayed by a manufactured event. We have to push through.

          And of course Marcy’s post laid out neatly why this is not just a political challenge but a necessity to protect this country. We need to use it.

          Rest well, people. Tomorrow is going to be a wild ride.

  28. Charles says:

    An important part of politics, one that Trump failed to understand, is that it’s not about power per se. Trump is brilliant about exploiting loopholes in laws and regulations to gain a temporary advantage–and yet he keeps losing. He has all the power but no control.

    Impeachment is in large measure about educating the public about civic institutions and law, about challenging the bureaucracy to defend its organizing principles, about hobbling the president’s ability to use the bully pulpit by creating an alternate conversation, about chipping away at the public sense of the president’s legitimacy… all things that have nothing to do with power per se. This is what I thought Appelbaum’s article brought out brilliantly, if without sufficient focus.

    The danger is that the process will be pushed through without educating the public or activating the bureaucracy. Trump is a symptom of a system in which all too few citizens understand what it means to be a citizen in a free country. It means, to paraphrase the Founders, to put ourselves on the line, not relying on laws or institutions to protect us from tyrants and the incompetent. Laws and institutions exist as guides to action and as tools. But when something is as wrong as Trump, we need no law or institution to push us to act. We just need a moral compass. We need to get rid of more than Trump.

    We need to get rid of the acceptability of public lying, of the condoning of cruelty, of the worship of money… and especially of the idea that we can leave governing to leaders, while remaining personally uninformed and inert.

  29. Fishmanxxx says:

    The implication that there is no avenue to remove a “King” from power would represent, in my opinion, an untenable impasse! I am certain that the authors of the Constitution could not have created complete and exhaustive sets of infractions that uniquely constitute either path for removal. If a president commits infractions which fall outside of either set, and you choose to administer the law of the land, to those precepts authored in the context of the 1700s , then you’re stuck with the beast you created!

    The forefathers could not have had the foresight to predict such a corrupt president! No more so than to predict the right to bear arms would include fully automatic weapons? No more so than to know that the definition of “war” would include a campaign conducted through wires and satellites?

    If indeed your Country looks to its Constitution without contextual guidance it will be “paralysis through analysis”! It’s time to update the Constitution to contemporary times, understanding the intents of the words, and if it means a tough political or judicial fight, your country must be worth it! The damages are both accumulating and compounding with each day of inaction. Those currently adjusting the intents of political or criminal law are the goal post movers of the administration and Democrats need to take control of that narrative before the general public is led down the self-serving interpretive path of the administration.

    This is all from the perspective of a Canadian who is outside the forest, clearly seeing the smoke rising, and is quite sure there’s a fire. Sometimes when you’re deep in the forest you can’t see the smoke let alone the fire. God speed ahead!

  30. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Timbo @ 10.12 pm, you missed the part where Nixon’s prospective pardon allowed him to walk away with no effective penalty and no public documentation of his crimes.

    Without that precedent, Iran-Contra might not have been possible, just as G.H.W. Bush’s pardon of his six close friends shortly before the end of his one term might not have been possible without the Nixon-Ford deal. Poppa’s political survival of those pardons helped lead to Shrub.

    Moreover, the Ford machinations empowered Rumsfeld – his Chief of Staff, then SecDef, which prepared him for his later round as SecDef under Bush-Cheney. It led to the young Dick Cheney becoming the deputy COS, then COS when Rumsfeld went to the Pentagon.

    Cheney became Wyoming’s congresscritter and the staunchest defender of Reagan-Bush and Iran-Contra. He publicly argued in his unusual minority report for a House committee investigating that scandal that Nixon was wrong, he should have stayed in office and told Congress to go fuck itself, and that neither it nor the courts could investigate Iran-Contra.

    Cheney’s argument was directed less at Reagan, already senile, than at the GOP, and at Bush and his successors. That included, effectively, himself, given the unusual role he played for Shrub. Cheney followed his own advice, which led to the need to cover it up and which was why Cheney’s acolyte Scooter Libby committed perjury and obstruction.

  31. viget says:

    SDNY angle of attack: Good cop vs. Bad cop.

    Mueller’s team must have known that SDNY had the goods on Cohen. And that Cohen would never roll on his family. So they go to SDNY and say hey Cohen also lied in our investigation too, we need to to question him, and if he rolls on Trump, we give him some leniency on his other crimes.

    SDNY and NYC Field office play the bad cop: they can legitimately claim no cooperation on their investigation

    Mueller’s office plays good cop: dangle the Rule 35 sentence correction for continued cooperation

    SDNY plays bad cop: No downward departure on their crimes

    That way it fools Trump’s lawyers into thinking Cohen really had nothing to offer.


  32. P J Evans says:

    What helps is getting off one’s ass and making work beginning at local level — you might actually learn how the “party apparatus” works.
    Chris Reeves, one of the bigger writers at Kos, is active in the Dem party in Kansas. He’s also a member of the DNC, and has written about what it really does, as opposed to what people think it does based on media stories and stories put out online by non-members – or by unhappy supporters of particular candidates.

    • Rayne says:

      Yeah. I’ve written some of that as well in a series first published at FDL’s community pages back when I was community editor. I get so fed up with people complaining about the parties when they have no idea how they operate or how different they are, mostly because they can’t be bothered to put in the time and show up. These same complainers are the very reason the parties disappoint them.

  33. Semanticleo says:

    Rayne, I am unable to reply directly so let me say I am a product of the public school system and my curiosity and passion for knowledge is still extant. It’s a matter of determination and that’s difficult to teach so the blame for mental laziness rests with the individual.

    • Rayne says:

      I’m a product of the public school system as well, at least 11 out of 12 grades, graduating in the late 1970s. There’s been a lot of change since I was in school, evident in the curriculum my stepson (now 38) and my kids (25 and 21) compared to what I studied. There was an enormous shift during the Bush years to teaching to standards, with every child expected to have the same learning experiences checked off by graduation. No Child Left Behind did incredible damage to students whose personal learning styles didn’t hew to standards, and if their parents weren’t able to have open dialog with their kids about this gap and expectations while rewarding curiosity and drive, students languished and simply made gestures at education.

      And then add the decades-long influence of Fox News and right-wing talk radio, which are the only options across much of highly rural red state America, targeting older Americans and conditioning their expectations.

      You can say you’re self-driven but you are likely not an authoritarian personality. Folks who need and thrive on being told what to do and how to do it by their perceived authority figures aren’t coming out of No Child Left Behind’s debris field and right-wing media’s onslaught able to muster that same internal drive and curiosity. If nascent it’s been squelched.

  34. orionATL says:

    constitutional though they be, i am not impressed, more oppressed, by the weight of the legal standards being held up as first necessary to be met for the impeachment AND removal of donald trump as president.

    in my view the reason to impeach and remove president trump from office right now is the incompetent functioning of the federal government with an attendant chaotic state of government affairs in the nation, not only at the moment, but stretching back at least 18 months and directly attributable to the president’s repeated impulsive, ignorant decision making.

    this low-level functioning and chaotic state includes the consequences of the current shutdown of the federal government, a government of 2+ million workers and contractors whose obligations to its citizens and activities legislatively mandated to meet those obligations is vast and is daily going unmet.

    but this low-level functioning is not limited to the government shutdown. it includes damaging economic decisions involving trade, diplomatic actions promising destruction of nuclear arms treaties and failing to to work effectively to control a nuclear arms renegade whose intemperate actions could kill millions, and failure to protect the nation from the global warming the world is experiencing.

    the unambiguous summary of his chaotic two-year presidency is that this president has failed the people of this nation in ways no president ever has before.

  35. FelixCloudy says:

    Long time lurker, first time poster with a question re impeachment. Bob Bauer on MTP Daily just now explained that McConnel is not obligated to take up the House’s impeachment decision, thus potentially allowing a Garland 2.0, i.e., even if the House voted to impeach DJT, Mitch could delay a vote on removing DJT with the thin rationale that the American voter should decide. I learn from the brilliant minds here, is this possibly why Pelosi is being cautious? She doesn’t want to have the House start hearings unless she is sure she has McConnel boxed in – with incontrovertible findings from Mueller?

    • Rayne says:

      Bingo. She also has to have fairly solid public opinion polling behind her as part of that boxing in process — it has to be untenable for the Senate not to followup on House impeachment hearings with their own investigation/conviction/removal hearings. Investigative hearings in the House will shape public opinion as well as the opinion of the Senate.

  36. FelixCloudy says:

    Thank you, Rayne. While the DJT loyalists in his “base” will never desert DJT no matter the eventual findings from the SC, the country cannot have impeachment hearings become a complete political circus. Better to vote him out in 2020, than make him a martyr during impeachment proceedings that could cleave the country permantly in two. I am thankful Pelosi is waiting for the right moment and letting the evidence drive the process… not the other way around.

    ***. Sorry Rayne – didn’t see how to reply properly to your reply.

  37. Tom Edelson says:

    First time commenter here.

    I agree with the substance of this post … now that I think I understand it. That took a little while, at least partly because of confusion over the use of the word “political”, particularly its use in the summary squib on the home page: ” … impeachment needs to be talked of not as a political question, but a question of how to protect what we all share — this country.”

    I eventually figured out (I think) that in this instance, you meant “political” in the sense of “partisan”: e.g. if impeachment of a Republican president by a Democratic House was (or seemed to be) motivated by desire for partisan advantage.

    Why it was confusing: in speaking about impeachment, sometimes “political” is used in a different sense: as opposed to “legal.” “Legal” meaning one thinks as a judge is supposed to: restricting oneself to questions like whether something is illegal. “Political” meaning that one thinks as an elected official in one of the other branches is supposed to: also applying one’s judgment as to what is good for the country.

    So in this sense, a “question of how to protect … this country” *is* a “political question.” You see how this could be confusing?

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