Matter of Principle; Cost of Loyalty

Published: January 30, 2020

By Jim Lichtman
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“Common sense is not so common.” – Voltaire

“I think we’ve made our case,” White House counsel Pat Cipollone said. “All you need in this case is the Constitution and your common sense.”

The case before the Senate is about Principle vs. Loyalty; the principles of honesty and responsibility, and the necessary moral courage to stand up for those principles set against loyalty to a corrupt president.

After hearing the endless Republican mantra, “There are no first-hand witnesses,” they now hang their hats on Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz: “Nothing in the Bolton revelations, even if true, would rise to the level of an abuse of power or an impeachable offense!”

But that’s not what three Constitutional scholars said in testimony before the House Intelligence Committee.

Harvard Law Prof. Noah Feldman: “Other forms of abuse of office include the use of the office of the presidency to corrupt the electoral process or to compromise the national interest or national security. … President Trump’s conduct described in the testimony and evidence clearly constitutes an impeachable high crime and misdemeanor under the Constitution.”

Univ. South Carolina, Prof. Michael Gerhardt: “In his influential essay in the Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton declared that impeachable offenses are ‘those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, the abuse or violation of some public trust’ and ‘relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.’ ”

Stanford Law Prof. Pamela Karlan: “The list of impeachable offenses that the framers included in the Constitution shows that the essence of an impeachable offense is a president’s decision to sacrifice the national interest for his own private ends.”

In December 2019, Constitutional scholar Laurence H. Tribe said, “The evidence of those suspicious Giuliani phone calls with [Vladimir] Putin-linked thugs reinforces the overwhelming case that the American president was directing a criminal conspiracy to conscript US military aid and the august powers of his office to benefit himself and his own reelection at the expense of the national security. If this isn’t impeachable and removable conduct, we’re done as a constitutional republic.”

For most Senate Republicans: Out the window. We’ve got the Dershowitz hat rack, now.

Forget about Ambassador Sondland who said, “Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret”; or career diplomat David Holmes‘s testimony of Sondland’s phone call with Trump in Kiev: “Sondland stated, the President only cares about ‘big stuff.’ Sondland replied that he meant ‘big stuff’ that benefits the President, like the ‘Biden investigation.’ ”

Forget about the testimony from career State Department diplomats George Kent, William Taylor, Fiona Hill, Marie Yovanovitch, Lt. Col. Vindman who connected the dots of conversations and actions before the House Intelligence Committee, along with a national security whistleblower who, as the Intelligence Community’s Inspector General Michael Atkinson concluded, the complaint was “urgent” and “credible.”

Nonetheless, Republicans continue to push a variety pack of rationalizations: disgruntled employees; let’s see the whistleblower; Sondland got it wrong; everyone else… hearsay, “There is no first-hand account” …

until … John Bolton.

Now, it’s: “…even if true, it would not rise to the level of an abuse of power or an impeachable offense”; and “inadmissible.”

Reiterating Tribe: “If this isn’t impeachable and removable conduct, we’re done as a constitutional republic.”

Principles be damned; the Trump Rule now applies: “it may be wrong, but it’s not impeachable.”

On Wednesday, Dershowitz appeared to add yet another rationalization Republican Senators can use for refusing to call witnesses when he declared, “If the president does something which he believes will help him get elected, in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.”

Really, Alan, really! What kind of hocus pocus is this?

While I’m not an attorney, it doesn’t take a legal scholar to extrapolate this line of thinking: President Trump has carte-blanche to do whatever he wants, as long as he tells us — rationalizes — that his actions were “in the public interest”?

Alan, no other Constitutional scholar has come forward to support such a theory!

Doesn’t matter, Republicans will use it to vote down witness testimony and proceed to a vote to dismiss charges against this president.


I have never heard such a wholesale abdication of reason, responsibility, moral conscience, and concern for national security than the rationalizations coming from White House attorneys, a former independent counsel, and Harvard law professor.

Republicans could pay a heavy price if they stick by loyalty.

A January 28, 2020 Quinnipiac University National Poll finds — “75 percent of voters say [they want to] allow witnesses in [the] Senate impeachment trial; 53 percent say President Trump not telling the truth about Ukraine.”

As I said at the beginning, the case before the Senate is about Principle vs. Loyalty.

Will we see any moral courage?

I hope so. We need some moral courage, now more than ever.

Note: I will return Tuesday.


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