I was able to listen to the hearing before the DC Circuit this week in which Trump’s lawyers argued that the President can commit literally any crime and get away with it so long as he manages to get through impeachment. It is, to be blunt, a profoundly stupid argument. What Trump says is that the political process of impeachment of the President is a prerequisite to the criminal prosecution of a President. This is a deliberate misreading of the Constitution. Here is what the Impeachment Judgment Clause actually says:
Judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States: but the party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to indictment, trial, judgment and punishment, according to law.US Const. Art. I, §3
In other words, impeachment only removes an official from office, it is not a criminal sanction, but someone who is impeached and removed may still be charged criminally. The idea behind this clause (as made clear by the Founders at the time) was that impeachment was only a political solution, and an official still remained criminally chargeable after impeachment.
What Trump’s lawyers are arguing is that a President cannot be charged criminally unless they are convicted in an impeachment proceeding first. This argument is patently ridiculous, as the DC Circuit noted right at the outset. Under Trump’s argument, the President of the United States could order the assassination of the entire opposition party in Congress on January 19th and because there was no chance for the President to then be impeached, the President could not be criminally charged for murder. If you think that hypothetical is crazy, that is literally one of the first questions asked at the hearing, and Trump’s attorney was forced into saying that is exactly what Trump’s position is.
If there is any question why someone who was once a rock-ribbed GOP-supporting conservative is now not only voting for Joe Biden, but openly campaigning for the Democrats, that is it. The most fundamental thing in American government is that the power of the government is constrained by law. My whole disagreement with the left has been that they are too eager to use the coercive power of the state to remake society. But now the “right” is arguing that there should be no guardrails at all against Presidential power. That position is fundamentally anti-American. And while I still have a healthy skepticism of the Democratic Party, the GOP is now the biggest threat to this country out there. The January 6th insurrection was the point where anyone still supporting the GOP crossed from being a rube to being a danger. The second the GOP party line went to supporting the insurrection, it became not a political party but a terrorist organization.
Trump’s position before the Court this week is the position that the President is accountable to no one. So long as the President can either delay impeachment or keep their party to the party line, the President is free to murder, accept bribes, sell secrets, or do whatever the hell they want. That is not a position that is remotely American or remotely acceptable.
Trump wants to be a King, and the GOP is perfectly happy to let him. That is why the GOP is neither American nor conservative. That is why this conservative is all in with the Biden campaign in 2024.