Why Impeach Donald Trump

By David Swanson, FireDonaldTrump.org

What are the grounds for impeachment?

They will likely be piling up rapidly. President Trump did use Day 1 to advise the CIA that the United States should have stolen all of Iraq’s oil. But here is a place to start. We already have a president who is violating two clauses in the U.S. Constitution, one forbidding any gifts or benefits from foreign governments, the other forbidding the same from the U.S. government or any U.S. state. This is the result of Donald Trump refusing to separate himself from major business interests as past presidents have done. Those interests will also inevitably involve Trump in violating the STOCK Act which forbids the use of non-public government information to make a private profit.

Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution states: “The President … shall not receive … any other emolument from the United States, or any of them.” This means that the President cannot receive personal financial gains from the United States government or from the governments of any of the 50 states while he is president. This restriction is absolute and cannot be waived by Congress. Trump is already in violation of it and will be more so with every law, rule, regulation, enforcement, or lack thereof that his subordinates, Congress, or any agency of the federal government enacts to the benefit of Trump’s businesses and possessions.

For example, Trump’s lease of the Old Post Office Building violates an explicit clause in the General Services Administration lease contract which states: “No … elected official of the Government of the United States … shall be admitted to any share or part of this Lease, or to any benefit that may arise therefrom.” The GSA’s failure to enforce that contract is an unconstitutional benefit to Trump.

Or, to take a state-level example: since 1980 Trump and his businesses have garnered “$885 million in tax breaks, grants and other subsidies for luxury apartments, hotels and office buildings in New York.” Continuing or increasing those subsidies puts Trump in violation of the Constitution.

Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution says that “no person holding any office of profit or trust under [the United States government], shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.” This is essentially the same ban as above, but applied to foreign governments.

The Trump Organization has licensing deals with two Trump Towers in Istanbul. Trump himself says, “I have a little conflict of interest, because I have a major, major building in Istanbul.” China’s state-owned Industrial and Commercial Bank of China is the largest tenant in Trump Tower. It is also a major lender to Trump. Its rent payments and its loans put Trump in violation of the Constitution. Foreign diplomats have begun shifting their D.C. hotel and event reservations to Trump International Hotel. The Embassy of Kuwait was reportedly pressured by the Trump Organization to do so. Pressured or not, Kuwait’s business at a Trump hotel puts Trump in violation of the highest law of the land.

In November, there were reports (denied by Trump) that Trump had asked the president of Argentina for help with a building permit in Buenos Aires. Whether he did or not, and whether he receives that help or not, President Trump will be frequently granted or denied similar approval for his business ventures from numerous foreign and domestic governments.

Why punish a successful business man?

We can set aside the legality and morality of Trump’s business success, and the question of how successful he has been. A campaign to impeach him for his violations of the Constitution can hold the position that Trump is perfectly welcome to keep all of his businesses and loans. He just cannot simultaneously hold an office in which they create gross violations of the U.S. Constitution. Past presidents have sold off their assets or placed them in a blind trust. A blind trust would not, however, be blind for Trump who would inevitably learn of the approval of new towers or the sale of properties. Selling (and using a truly blind trust to do so) was Trump’s only option other than not being president. He chose not to take his only Constitutional choice.

Is this partisanship?

A great many people do anything political for partisan reasons. As I’m unable to put an end to that, it is inevitable that people will favor or oppose impeaching Trump for partisan reasons. But they need not. The above charges against Trump are unprecedented. They should apply to him and any future presidents who engage in the same abuses, regardless of party. Someone who voted for Trump as a way out of corruption should want him impeached as much as someone who voted against him for the same reason. Trump is now the worst possible “insider” — using public office for personal greed.

Is this morally worse than Secretary of State Hillary Clinton taking Saudi government and Boeing funds into her family foundation, and then working to waive legal restrictions on Boeing selling weapons to Saudi Arabia  — weapons now being used to slaughter innocents? Some will think so and others not, largely along partisan lines. Personally I’m in favor of impeaching Clinton, Obama, and George W. Bush right now and imposing the penalties of a bar on holding future office and a denial of retirement benefits. But those efforts are simply not the same priority today as halting the presidency of the current president.

When I advocated for impeaching Bush I explained that if he was not held accountable his successors would expand further the abusive powers he had expanded. When I argued that Obama was in fact doing this and should be impeached, I was generally called worse things than partisan. But the longer presidents are allowed to act without a check on their powers, the more they will expand and abuse them. Numerous government officials and members of Congress would best serve the world by resigning. But the place to start is with an unprecedented and unique form and level of corruption in the single highest office in the land.

Is this personal?

A great many people focus their political interest on personalities rather than policies. They forbid themselves to praise a good action by a politician who mostly makes bad ones, or to condemn a bad one by a hero. They make heroes of whoever is not their enemy, and vice versa. They place greater importance on whether they’d like to be friends with someone than on whether that person will benefit or harm the world. Because I lack the strength to change this, many will support or oppose impeaching Trump based on whether they consider him obnoxious or inspiring. They shouldn’t and need not. President Obama oversaw activities that would have horrified his supporters had they not been so focused on his style. History does not look kindly on the impeachment of Bill Clinton for personal flaws, something the majority of the public opposed — while there were much better grounds on which to have impeached him. (History may also frown on Congress’s refusal to even attempt to impeach George W. Bush, something the majority of the public supported.)

Is the point to make Mike Pence president?

The question of who is worse, the president or the vice president, is a very different question from this one: Who is worse, President Trump in an era of total unchecked power and immunity, or President Pence in an age of popular sovereignty with the threat of impeachment looming behind every high-crime-and-misdemeanor that comes up for consideration by the White House? I believe changing the office of the presidency into one that can be lost for substantive crimes and abuses — a radical change from its current state — would be more significant than the personality, ideology, or party of the presidents who come next. I believe part of that significance would derive from the benefits of building the movement that imposes impeachment on a corrupt and partisan and reluctant Congress. Cultural change comes principally from movement building, and very little from the personalities of elected officials.

Why not impeach Trump for being a Russian agent?

Both an impeachment in the U.S. House of Representatives and a trial in the Senate will require public evidence. The case made above relies on readily available and public evidence in great abundance that will grow daily, and may very well come to include benefits from the Russian government.

In contrast, if there exists any evidence of the Russian government hacking Democratic emails or of the Russian government giving those emails to WikiLeaks, it has not been made public. If there exists any evidence of Trump being complicit in those actions, it has not been made public. You may suspect that such evidence exists. If so, it could certainly become the basis for additional articles of impeachment once it is produced. Meanwhile the content of the DNC emails could arguably form part of the basis for a case against current or former civil officers among Democrats involved in manipulating their own primary.

Why not impeach Trump for helping to destroy the earth’s climate, or many other reasons?

I’m in favor of it, yes. But it should wait at least a week or two to allow the damage to accumulate. Removing all mention of climate change from the White House website is not sufficient. And the case will never be as easy a sell to the House of Misrepresentatives. The Constitution does not prohibit destroying the earth’s climate, unless we so interpret the preamble — or so interpret the mythical language that a militarized government has rumored to exist in the Constitution creating a presidential duty to protect the country from danger.

Impeachment is a political process. Individuals and cities and towns and organizations can demand it. Representatives can pursue it. We can impeach for continuing or accelerating the destruction of our natural environment, even if presidential predecessors did the same or similar. We can impeach for war or torture or drone murders or warrantless spying or proclaiming the needs to steal oil or kill families or ban Muslims, or for any form of discrimination or cruelty that we find sufficiently intolerable. And I wish we would. But which charges can clear the hurdles of the House Judiciary, the full House, and the Senate is not a simple moral question.

Why impeach Trump when he could prevent war with Russia?

Yes, Trump seems to favor deescalating the dangerous cold war created under Obama. He may favor this for corrupt or environmentally destructive reasons. Regardless, any steps away from confrontations with nuclear governments are highly desirable. But Trump’s vision is one of greater, not lesser, militarism. His preferred targets just don’t include Russia. And impeaching Trump for abusing his power hardly sends a message to future presidents that they should pursue more wars. Holding one president accountable creates a certain level of accountability in the entire government going forward. And that tends to move us away from war, not toward it.

Is the point to empower the CIA and the corporate media?

That might be the point of going after Trump over Russian hacking rumors. The result might be a failure to impeach if there is no evidence. It might be greater hostility with Russia. And it might be a feather in the cap of a couple of institutions worthy of mountains of scorn. But these are not issues when Trump is impeached for public offenses visible to the naked eye with no spying or journalism required.

Do you really think Congress will impeach a president?

Yes, it certainly might, especially as the evidence of high-crimes-and-misdemeanors accumulates and Trump’s popularity sinks even lower than its current record level — an effect that just opening an impeachment process has usually contributed to (Bill Clinton’s unpopular impeachment being an exception to the rule). But even an unsuccessful impeachment, like Truman’s or Nixon’s can have seriously beneficial results, including ending the abuses for which Truman was almost impeached, and ending the war and presidency of Nixon.

Do you really think everything is normal and nothing radical is needed?

I think all potentially useful strategies are desperately needed and that impeachment is one of them. Others are marches, sit-ins, petitions, media production, legislation, strikes, refusals to cooperate with illegal actions, protection of those in danger, peace initiatives, local and global moves toward sustainable economies, boycotts, divestments, foreign exchanges, art work, parades, etc., etc. But a nonviolent movement seeking to overturn an abusive government would fantasize about an impeachment provision if it didn’t exist. It’s the best gift that the drafters of the Constitution gave us. Much of the rest of the document is horribly out of date, and many of the best parts of it are routinely violated. Continuing to neglect the power of impeachment would be a terrible waste.

Do you really think something as radical as impeachment is needed?

I think it’s needed in much less extreme situations than this one. If it’s not needed now, when would it be?

Wouldn’t our time be better spent holding marches or blocking pipelines or burning limos or educating children or building a new party or designing bunkers or . . . ?

Yes, there are lots of good ideas and bad. I’d like to see all of the good ones pursued, with people putting their energies where their passions and talents lie. But we cannot ignore an out of control government. Taking it (not “taking it back” since we never had it) has to be high on our list of priorities. It is still what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said it was 50 years ago this spring: the greatest purveyor of violence on earth. Leaving that entity in the hands of an attention-starved man who wants primarily to personally profit from it is playing with fire.

If I’ve persuaded you, or if you already agreed, please sign this petition: http://ImpeachDonaldTrumpNow.org

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  • frenetic74

    This is one of the most idiotic things I’ve read. Go back to your padded room lunatic.

    • sveltesvengali

      David Swanson can go to his “padded room” as soon as you visit the law library (see here: https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/articlei, and here: https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/articleii ).

      • frenetic74

        Sorry fool, logical fallacies are for weak minded juveniles. Go look that up in a library a hole

        • sveltesvengali

          What I posted had nothing inherently to do with logical fallacies (since it merely corroborated the text of Article I, Section 9 and Article II, Section 1 of the US Constitution as posted by David Swanson), but you certainly engaged in an ad hominem fallacy by opening the discourse with an attack on Swanson’s sanity.

          If you will not adhere to certain logical criteria in your interactions with others (or at least provide counterevidence to reinforce your points), then you are probably not worth talking to. Unqualified insults by reflexive emotional reactionaries tend not to merit further response.

          • davidgmills1

            The likelihood of Congress getting enough votes to impeach is slim and the likelihood of a conviction is even slimmer.

          • sveltesvengali

            On these counts, I can agree.

  • sam541

    Swanson would be more persuasive if there was at least one person somewhere in the world that he doesn’t want to charge or impeach.

    • sveltesvengali

      If by a “person” you happen to mean every POTUS in recent memory (and not literally everyone in the world, up to and including leaders of other countries outside of US jurisdiction that may or may not be subject to constitutional checks and balances of their own), what inherently makes David Swanson’s case less persuasive for purporting that all of them are impeachable?

      On the a priori assumption that you are referring to every POTUS in recent memory, we are faced with two possibilities when confronting Swanson’s charges:

      a) David Swanson is being overzealous, and may be erroneously attributing impeachable offenses to recent presidents
      …or…
      b) Every president in recent memory really is that corrupt, and do have potentially impeachable offenses to their name

      Given that Swanson consistently tends to provide tangible legal instruments for one to look into, verify and potentially seek to employ in the cases he cites (and my own personal knowledge of recent history), I am positing that the latter is the case.

      To point these instruments out does not necessarily make one equivalent to a hateful anarchist with unrealistic expectations that is allergic to any kind of authority. To the contrary, it merely holds leaders to account for violating the very constitutional framework that they agreed to uphold from day one.

  • Silverado

    Preposterous, if you ask me. It ain’t gonna happen…

    • sveltesvengali

      Probably not. A tradition of selective (lack of) prosecution is not going to be abruptly dispensed with now.

      I still commend David Swanson for pointing out the instruments that could be used if our world was actually a just place to live.

  • RPDC

    We should also have impeached Obama for every copy of his book that was purchased by a foreign government – that makes just as much sense as doing so for countries booking hotel rooms.

    • sveltesvengali

      “China’s state-owned Industrial and Commercial Bank of China is the largest tenant in Trump Tower. It is also a major lender to Trump. Its rent payments and its loans put Trump in violation of the Constitution.”

      In other words, some Kuwaiti hotel rooms are the least of Trump’s alleged conflicts-of-interest – those may just be the icing on a cake that suggests pay-to-play will be on his administration’s agenda.

  • Bruno Gomes

    What a load of propagandist crock, you clearly don’t like the flavour of democracy that was chosen, communist much?
    So which Soros NGO do you belong to? Or which part of the democrat party pays you to write this?
    I did not even bother to read the whole thing, only skimmed but it was clear to see how you were positioning your conclusion from the onset
    You Yankee kike, it’s easy for you to be a leftist in your Zionist riden shithole
    But your shithole is the main cause of many of the wars we faced across this side of the Atlantic
    And to have a President who actually wants to spend less money in wars should be a priority of the left. You take the good with the bad and you choose the lesser evil.
    Your cockroach infested shithole is unable to produce, propose and elect a decent human, so this is what you got, what you deserve and given the options, the best choice

    • sveltesvengali

      The law and the constitution should bend to no POTUS, be they Soros-backed or not:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qhBJZomUBGs

      • Bruno Gomes

        So obviously you are unable to have a president as all the previous ones were impeachable
        Definitely murican cseptionalism
        And there is definitely partisanship at play, otherwise it would have not culminated in a petition, it would be an opinion article which would just be ignored
        Also isn’t Trump handing over the businesses to his children? I believed this was already decided
        Unless David’s Swanson requires Trump to cut his family ties because his children have China as a tenant in a Trump tower
        So the points of this article are mooted

        • sveltesvengali

          I do not see how the points of the article are mooted given available information:

          “Mr Trump’s lawyer, Sheri Dillon said the President-elect had ‘isolated’ himself from his businesses [by handing over day-to-day management, but not ownership, to his sons Donald Jr. and Eric, and his chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg – see here: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/01/11/trump-wont-drop-ownership-business/96443170/%5D. But the Office of Government Ethics said Mr Trump’s plan didn’t ‘meet the standards’ of former presidents. […] Mr. Shaub [of the Office of Government Ethics] said: ‘Nothing short of divestiture will resolve these conflicts.'”

          (source: http://www.bbc.com/news/business-38587628 )

          • Ministro Gomes

            As for standards of former presidents, this is irrelevant, and if you want to go that way, how about the Clintons?
            http://blog.constitutioncenter.org/2016/11/does-the-constitution-put-limits-on-a-presidents-private-business-ties/
            Your constitution does not require divestment of assets, the emolument clause only prevents receiving gifts while in office. It doesn’t require the President or Vice-President to divest from their companies at all.
            So it seems you might be peddling false information, or incredibly skewed.
            Also conflicts of interest can be investigated by congress when they occur, it is the presumption of innocence that is at play here.
            Trump has barely taken office and you guys are pulling all the stops.
            I say you guys because articles like this are based on skewed interpretation of legislation and written to guide the reader to your conclusions.
            Also to put a petition from David Swanson’s organisation, rootsaction.org(that is one of the entities putting forward impeachdonaldtrumpnow.org) is a bit rich, and much like the zionist snake it is meant to lead the people in circles
            If Trump advocates for war, sure, impeach the orange chimp, but between you and me I am glad that Clinton is not there. Nor Sanders for that matter, as his foreign policy was not to shy away from wars, people just needed to pay attention.
            The other two? an ignorant man, and a communist turned capitalist who believes that education in form of universities should be free…
            Ron Paul should educate you guys about the free markets and about nature and the pure form of capitalism, if you have nothing to bring to the table don’t come to it and don’t demand scraps

          • sveltesvengali

            I certainly concur about the conniving wonks that are the Clintons (whose steadfast support for the malign policy consensus that dominates Washington should speak for itself), and even Bernie Sanders (whose positions on Israel-Palestine, the F-35 program, etc. did not escape my notice, notwithstanding what I consider to be the unworkable goal of free college for everyone). Jill Stein was probably a well-intentioned, if quite ignorant, person (not least given her claims that quantitative easing was a magic trick that could be employed to bail out Main Street, completely ignoring the costs that inflation tax incurs on Main St.). To my mind, Gary Johnson (like Trump) was a sometime ignoramus with lacking rhetorical finesse – however, unlike Trump, he was not a boorish blowhard demonstrating an utter unwillingness to learn the dynamics of government that he was ignorant of, and had a fairly decent track record as a state governor in the past (for instance, his knowledge of the Syrian conflict appeared more elementary than mine, but his CliffNotes understanding of the conflict’s dynamics still led him to embrace a more right-minded approach than Clinton’s “potentially WWIII-inducing no-fly zone” and Trump’s “bomb the sh*t out of ISIS” approaches, notwithstanding his unawareness of one city that happened to be a flashpoint in said conflict).

            I point all of this out to demonstrate that, if you take “you guys” to mean that I am part of a group of compromised leftists that are useful idiots readily co-opted to suit the needs of the establishment, then you are wrong. I actually identify as a (geo)libertarian-leaning, non-Third Way centrist, who (still pretty reluctantly, and after looking up the platforms of every other candidate on my ballot, no matter how obscure) voted for Gary Johnson a second time in 2016. I voted for Ron Paul in the 2012 GOP caucus (and am therefore well-aware of his stances on markets and other matters besides), but after the GOP gave him the Sanders treatment at the convention, I voted for Johnson as president in 2012 (a bit more eagerly at the time, since he seemed slightly more on his game back then). With that being said, I have now considered only voting in local and state elections from now on (where one’s chance of making a tangible impact is somewhat higher), given how underwhelming I found the 2016 presidential election season.

          • Ministro Gomes

            So as we see, the grounds for impeachment are nothing short of political propaganda without basis in law.
            When I mean you guys I mean David Swanson, whether consciously or unconsciously he is being a useful idiot, it is debatable.
            But by promoting his view which appears to be false with regards to the constitution(what do I know, I only write software, which are sets of strict rules to which I expect a program to obey), you end up being a useful idiot, and I am not calling you an idiot, I am accusing you of promoting/defending what you understand now to be a point without lawful merit.
            I like this site, I like the way that if focuses on the anti war, but lately I see way to much left leaning posts which are starting to look like propaganda

          • sveltesvengali

            “I am accusing you of promoting/defending what you understand now to be a point without lawful merit.”

            This is a bit of an overstatement, as Trump’s actions still have the potential to be quite legally sketchy, whether they become grounds for impeachment or not.

            However, let me go on record and further state that I did not sign the petition that David Swanson was promoting in this case. I merely publicly ruminated on its merits, and conceptually defended it (though researching it further has given me doubts that it is the most fruitful avenue to make an impact, irrespective of my mutual opposition to both key aspects of Trump’s and the deep state’s policies/narratives).

          • sveltesvengali

            After consulting with someone I know who is more versed on the precise ins and outs of US constitutional law than I am, it would appear that you may be correct about the emoluments clause not being enough to trigger impeachment under these circumstances (even if Trump’s violations thereof, as well as other federal statutes, may still lead to other forms of legal and political furor), as they have informed me that the legislative branch could simply pass a bill permitting Trump to continue conducting himself in the manner that he is.

  • sveltesvengali

    Evidently, every commenter thus far (barring sam541 and maybe, just maybe frenetic74) assumes that David Swanson is making the case for Donald Trump’s impeachment for selective and likely partisan reasons.

    I guess they have not read his many other commentaries on cases for impeachment involving different US presidents, such as this one:

    “Why not impeach Obama? I clamored for the impeachment of Bush. I say Obama is as bad or worse. Why am I such a corrupt hypocrite that I haven’t built a movement to impeach Obama? Well, I’ll tell you, as I’ve told people more times than I can count. Obama should be impeached and convicted and removed from office. Obama should be prosecuted for his crimes. So should his subordinates. So should his predecessor, his subordinates, and all corporate co-conspirators. The reason I can’t get 20 people into the streets to demand Obama’s impeachment […] is that nobody in Congress is even pretending to give a damn. We were able to produce a sizeable movement for impeachment when Bush was in office, because a lot of Democrats in Congress, especially in 2005 and 2006, pretended they were on our side.”

    (source: http://davidswanson.org/content/obama-even-worse-bush )

    • Paulinelcastillo

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  • merylnass

    David, I respect you and John Bonifaz. But the Trump presidency, as challenging as it may be, has multiple potential upsides. Trump has so scared the establishment that they have taken many risks, like planting false dossiers and false stories of MLK’s bust that can richochet, to undermine him.

    That bodes well for the possibility he may assert some control over the Deep State. (I am referring to Peter Dale Scott’s definition of Deep State.)

    To say you are pushing for impeachment, because now you finally have the support you did not have to impeach previous presidents, makes no sense. Pence will bow to the Deep State. Your petition and legal campaign are aligned with the goals of the establishment and Deep State. Is the Deep State perhaps even helping fund your campaign?

    If you want to do something useful, sue the federal government for its unconstitutional abrogation of Amendments IV, V, VI and VIII of the Bill of Rights (assassinations, loss of due process, torture, military tribunals instead of trials, and warrantless searches of everyone.

    • sveltesvengali

      “If you want to do something useful, sue the federal government for its unconstitutional abrogation of Amendments IV, V, VI and VIII of the Bill of Rights (assassinations, loss of due process, torture, military tribunals instead of trials, and warrantless searches of everyone).”

      Dr. Nass’ final suggestions are something that I hope we can all agree on!

    • diogenes

      Good luck. Tell it to the Weimar Republic.

  • Nonanon25

    Impeach the Donald, and I promise you there will be civil war.

  • diogenes

    A ‘successful businessman’ is, by definition, someone who extracts something for nothing from the rest of us. That’s to say, he’s a criminal and ought to be prevented. Business is about making “profits,” delivery of any service or goods is totally secondary, and subordinated to the profit motive — if you can cheapen the product, so much the better. If what you sell is poisonous, that’s just fine (cigarettes). If you can control the market and sell the product for 100 times what it costs, you’re a Great Business man, just ask the phramaceuticals “inddustry.” And if you can pay the people who actually do the work to make whatever it is you sell to increase your something-for-nothing-add-on profits, well, that’s good business. Go for it. A starving wage slave is a docile wage slave.

    It’s time to end the rule of business. What it delivers for 99% of us could not be more obvious — obvious to anyone but an addled ignorant idiot. It delivers 3rd world maldistribution of wealth, 3rd world public health rates, horrific social conditions across the board, and, increasingly, a police state to enforce it, with the highest rates of incarceration and police killings on the planet.

    A campaign for impeachment is just a red-herring. Let’s have a campaign to bring the Martians in to zap all the bad guys with their ray-guns. No, I’ve got an even better idea, let’s have a campaign to get the Wizard of Oz to fix everything. It’s no less plausible an approach. Just don’t look behind the curtain.

    Try thinking like a thinking adult, Swanson. That’s what America needs. Not idiotic impossible campaigns guaranteed to divert and waste energy and fail while the same pile of shit gets higher. Who are you “helping” by this bullshit?

  • Tom

    Be careful what you wish for. After Trump comes Pence. After Pence comes Ryan, and so on. You don’t get anywhere close to a Democrat until about the 8th level of succession. Pretty sure a
    “All hell would break out” well before then.