As the Democrats continue their partisan impeachment inquiry in secret, President Trump warned Democrats Tuesday morning that they may regret their actions in the future. “So some day, if a Democrat becomes President and the Republicans win the House, even by a tiny margin, they can impeach the President, without due process or fairness or any legal rights,” he tweeted, before adding, “All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here – a lynching. But we will WIN!”
So some day, if a Democrat becomes President and the Republicans win the House, even by a tiny margin, they can impeach the President, without due process or fairness or any legal rights. All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here – a lynching. But we will WIN!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 22, 2019
Does this warning seem familiar to you? It does to me. Back in 2013, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid changed longstanding filibuster rules in order to block the GOP minority in the Senate from filibustering Obama’s judicial nominees.
Thanks to all of you who encouraged me to consider filibuster reform. It had to be done.
— Senator Harry Reid (@SenatorReid) November 21, 2013
In response to this rule change, then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell warned the Democrats they’d come to regret the move. “You’ll regret this, and you may regret this a lot sooner than you think,” he said on the Senate floor.
The last time Democrats changed longstanding Senate rules for short-term partisan benefit, here is what it got them: Justice Neil Gorsuch. Justice Brett Kavanaugh. And 43 new lifetime circuit judges, the most ever at this point in a presidency pic.twitter.com/lwhqan9gRG
— Leader McConnell (@senatemajldr) August 22, 2019
McConnell was right, of course. The GOP retook the Senate after the 2014 elections. After Donald Trump won in 2016, he took office with a lot of judicial vacancies, including one on the Supreme Court, and the Democrat minority was virtually powerless to stop Trump from filling them.
Democrats are no strangers to changing rules and standards to suit their short term political needs. In 1992, then-Senator Joe Biden argued that if a Supreme Court vacancy occurred during an election year, President George H.W. Bush should not nominate a replacement until after the election. Yet in 2016 when Justice Antonin Scalia died and a vacancy on the court opened up, the Biden Rule was forgotten, and Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the court. Of course, Mitch McConnell didn’t forget the Biden Rule, and Merrick Garland’s nomination was never taken up by the GOP-controlled Senate.
When conflicts like these arise, we hear lots of talk about rules, traditions, and precedents. It’s becoming increasingly clear that as our nation becomes more politically divided that rules, traditions, and precedents take the backseat to partisan games—for Democrats, anyway. According to Isaac Newton’s third law of physics, for every action there is an equal, opposing reaction. We’ve seen it happen in the Senate with the filibuster. We’ll see it happen again with impeachment. Democrats have turned a very serious check on presidential powers into a partisan strategy for undoing an election they didn’t like the result of.
The beginning of the politicization of impeachment came in the wake of Bill Clinton’s impeachment. Clinton had committed actual crimes (lying under oath, obstruction of justice, witness tampering and others) but Democrats perpetuated the myth that Bill Clinton was impeached “over sex” and seemed intent on revenge.
Democrats often accused George W. Bush of impeachable offenses, and in 2008, the Kucinich-Wexler impeachment articles were actually voted on by the House, but died in the Judiciary committee.
Barack Obama committed multiple impeachable offenses, but no serious action was taken by the GOP-controlled House, probably fearing the optics of impeaching “the first black president” would backfire. Fast forward to Trump, whose surprise victory got Democrats salivating over impeachment before he even took office. However far Democrats take their impeachment efforts with Trump, it is safe to safe an equal and opposite reaction awaits them in the future.
Matt Margolis is the author of Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis