As the defense team for President Donald Trump wrapped up its arguments in the impeachment trial on Tuesday, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone shared a montage of House Judiciary Committee Democrats in 1998 warning against partisan impeachment.
The montage begins with Reps. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.)., two of the House impeachment managers in the current case with Donald Trump.
“There must never be a narrowly-voted impeachment or an impeachment supported by one of our political parties and opposed by the other. Such an impeachment will produce the divisiveness and bitterness in our politics in our years to come and will call into question the very legitimacy of our political institutions,” Nadler warns in the video.
“This is unfair to the American people,” Lofgren declares. “By these actions, you would undo the free election that expressed the will of the American people in 1996. In so doing, you will damage the faith the American people have in this institution and in the American democracy. You will set the dangerous precedent that the certainty of presidential terms — which has so benefitted our wonderful America — will be replaced by the partisan use of impeachment. Future presidents will face election, then litigation, then impeachment.”
After these two House managers, the montage turns to current senators: Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
“This is a constitutional amendment that we are debating, not an impeachment resolution,” Markey screams in the video. “The Republicans are crossing out the impeachment standard of ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ and they are inserting the words ‘any crime or misdemeanor.’ We are permitting a constitutional coup d’etat which will haunt this body and our country forever.”
Menendez declares, “I warn my colleagues that you will reap the bitter harvest of the unfair partisan seeds you sow today. The Constitutional provision for impeachment is a way to protect our government and our citizens, not another weapon in the political arsenal.”
Schumer, then a senator-elect, made an astounding prediction in 1998, one that rings particularly true today.
“I expect history will show that we’ve lowered the bar on impeachment so much, we have broken the seal on this extreme penalty so cavalierly, that it will be used as a routine tool to fight political battles. My fear is that when a Republican wins the White House, Democrats will demand pay-back,” he says in the montage.
Impeachment in the words of Senators and House Managers, circa 1998: pic.twitter.com/NBXG6X2ffT
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) January 28, 2020
This powerful montage bolstered the president’s case, showing the threat of partisan impeachment in the Democrats’ own words. Nadler declared that there must never be a partisan impeachment, and then he agreed to be a manager for one. Lofgren condemned Republicans for overturning an election, then helped the effort to overturn one herself.
This montage should terrify Markey, Menendez, and Schumer. How can they vote to convict President Donald Trump of high crimes and misdemeanors when this partisan impeachment is the very thing they themselves condemned twenty years ago?
Markey insisted that Republicans were impeaching Bill Clinton for “any crime or misdemeanor,” but Trump’s defense team showed that the Democrats have not pointed to even a specific crime, merely the vague “abuse of power” standard. If Republicans were amending the Constitution in 1998, Democrats are doing far worse in this impeachment.
Indeed, this impeachment is the very “bitter harvest” Menendez warned about. As Schumer predicted, Democrats did demand pay-back. While Clinton did at least lie under oath in an embarrassing presidential scandal, Trump stands accused of asking a foreign government to investigate corruption — in a case that stinks to high heaven — allegedly for political motives and allegedly in exchange for a quid pro quo, neither of which can be proven.
Democrats should listen to their own party’s warnings and vote against convicting the president.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.