Which Impeachment Movie Are You Watching?

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Image: Gene Healy’s latest in Reason made the front page of Drudge – impeachment achievement unlocked!

Gene Healy and I broke down the articles of impeachment, and discussed the role of impeachment in restraining an unconstrained executive branch.

Don’t miss it.

Scott Adams often says that when it comes to politics, we’re watching two different movies on the same screen.

Impeachment is the prime example. I present two different movies:

  1. Judge Napolitano told Nick Gillespie that “at least three or four articles” of impeachment could have been drafted.
  2. Richard Epstein, on the other hand, called the original impeachment charge “ludicrous.”

The charge of obstruction of congress is even more complex. Who can I turn to in a situation like this?

I usually turn to my favorite scholars at the Volokh Conspiracy, and Hoover, but in this case, the layers of disagreement, nuance, and partisan spin have made it nearly impossible to figure out who’s right.

So, did Trump actually commit an impeachable offense?

Perhaps, Healy suggests, we should set aside the phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky for a moment:

"The third-rate shakedown attempt of Ukrainegate probably isn't even the worst thing Trump did in the month of July…"

– Gene Healy,

As he pointed out in his 2018 report The Indispensable Remedy: The Broad Scope of the Constitution’s Impeachment Power, impeachment is an underutilized process for reigning in the executive branch. Has Trump abused his power significantly in the past 3 years? A better question might be whether the “cult of the presidency” has grown so large and unwieldy that anyone who takes the job is implicitly agreeing to an “abuse of power”?

Maybe we should always demand that Congress impeach every president immediately after the election so that the legislature can get on with legislating. Of course, these days Congress prefers to even defer its job of lawmaking to the administrative agencies of the executive branch…

In a short video for the Cato Institute, Healy quotes founding father Elbridge Gerry, who said, “A good magistrate will not fear impeachments and a bad one ought to be kept in fear of them.”

With impeachment, Healy should have gotten his wish, but if it doesn’t hurt Trump politically, perhaps Congress should look less at partisan politics and more at the real abuses of power by the executive branch:

  • The military-industrial complex (including drone strikes on American citizens)
  • Usurpation of congress’s lawmaking authority
  • The corruption of science via technocratic administrative rule
  • Stealthy “midnight regulation”

Just to name a few that I cover in my new report on the administrative bureaucracy – a “shallow state” lurking in the swamps of DC that rivals the deep state in its unaccountable control over our lives.

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