On Monday, Shay Khatiri penned a column for the Never-Trump conservative website The Bulwark, blowing up the newest talking point from President Donald Trump and his allies that the impeachment inquiry constitutes a "coup" against his administration.
"The constitutionally-defined process of impeachment and a 'coup' have one thing in common: They are attempts to replace a sitting president. All similarity ends there," wrote Khatiri, an Iranian asylum seeker who fundraised for the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre. "A 'coup' is not a gauzy, ill-defined term, like 'beauty' or 'perfect.' It has a very specific meaning pertaining to government. A coup — short for coup d’état, literally 'a blow of state' — is a sudden, violent, and illegal seizure of power, usually performed by the military, though sometimes carried out by armed forces outside of the government’s chain of command."
"Here is one thing the leaders of coups do not do: Give the sitting president a heads up during a nationally televised press conference, which is what Speaker Nancy Pelosi has done," wrote Khatiri. "Here is a second thing the leaders of coups do not do: Give the president’s party a voting stake in the question of whether or not the president shall be forced to step down. Here is a third thing the leaders of coups do not do: Agree beforehand to allow the president to remain in office if he satisfies pre-arranged conditions transparently laid out in a 230-year-old document."
Indeed, Khatiri wrote, impeachment is not just different from a coup, it is the opposite of a coup.
"A coup is, by definition, illegal. Impeachment is as legal as it comes," wrote Khatiri. "It is — literally — written into the founding document of American jurisprudence. And it requires no preconditions other than the judgment of the Congress. Impeachment is neither violent, nor sudden, nor carried out by an armed force. It is a formal, litigative process carried out by a Congress comprised of duly-elected representatives."
By delegitimizing the process of impeachment as a coup, Khatiri wrote, "the president of the United States and his enablers are delegitimizing the Constitution itself." And the irony is, there isn't even any point to doing so.
"If Congress were to remove Trump from the office, Mike Pence would become president. A former congressman and governor and a rock-solid conservative," continued Khatiri. "For those Republicans who have insisted that they 'like the policies and the judges, but not Trump’s character and tweets,' President Pence would be a major upgrade."
The fact that so many of Trump's defenders don't care, concluded Khatiri, says something profound about them.
"Irving Kristol once said that conservatives are divided between those who are anti-state and those who are simply anti-left," wrote Khatiri. "It is now clear that MAGA world is not 'conservative' because it has deeply rooted principles. It is a movement that exists only to own the libs. It isn’t that they accept Trump’s bad character and the tweets because they get the policies they like."
"They are here for the tweets," Khatiri added. "Any policies and the judges they wind up liking are just a garnish."