Republican-turned-Independent David Gergen served in four presidential administrations, two of which were impeached. When he heard one of President Donald Trump’s shills on CNN Wednesday evening, he was quick to flatten the argument.
Scott Jennings argued that what Democrats were doing was unprecedented, but CNN commentator Kirsten Powers said that former President Bill Clinton was nearly thrown out of office for lying about an affair, something she argued was far less important than extorting a foreign power to sway a presidential election.
“The first thing you’re saying that it’s so unprecedented,” Powers recalled. “This is exactly what the Republicans wanted to do to Bill Clinton. So, this doesn’t even make sense. I mean you think it’s so egregious for this to happen and if the Republicans had control of the Senate, they would have thrown Bill Clinton out of office over far less bad behavior. So I don’t really understand why you find this to cross some line that’s never been crossed before.”
“I find it unprecedented that we’d throw an American president out of office, just because we’ve never done it,” Jennings said, chuckling.
“But you tried to do it,” Powers said.
“Well, I didn’t. I was in college then,” Jennings dodged.
“She means Republicans,” host Don Lemon cut in.
“So, do you think it was a mistake?” Powers asked.
“They stopped short,” Jennings said of the GOP.
“They stopped short because they didn’t have the majority in the Senate,” Powers explained. “So, it’s not that they stopped it because they impeached him in the House.”
“Look, we’ve never thrown a president out of office, and I don’t think Republicans think this warrants that,” Jennings said.
“But, Scott, if Republicans controlled the Senate at that point, at that time, they would have thrown the president out of office,” Lemon explained. “It’s hypocrisy. That’s her point. Am I wrong, Kirsten?”
“Well, it’s hypocrisy, but it doesn’t make sense,” she said. “Bill Clinton, really if you compare the two things, compare lying about an affair versus, you know, trying to get a foreign government to interfere in an American election. I don’t think it’s really even a competition, right?”
Jennings then argued that the president shouldn’t be impeached and that Democrats should have considered censure instead because they might actually get Republican cooperation. It was a comment that CNN commentator David Gergen honed in on, noting that if Republicans believe the president did something bad enough to be censured, then they are admitting that he did something wrong. There aren’t any Republicans willing to do that, however.
“But, Scott, the problem with that that I’ve seen is we have virtually no Republicans — I can’t think of more than five Republicans who have said that the president did anything inappropriate,” said Gergen. “You know, they have defended him right down the line on that, and I think you think it was inappropriate, and I think there are other people like you who are fair-minded people who agree with that. But I don’t understand this party never even conceding that point or acknowledging that point.”
Gergen then recalled the Republicans who stood up during the Nixon impeachment and said that what he did was wrong and that they became respected as a result of that. There are no such Republicans in this case willing to stand up, even if they agree the president committed an impeachable offense. He recalled Republicans in the House who were willing to break with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich on impeaching Clinton for the sex scandal.
“That’s what leadership is about,” Gergen said.
Jennings’ next argument was that no president has been thrown out of office in the history of the United States. As constitutional law professor Michael Gerhardt explained to Congress, “If what we’re talking about is not impeachable, then nothing is impeachable.”
Watch the full segment in the video below:
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