In the right-wing media bubble, so-called “legal analysis” of President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial often involves mindlessly echoing the assertions of Alan Dershowitz, Jay Sekulow or former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (all of whom are part of Trump’s impeachment defense team). But not everyone on the right has been reciting Trumpian talking points on impeachment, and conservative Never Trump attorney George Conway tears some anti-impeachment arguments to pieces in a scathing Washington Post op-ed.
“The president’s lawyers this week floated their catch-all impeachment defense, one tailor-made for President Trump,” Conway explains. “It is, in essence, that a narcissistic president can do no wrong. Like most of the president’s arguments, it’s erroneous.”
Conway takes aim at Dershowitz’ assertion that if Trump believed his actions with Ukraine were “in the public interest,” those actions couldn’t be impeachable. That argument, Conway asserts, is “a lie” and an “example of how Trump corrupts all around him.”
“It’s just not true that good motives, when mixed with bad ones, compel acquittal under the law,” Conway writes. “If a politician takes a bribe to do what he thinks would have been best for the public anyway, he still goes to jail. If he’s president, under a Constitution that refers to impeachment specifically for ‘bribery,’ as well (as) other ‘high crimes and misdemeanors,’ he should still be removed.”
Another bogus claim of Trump’s attorneys, according to Conway, is that “abuse of power” — one of the two articles of impeachment he is facing — is not impeachable under the U.S. Constitution.
‘It’s not true, as Dershowitz argued Wednesday, that the Framers’ rejection of ‘maladministration’ as a basis for impeachment means that abuse of power isn’t impeachable,” Conway notes. “The Framers rejected the word ‘maladministration’ because it covered mistakes and incompetence, not because it also could mean abuse of power. In fact, they swapped ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ into the final document precisely because it does cover such abuse.”
Conway goes on to explain that while U.S. presidents can certainly promote policies they believe are in the country’s best interests, they cannot do corrupt, unethical things in pursuit of those policies.
If a president, Conway points out, “cuts taxes because he has an agreement with a major backer that, in exchange for tax cuts, the backer will fund a huge super PAC to support his reelection, that’s impeachable — because that’s a corrupt quid pro quo for his personal benefit. So, too, if a president conditions another official act — releasing security assistance to a foreign country — on a requirement that the foreign country smear the president’s political opponent. That’s not politics; that’s corruption.”
Trump, Conway adds, “acted with corrupt intent to damage a political opponent.” That opponent, of course, is former Vice President Joe Biden, who Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate during their now-infamous July 25 phone conservation.
Conway wraps up his op-ed by emphasizing that if Senate Republicans “entertain a false reading of the Constitution,” it would “render the impeachment clause a nullity.”
“Should they do that,” Conway warns, “they will have sacrificed their own oaths to protect their own electoral prospects — and the country and the Constitution will have been saddled with a terrible precedent. The Senate will have told Trump that indeed, he can do whatever he wants.”