Don’t Blame Ben Sasse For Trump’s Misdeeds

After President Trump pardoned some corrupt associates on Wednesday including Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, and Charles Kushner, Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse put out a simple, six word statement, “This is rotten to the core.”

You would think that people who have spent the last several years wanting Republicans to stand up to Trump would applaud Sasse’s comments, but many of those people responded quite differently. They accused Sasse and others of being enablers over the past four years and if Sasse really believed this, he had his opportunity to remove Trump during impeachment and declined to take it.

This is all rather silly. Trump’s pardons of the above mentioned individuals is not bad because Trump did, they would be bad if someone who was a more traditional president did them, and impeachment is a non-sequitur.

It seems like a lifetime ago, but Donald Trump was impeached for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. While, House Democrats were well within their Constitutional rights to impeach Trump for those things, what they either failed to understand or just ignored was, that this was the first time in the history of the United States a president had been impeached for politically-defined crimes (Andrew Johnson violated the Tenure of Office Act and Bill Clinton committed perjury and obstruction of justice).

The House theoretically could have impeached Trump for holding up aid to Ukraine that was authorized by statute, but it did not, because that, given executive branch review processes, would been an attack on the idea of separation of powers. Instead, it chose abuse of power, arguing that Trump put his personal interests over the national interest.

The problem with this is not that Trump was right to hold up the aid, but that by impeaching the president for coming to the “wrong” policy conclusion, you open up a can of worms that can never be closed again. Are we really so naïve to believe that presidents never made national security decisions based on things other than an apolitical and dispassionate calculation of the national interest before Trump?

Yes, there is a first time for everything, but once something happens the first time, it is much easier to do it the second. Given the precedent the House set, it is easier to imagine Republicans winning the House in 2022 and impeaching Joe Biden for some allegation of abuse of power because he came to the “wrong” conclusion about China policy and using son Hunter’s business dealings as “proof” he is putting personal and familial interests above the national interest.

Thus, the impeachment of Donald Trump was not just about Trump, it was about setting a new precedent, but because so many people have come to define themselves based on what they think of Trump, much of the discussion was focused elsewhere. But some people could separate the personal from the larger issues and contrary to what some would have you believe, it was possible to oppose Trump’s impeachment and also not be part of an enabling cult.

To return to the issue of pardons, not only where pardons not part of the impeachment charges, including them would also set a very dangerous precedent. Trump’s pardons may be terrible, but they are constitutional and impeaching the president for something that is perfectly legal, but morally wrong similarly would create a precedent that can only lead to bad places.

What happens the next time a Democrat pardons somebody who should not have been? Were the Democrats who voted to acquit Clinton, who said “it was just sex” in the same way some Republicans — not Sasse — said it’s “just investigating corruption,” to blame for his pardoning of Marc Rich? What if Democrats applaud the pardon as just, but Republicans jeer it as political hackery a la Michael Flynn?

People who want to discuss pardon reform are free to do so, but they will need a constitutional amendment that somehow objectively differentiates between good pardons and bad pardons.

It is not just certain commentators in MAGA World that have made a nice living putting Donald Trump at the center of the political universe and failed to realize that one day Trump will not be president. A lot of Sasse critics in The Resistance and Never Trump World have done the same thing.

They demanded Sasse and other Republicans not only remove Trump, but it did not take long before people were arguing that the only way one could be a good Republican was to essentially abandon everything they ever believed and campaigned on — no more tax cuts, no more conservative judges — and vote like a Democrat. This would obviously lead to Republican voters getting extremely angry and massive Democratic gains in both chambers and would in turn make the party more Trumpian, not less. No wonder why even Mitt Romney and Susan Collins rejected this “advice.”

There has been a lot of speculation about what Republicans in Congress really think of Trump, but regardless such speculation misses the point. If you are a Republican senator, you believe your job is to work with the Republican president to get the things done that you were elected on. Your job is not to be part of The Resistance’s impeachment fantasies that they had been planning well before anybody had ever heard of Burisma or most people knew that a Javelin was also the name of an anti-tank missile.

Simply because a president does something bad, even really bad, does mean the proper remedy for that is to remove him from office via impeachment, especially if he still has to face the voters. The voters removed Trump, as is tradition. Soon, he will be gone, but there will a day — maybe sooner than Sasse critics think — where a Democratic president does something bad. Would it be a rational response to demand that all Democratic members of Congress start voting like Republicans and adhere to all of conservative talk radio’s demands and that even if a Democrat condemns such a president, he’s still an enabler?

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Writing about politics and other interesting things. Contributing Writer to NewsBusters. Member of YAF’s National Journalism Center’s Spring 2019 class.

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Alex Christy

Alex Christy

Writing about politics and other interesting things. Contributing Writer to NewsBusters. Member of YAF’s National Journalism Center’s Spring 2019 class.

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