Adam Collins / The Daily Gamecock

Opinion: What will it take for Trump to be impeached?

“Impeachment” seems to be the word of the hour, even if it only means the indictment of charges against the president and not necessarily his removal from office. Trump’s entire presidency, including the Russian interference with our elections, his incessant need to alienate our allies and his love of foreign dictators comes across like a fictional television show or dystopian novel. 

However, it is a recorded fact that all of these events did take place on our plane of existence, and it is extremely important to respond proportionally to these events.

Every 21st century president has faced the threat of impeachment while in office. George W. Bush was almost impeached over war crimes during the Iraq War and breaches of American privacy. Obama’s own impeachment scare was propped up by a grab-bag of overblown conservative talking points, like the Benghazi raid and "Fast and Furious" program. 

However, I do think it would be a mistake to exclusively attribute impeachment calls to partisan politics, even if they are almost always started by the executive’s political adversaries. Trump’s actions, while they are unprecedented for his office, are also in part the culmination of the habits of executives for the past fifty years. 

Nixon wiretapped anti-war activists and tried to cover it up, a controversy that ultimately led to his resignation. Reagan provided arms to Iran and funded right-wing death squads in Nicaragua, which was explicitly forbidden by Congress. Although the agents of the NSC that undertook the sales were prosecuted, nothing was done to the president himself. Torture techniques and other human rights violations utilized by the Bush administration have gone unpunished, and the mass surveillance of American citizens has continued and evolved to match technological progress. 

It has become fashionable for presidents to violate domestic and international law, so it naturally follows that impeachment is always held over the president’s head. 

And to be clear, I think it is almost necessary that any president know that impeachment is a real possibility if their actions are too egregious, even if impeachment almost never occurs. Clinton’s impeachment was the result of perjury and obstruction of justice relating to his affair with Monica Lewinsky. Of course these actions are crimes, but it seems bizarre that such an event would appear tame by today’s standards.

Using the Clinton Standard on Trump’s conduct thus far, I think it’s fair to say that Trump is the least honest president in the past few decades. Now, this does not constitute perjury, but given Trump’s inability to maintain a consistent narrative in a 30-minute span, it seems very possible that the president could lie on the stand with only a paragraph or two. 

The events of the past year could demonstrate treason, namely Trump’s call for Russian hackers to find Clinton’s emails, which they did the same night. Odd coincidence. 

Donald Trump Jr. met with a Russian lawyer for information on the Clinton Foundation after receiving an email from Rob Goldstone, a business partner, who claimed to have incriminating information on Clinton. The infamous Trump Tower meeting between Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and agents acting on behalf of the Russian government took place on June 9, 2016, and the true intent of the meeting has remained unclear. It is important to bear in mind that Paul Manafort now sits in a jail cell for fraud charges, and faces additional charges relating to his actions as a lobbyist for the Ukrainian government.

Even though the conservative media sphere would be happy to tell you that Mueller’s investigation has revealed nothing, the truth is that over 30 individuals and companies have been indicted in connection with his inquiries. Michael Flynn, the short-lived national security adviser, has already taken a plea deal after lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts, along with George Papadopoulos, who plead guilty for a similar crime.

Now consider all of this in context with his closed-door meeting with Putin. Why would any president want to secretly meet with a foreign leader, especially if he is accused of colluding with that foreign leader to win the election? 

If you are a conservative or Trump supporter reading this, ask yourself this question: if what the Mueller investigation has unearthed does not constitute collusion with the Russian government, then what would? And if Trump is the victim of a witch hunt, and all of these allegations are false, what could Trump possibly do to lose your support and/or get impeached?

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