Rudy Giuliani And Judge Jeanine Agree: Lithuanian Law Does Not Allow Pelosi To Impeach The President
There was a fortunately brief period after 9/11 when Rudy Giuliani was hailed as America's Mayor. Those of us who endured his eight years as New York City's actual mayor know what a racist, authoritarian asshat he really was. If there's one upside to Donald Trump's nightmare administration, it's watching Giuliani publicly debase himself and urinate on his reputation while continually defending the indefensible.
Trump's "personal lawyer" (lucky Trump) Giuliani stumbled onto Jeanine Pirro's Fox News show Saturday. Giuliani contends that the impeachment charges against Trump are as phony as whatever was on his head during the '90s. He'd argued earlier this week in a column for the Daily Caller that no less than the Supreme Court itself should declare Trump's impeachment "unconstitutional." Talk about your judicial activism! The chief justice might preside over the Senate impeachment trial, but the Constitution grants the House of Representatives the "sole power" to impeach crooked or just plain horny presidents. A unanimous Supreme Court ruled in 1993 that it had no skin in this game. Chief Justice William Rehnquist stated that authority over impeachment trials "is reposed in the Senate and nowhere else."
Giuliani wasn't any more lucid this weekend when he repeated his dumbass argument. Pirro asked him how exactly the Supreme Court could declare a constitutional remedy unconstitutional, and Giuliani desperately tried to pull a legal rabbit out of his hat.
GIULIANI: The general theory is that impeachment is in the hands of the House. With unlimited power? Wrong! No such thing as unlimited power in the Constitution. Every constitutional power has limits. One of the limits of impeachment is written right into Article II, Section 4. It has to be treason, bribery, high crime, misdemeanor. Abuse of power and the other ridiculous... obstruction of Congress... you can't find it in 18 USC. You can't find it in common law. You can't find it in Lithuanian law.
It's unclear why Giuliani dragged Lithuania into this, but if he researched US law more thoroughly, he'd discover that abuse of power and contempt of Congress were two of the articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon. (They never made it to the House floor because Nixon resigned in disgrace, not because they weren't valid.) Bill Clinton was impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice. The latter includes making false statements to prosecutors, investigators, and government officials or otherwise impeding their work. The impeachment charges against Trump are consistent with relatively recent ones against two other presidents. They are also arguably more significant. Trump threatened to withhold aid to Ukraine in exchange for public announcements of investigations into Joe Biden, a potential and likely political rival. This is not merely a "partisan disagreement" over foreign policy.
Giuliani argued that the Supreme Court must act or we'll go from our current rate of an impeachment every 20 years to an impeachment every month. Democrats will impeach Trump whenever he does something they don't like. Republicans slightly more coherent than Giuliani have made similar claims, which defy reality. After winning back the House, Democrats didn't immediately impeach Trump for his kiddie jails or even his scuzzy behavior detailed in the Mueller Report. Trump's Ukraine shakedown was a master class in high crimes and misdemeanors.
So far there's only one constitutional scholar willing to agree with Giuliani that Trump's constitutional impeachment is unconstitutional, and that's Donald Trump, who is neither a scholar nor in possession of a Constitution.
Pirro just sat there and enabled Giuliani's live television breakdown. She didn't even cut to commercial when Giuliani went full Barry Zuckerkorn.
GIULIANI: Suppose someone charged me with not looking nice tonight? And brought me on trial before the New York Supreme Court. Well, I don't look nice tonight, but I'd move to have the case dismissed.
Giuliani, perhaps waiting for Pirro to tell him he didn't look that bad, said that Trump's Senate trial should be "governed as if it were a trial in US district court." That's the last thing Trump or Mitch McConnell want. Actual, non-sham trials have witnesses and testimony. Giuliani eventually conceded that the Supreme Court probably won't dismiss the charges against Trump, but maybe a Senate trial is the best thing for the president since "The Apprentice."
GIULIANI: I can even argue that politically it would be better to go to trial! They'll find out about Biden, they'll find out what a big crook Biden is. They'll find out that Biden didn't just make money in Iran but he made money in China and Iraq.
Joe Biden is not himself on trial, nor has he been charged with a crime. Trump's own trial is not the venue where America will suddenly discover that Biden is somehow more corrupt than the president, which is fundamentally impossible. Character assassination and casual slander are not legitimate legal tactics.
I remember when Giuliani appeared on a 2000 episode of "Law & Order." He's now better cast as the sleazy attorney for an obviously guilty defendant. Those guys never won, though, because you can't beat Jack McCoy. You also can't beat Nancy Pelosi.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."