“At this particular juncture in America’s history, the Senate is being called to sit as the high court of impeachment all too frequently.”
President Donald Trump attorney Ken Starr, of all people, lashed out at impeachment in his first speech today.
Starr, who became a household name thanks to impeachment, brought up how other governments have basically rid themselves of impeachment and hinted we should do the same:
“At this particular juncture in America’s history, the Senate is being called to sit as the high court of impeachment all too frequently. Indeed, we are living in what I think can aptly be described as the Age of Impeachment,” Starr said. “In the House, resolution after resolution, month after month has called for the president’s impeachment. How did we get here?”
“When we look back down the corridors of time we see that for almost our first century as a constitutional republic, the sword of presidential impeachment remained sheathed,” he explained. “Had there been controversial presidents? Oh yes, indeed. Think of John Adams and the Alien and Sedition Acts. Think of Andrew Jackson and Henry Clay. Were partisan passions occasionally inflamed during that first century? Of course.”
“It took the national convulsion of the Civil War, the assassination of Mr. Lincoln, and the counter-reconstruction measures aggressively pursued by Mr. Lincoln’s successor Andrew Johnson to bring about the nation’s very first presidential impeachment,” Starr said.
Starr blamed the Ethics and Government Act of 1978, passed in the wake of Watergate to establish the office of independent counsel, to getting the nation accustomed to impeachment, and cited Justice Scalia’s dissent to a Supreme Court ruling which upheld the 1978 reform.
“The context of this statute is acrid with the smell of threatened impeachment,” Scalia wrote.
“And it’s not hard to discover why,” Starr explained. “The statute by its terms expressly directed the independent counsel to become, in effect, an agent of the House of Representatives. And to what end? To report to the House of Representatives when a very low threshold of information was received that an impeachable offense, left undefined, may have been committed.”
“To paraphrase President Clinton’s very able counsel at the time [of his impeachment], Bernie Nussbaum, this statute is a dagger aimed at the heart of the presidency.”
Starr explained that what followed was “a wildly controversial 21-year bold experiment with the independent counsel statute” that, including Iran-Contra and Whitewater, convinced both sides to allow the law to expire in 1999.
But the damage had been done, Starr said, “America’s Constitutional DNA and its political culture had changed. Even with the dawn of the new century, the 21st century, impeachment remained on the lips of countless Americans and echoed frequently in the People’s’ House. The impeachment habit proved to be hard to kick.”
Presidents Bush and Obama endured frequent partisan calls for impeachment and by the time of the Trump administration, “in the House, resolution after resolution, month after month has called for the president’s impeachment.”
“Like war, impeachment is hell — or at least presidential impeachment is hell,” Starr said. “Those of us who lived through the Clinton impeachment, including members of his body, well understand a presidential impeachment is tantamount to domestic war, albeit thankfully protected by our beloved First Amendment, a war of words and a war of ideas. But it’s filled with acrimony and it divides the country like nothing else. Those of us who lived through the Clinton impeachment understand that in a deep and personal way.”
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