Trump is being impeached over a Ukraine shakedown scheme, not ‘policy’

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, arrives for the impeachment trial on Jan. 21, 2020.


President Donald Trump’s lawyers in his Senate trial, along with the usual enablers among elected Republicans, are hiding behind the argument that the president cannot be impeached for policy disagreements. Even Utah’s Sen. Mike Lee, who prides himself on his fidelity to the Constitution, is pitching softballs at Trump’s legal counsel about the president’s right to set policy.

If Trump were in the Senate dock for a policy dispute, Lee and others would be right — and I would be the first among the president’s critics to argue that he must be acquitted. But this is not a policy dispute, and if the president’s defenders win the day on this argument, then there will be no limit on what any president, ever, can do with the power of the office.

The “policy dispute” defense rests on the obvious truth that under Article II of the Constitution, the president of the United States has the right to set foreign policy. Subject to the restrictions of federal law, the Constitution and the power of the purse that is reserved for Congress in Article I, the president can choose to bring us closer to some countries, give the cold shoulder to others, and negotiate treaties and other international agreements as he or she chooses.


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