The Atlantic

The Weaponization of Impeachment

America’s political leaders like to talk a big game about proper constitutional conduct and high-minded principles, but the history of impeachment reveals that partisanship is a more powerful motivator.
Source: Joshua Roberts / Reuters

The impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump is now moving to the House Judiciary Committee. Soon, if the House votes to impeach Trump, the ball will be in the Senate’s court, where a conviction seems unlikely. America should thus consider Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler’s warning about going forward: Impeachment, he’s on record as saying, requires “a broad consensus of the American public, a broad agreement of almost everybody, that this fellow has got to go because he’s a clear and present danger to our liberty and to our Constitution.” The problem is that a broad consensus is nowhere to be found; on the issue of impeaching Trump, the American public is split roughly down the middle.

A bigger problem for Nadler, though, is that he said this in 1998, when he was denouncing the Republicans’ impeachment of President Bill Clinton. Today, when it comes to Trump, he sings a different tune. “Impeachment is imperative,” Nadler declared in an interview less than two months ago, “not because he’s going to be removed from office—the Senate won’t do that—but because we have to vindicate the Constitution.”

In reversing his position, Nadler has plenty of company on both sides of the aisle. Reversals like this aren’t surprising, of course, and they’re not new in American history. But politicians from both parties are using

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