Now that impeachment is just one more card in the political deck, to be played by whichever party controls the House of Representatives, the question naturally arises: what should Republicans do when they retake control of the House, very likely in 2022?
Lindsay Graham warns that if the Democrats could impeach Donald Trump with the false assertion that he incited violence, a far stronger claim along the same lines can be made against Kamala Harris:
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: “I don’t know how Kamala Harris doesn’t get impeached if the Republicans take over the House, because she actually bailed out rioters” pic.twitter.com/hoitBgrkXJ
— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) February 14, 2021
Tom Cotton, among many others, has also pointed out Harris’s explicit support for rioting, looting and arson (not demonstrating or protesting, as no one was arrested for that), although not specifically in the context of impeachment:
Kamala Harris helped violent rioters in Minnesota get out of jail to do more damage.
Don’t believe her when she says she “condemns the violence”—look at her record, not her words. https://t.co/lL2aYjxPZA
— Tom Cotton (@TomCottonAR) August 31, 2020
Jeff Dunetz argues against retaliatory impeachment, and also says that Harris shouldn’t be impeached for something she did before she was vice-president. That is certainly a plausible position, although interestingly, the Constitution doesn’t say that the “high crimes and misdemeanors” that are the basis for removal from office must have been committed while the subject of the impeachment held his or her current office.
If we agree with the Democrats that it is proper to impeach a former president, House Republicans could consider impeaching Barack Obama. He plainly violated his oath of office and his duties under Article II of the Constitution (specifically, the “Take Care Clause”) when he essentially suspended enforcement of the country’s immigration laws. In my opinion he should have been impeached at the time, and, if the Democrats’ theory is accepted, it will not be too late to impeach him in 2023.
More to the point, though, is the fact that Joe Biden has committed the same impeachable offense as Barack Obama. In his first week’s blizzard of executive orders, he, perhaps to an even greater extent than Obama, purported to repeal the immigration laws. I think this was an impeachable offense, not just on the absurd theories argued for by Democrats, but on a sober reading of the impeachment clauses in the Constitution. And of course, by 2023 Biden in all likelihood will have committed many more illegal and unconstitutional acts that could be the basis for impeachment.
Some respected commentators argue that Republicans should take the high road. Rather than emulating the Democrats, they should, when they retake the House, attend to the country’s business and not waste time on politicized and futile impeachments. Those conservatives may well be right; theirs certainly is a reasonable and high-minded position. It also is consistent with the pattern we have seen for many years, where Republicans try to do the right and gentlemanly thing, while Democrats fight viciously for political advantage. This asymmetry has been an unfortunate aspect of our political scene for too long.
So, should Republicans wield impeachment as a weapon when they next control the House? I am undecided. The answer will be determined by the landscape as it exists two years hence, which at present, we cannot foresee. What we can say for certain is that the Democrats, with their two absurd impeachments of President Trump, have decisively changed how we all must view impeachment, if not forever, certainly for the foreseeable future. In 2023, or whenever Republicans re-take the House, it will very much be on the table.