Laurence Tribe Warns Democrats: If You Try To Impeach A President, "You Have To Shoot To Kill"

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Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe warns Democrats who are looking to impeach President Trump, "if you’re going to shoot him, you have to shoot to kill" with "overwhelming" bipartisan support on an impeachment vote.

"You can’t be the boy who cried wolf and have a viable impeachment power. You can’t use it over and over again against the same president," he said.

Tribe appeared on CNN's "New Day" on Tuesday morning to discuss his new book, "To End a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment."





"If it was proven that the president used the powers of the United States government to cover-up his own criminality or to cover-up the way in which he cooperated with Moscow in order to win the presidency, that may or may not qualify as an ordinary federal crime, but it’s certainly an impeachable offense," Tribe said.

"But it will be available only if we don’t use it loosely, and ring the bell every time something looks amiss," Tribe explained. "You can’t be the boy who cried wolf and have a viable impeachment power. You can’t use it over and over again against the same president."

"If you're going to shoot him, you have to shoot to kill," he said "And that requires an overwhelming majority of a bipartisan kind. Otherwise, you're just going to nick the guy, and make him feel empowered and vindicated."

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN: Let me just ask you one more point because another thing that's getting some purchase that I want to get your take on is, but did they have to do it this way? A confidential source sounds like a spy. He was talking to people obviously without revealing that he was working for the government with different officials in the Trump campaign, sounds like infiltration.

Why isn't it as -- why isn't it as nefarious as it sounds?

LAURENCE TRIBE, CO-AUTHOR, "TO END A PRESIDENCY: THE POWER OF IMPEACHMENT": Because it's what the investigating arms of the United States and of every state and city do all the time. You know, crooks don't just announce what they're doing. You need to have a bit of undercover help in bringing out the truth.

The Supreme Court ever since the early 1950s has said that the standard technique of using informers to tell you what members of an organized criminal structure or conspiracy are doing isn't even a form of surveillance or search. You don't need a warrant. It's nothing like a FISA warrant.

Just a matter of -- I mean, if some guy like George Papadopoulos gets drunk at a bar and tells the Australian ambassador, you know, I'm working with the Trump people and have we got a lot of dirt on them from Russia about Hillary. You expect the ambassador's going to keep quiet about it? He's going to talk to people.

CUOMO: Papadopoulos thought he'd keep quiet and that was his mistake.

TRIBE: Yes, that was his mistake.

CUOMO: Let me ask you about the book, Professor.

TRIBE: Yes. CUOMO: This book is a really great and pretty digestible walkabout

what impeachment means and where it comes from, it comes with a note of political caution from you that, one, Democrats shouldn't be rushing down the road of impeachment, that there are real implications. But at the same time, you give an interesting take on what you think might qualify as a high crime or misdemeanor, the threshold for articles of impeachment. And you say abuse of power may be something that has to be focused on.

Take us through the case.

TRIBE: Well, the basic point and it's clear from what the framers said at the very beginning and it's clear in the history of the impeachment power is that it's really about abusing the authority that we give to high officials like the president. It's not about garden variety crime.

If it turns out, as I wouldn't be surprised to find, that Donald Trump has been guilty of tax evasion, that may be a crime, but it's not an impeachable offense. On the other hand, if Donald Trump uses the powers of the United States government to cover-up his own criminality or to cover-up the way in which he cooperated with Moscow in order to win the presidency, that may or may not qualify as an ordinary federal crime, but it's certainly an impeachable offense, or if he decides, you know, I'm simply not going to protect the United States from foreign attack, I'm busy making money, I'd rather be a kleptocrat than carry out my oath, that's not a crime but it's certainly a basis for removing a president.

And if the evidence that Robert Mueller is collecting forms a kind compelling case that an overwhelming bipartisan majority of the American people find convincing that this guy is just too dangerous to keep in power, then we do have the emergency power of impeachment available. But it will be available only if we don't use it loosely and kind of ring the bell every time something looks amiss. You can't be the boy who cried wolf and have a viable impeachment power. You can't use it over and over again against the same president.

CUOMO: Right.

TRIBE: If you're going to shoot him, you got to shoot to kill. And that requires an overwhelming majority of a bipartisan kind. Otherwise, you're just going to nick the guy and make him feel empowered and vindicated.

CUOMO: Right. You look at the two examples we have in history of Clinton and, of course, President Johnson. Johnson got by, I think by, what, one vote or something.

TRIBE: One vote, right.

CUOMO: But if you don't have it successfully, if you don't have a real consensus, you now have what you call a wounded and dangerous tiger.

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