David Brooks: You Can't Impeach Trump For Something That Hasn't Happened | Video | RealClearPolitics

David Brooks: You Can't Impeach Trump For Something That Hasn't Happened

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PBS NEWSHOUR: New York Times columnist David Brooks and The Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s political news, including how effective House impeachment managers are at making the case for President Trump’s removal, the latest 2020 campaign dynamics in Iowa and the loss and legacy of NewsHour co-founder Jim Lehrer.

Brooks said you can't impeach Trump for interfering in the 2020 election as the election has not yet happened.

"[Schiff] said, you can't trust Trump in the 2020 election, when China may interfere," Brooks said. "But you can't impeach for something that hasn't already happened. And so I think the removal part is still a slightly weak case. All Republicans secretly know he did it, some, if there any honest brokers out there, little doubtful about removal."

JUDY WOODRUFF, PBS NEWSHOUR: It has been a historic week.

Here to weigh what we heard as Democrats make their case to remove President Trump from office, the analysis of Brooks and Tumulty. That's New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist Karen Tumulty. Mark Shields is away.

Hello to both of you.

It has been a historic week, and it's still going on. The Senate is in session tonight. It will be tomorrow.

David, look back at the week. What do you make of what the Democrats have presented, how they framed the case against the president?

DAVID BROOKS, NEW YORK TIMES: Well, they were certainly exhaustive. There's been a lot of talk and a lot of…

WOODRUFF: You say exhaustive?

BROOKS: Well, both, and ing, exhausting.

But I think, overall, they have to feel satisfied. I think Adam Schiff proved to be the highlight, just a very good prosecutor, speaker, very clear, knows when to hammer a point home.

I have to say, if I graded them, I would give them an A on proving that Trump did it. I think the evidence was overwhelming before walking in, but they presented it clearly.

I would give them a lower grade on, should he be removed from office?

And to me, for doubting Republicans, if there are any, that's the more important argument to make. I thought they hit that less hard, and, frankly, less well. All my friends loved Adam Schiff's closing comments last night.

I was a little less impressed. I mean, the two main arguments were — that's when he directly addressed why this is worth removing. And it was, well, Trump believed Giuliani, and not his own intelligence agencies, and he did it out of self-interest.

That strikes me as true, not a big crime. And then he said, you can't trust Trump in the 2020 election, when China may interfere.

But you can't impeach for something that hasn't already happened. And so I think the removal part is still a slightly weak case. All Republicans secretly know he did it, some, if there any honest brokers out there, little doubtful about removal.

WOODRUFF: Karen, what do you make of this week?

KAREN TUMULTY, WASHINGTON POST: Well, I think, though, the longer-term effect of this is, I think, just by the accumulation of material that they have put out there, I do think that Democrats have done a good job in proving that this wasn't a frivolous exercise, that this wasn't some sort of impulsive thing that they were doing and, as the Republicans keep saying, to overturn the results of the last election.

And the other thing is, the line out of Schiff's closing argument that really struck me, as people keep talking about the institutional imperatives here, where he said, the frameworks couldn't protect us from ourselves, if right and truth don't matter.

Well, I think that that does sort of speak to where we find ourselves, where the thing the framers worried about the most, factionalism, seems to trump everything else, to use a verb.

BROOKS: Yes.

And that's a — it's an interesting case, because I agree with Karen. It's sort of a moral critique. And it's a big — like, if honesty doesn't matter, does our Constitution work? And if loyalty to the country doesn't outweigh loyalty to party, does our Constitution work?

WOODRUFF: And they kept coming back to that.

BROOKS: And so that's a moral case.

The question to me, do we then think — how much do we think of this as a legal thing, and how much do we think as a moral thing?

I'd be a little wary of removing a president because we find him morally objectionable. I mean, I think these are all great arguments for not to vote for the guy, but to do a Washington legal process of a removal.

WOODRUFF: David, you still have Republican senators — I interviewed Deb Fischer of Nebraska this afternoon — who say they're not even ready to accept the premise that the president tried to persuade the president of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, that she said that hasn't been proven yet.

If that's the case, they — it seems to me they still have a way to go.

BROOKS: Yes.

I mean, this is the interesting counterfactual. Suppose they had a president who was a reasonable human being who could say, I messed up, I apologize, I'm — make it up to Ukraine, but don't — it's not worth removing.

And this was sort of the Clinton approach during that impeachment process.

But Trump has laid down the law that it's going to be all or nothing.

And that recall — that requires a massive denial of reality on behalf of all Republicans...

And there was a Wall Street Journal editorial today which said, this is — it's setting the wrong standard for removing a president, that he did something in his own political interests. All presidents do that. That might — that seemed to foreshadow the argument that we will hear from their lawyers...

WOODRUFF: Well, while all this is going on, there are four senators, David, who are running for president who, if it weren't for this impeachment trial, would be campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire.

And, by the way we are today, I think, 10 days away from the Iowa caucuses. What do we know about the race right now, to the extent we can — we know anything? There's clearly some polls, but how does that race look?

BROOKS: Yes, I think both Sanders and Biden are looking stronger and stronger by the day. Somehow, there seems to be coalition around those two senators.

I think the senators that are now forced to be in Washington are going to suffer because of this. I think it's a small electorate in Iowa. The last minute really changes things. And actual rallies and encounters actually do change things in Iowa.

And so I think it's a serious disadvantage for Klobuchar, Warren and Sanders in particular, and that they will just have to struggle with it.



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