speaking with Charles Fried, on MSNBC, October 10, 2019
HAYES: Now Trump generally just seems really nervous about his support buckling. And he certainly cant be pleased with a new statement from a group of 16 esteemed conservative and libertarian lawyers who are now calling for an expeditious impeachment investigation, citing numerous facts that are undisputed they write that it has become clear to any observer of current events, the president is abusing the office of the presidency for personal, political objectives.
I`m joined now by Harvard Law Professor Charles Fried, a signatory that statement and who was solicitor general under President Ronald Reagan. Professor Fried, let me start with you. When did you or how did you come to believe that an impeachment inquiry, or an impeachment itself, should be launched against the president?
FRIED: Well, let me back up one moment. I was born in a vibrant democracy, Czechoslovakia, and I fled with my family because of a dictator who invaded it. I came to this country and it took us in, and I`ve had a wonderful life here. I love it, as do my children and my grandchildren. And this man terrifies me.
FRIED: Because of the way he thinks, what he says about himself. He says that the constitution said, and he said this to a bunch of high school students, I can do whatever I want. That`s what Article 2 says. Well, it doesn`t. Any lawyer knows that. Any lawyer except maybe Bill Barr and Mr. Cipollone. Everybody who studied the constitution, which I teach, knows that. Our fidelity is to the law and to the office, not to a man.
HAYES: Professor Fried, you teach constitutional law. You were solicitor general under President Reagan. There are people who use the term “constitution crisis.” And it`s always hard to define precisely what that means. A law professor, Noah Feldman, wrote a piece recently I think justthe other day saying we are in one.
Do you see us as in a constitutional crisis at this moment?
FRIED: Yes, because if the president succeeds in
stonewalling the lawful, constitutionally provided processes of the House of Representatives, then something will have to be done. The various officials who will not testify, because they have been told not to and they`re scared of this thug, will have to be sanctioned. They are in contempt. Of course he is in contempt….
I would add the second part of theMueller report, which quite dutifully would not say that the president can be indicted for obstruction of justice, because his instructions from the Justice Department said so, but he said I will not exonerate him. That is in another place. But of course, that`s the congress. And Bill Barr lied about what that report said when he thought that we wern`t going to see it.
HAYES: Professor Fried, you`re sort of conservative legal legend, I think it`s fair to say. I mean, you have had many students throughout the years, you are extremely highly regarded. You have been part of American conservatism for a very long time. What are the conversations you have with people that you would consider, you know, for lack of a better word cheekily fellow travelers about what is happening
FRIED: They are horrified. It is the very opposite of the great Republicans, the great Republicans like Ronald Reagan, like Dwight – can you imagine Dwight Eisenhower speaking the way this man speaks? Or Lincoln? Or Teddy Roosevelt? This man is ignorant and foul-mouthed.
Andrew Sullivan writing in the Intelligencer, November 8, 2019
“This man is undermining the core legitimacy of our democracy.”
Let us count the ways in which Trump has attacked and undermined our democracy. He is the only candidate in American history who refused to say that he would abide by the results of the vote. Even after winning the 2016 election, he still claimed that “millions” of voters — undocumented aliens — perpetrated massive electoral fraud in the last election, and voted for his opponent. He has repeatedly and publicly toyed with the idea that he could violate the 22nd Amendment, and get elected for three terms, or more.
He consistently described a perfectly defensible inquiry into Russia’s role in the 2016 election as a “witch hunt” and a “hoax,” demonizing Robert Mueller, even as Mueller, in the end, couldn’t find evidence to support the idea of a conspiracy with Russia (perhaps in part because Trump ordered no cooperation, and refused to testify under oath). Trump then withheld release of the full report, while his pliant attorney general distorted its content and wrongly proclaimed that Trump had been entirely exonerated.
In the current scandal over Ukraine, Trump is insisting that he did “nothing wrong” in demanding that Ukraine announce investigations into Joe and Hunter Biden, or forfeit desperately needed military aid. If that is the president’s position — that he can constitutionally ask any other country to intervene on his behalf in a U.S. election — it represents a view of executive power that is the equivalent of a mob boss’s. It is best summed up in Trump’s own words: Article 2 of the Constitution permits him to do “anything I want.”…
Abuse of Power
Sullivan also has this to say: There are valid criticisms and defenses of Trump’s policy choices, but his policies are irrelevant for an impeachment. I (Sullivan) actually support a humane crackdown on undocumented immigration, a tougher trade stance toward China, and an attempt, at least, to end America’s endless wars.
But what matters, and what makes this such a vital moment in American history, is that it has nothing to do with policy. This is simply about Trump’s abuse of power….
Trump seems to think in the Ukraine context that “l’état c’est moi” is the core American truth, rather than a French monarch’s claims to absolute power. He believes in the kind of executive power the Founders designed the U.S. Constitution to prevent. It therefore did not occur to Trump that blackmailing a foreign country to investigate his political opponents is a classic abuse of power, because he is incapable of viewing his own interests and the interests of the United States as in any way distinct. But it is a core premise of our liberal democracy that the powers of the presidency are merely on loan, and that using them to advance a personal interest is a definition of an abuse of power.