July 3rd, 2020


To Impeach or Not to Impeach? That Is the Question

 Bernard Goldberg

By Bernard Goldberg

Published Dec. 14, 2018

To Impeach or Not to Impeach? That Is the Question

So it looks like Donald Trump lied about sex then paid the two women he supposedly hooked up with to keep quiet about the liaisons. At least that's the allegation from Mr. Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen who has pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws and implicated Mr. Trump in the deal.

And paying hush money to a porn star and a Playboy centerfold is an impeachable offense? Really?

The perpetually angry Democratic base thinks so and it's a safe bet they'll put pressure on liberals in Congress to get the impeachment ball rolling when they take control of the House in a few weeks.

But Democrats know that impeachment could backfire politically and cause them a lot more damage in 2020 than it would cause the president. Do American voters really want to go through the trauma of impeachment over something like this – especially when everyone knows the president will never be convicted in the Senate?

Still, Democrats are falling all over each other trying to get to a TV camera to express their outrage that the president may have violated campaign finance laws when he paid the hush money.

But did he pay off the women, through his attorney Michael Cohen, in order to help him win in 2016 – or did he pay them off to save himself a little embarrassment?

The president certainly would use the latter as a defense if he ever had to testify under oath.

But even if he paid them to keep the news off the front page right before the election, campaign finance violations have traditionally been seen as civil matters, not criminal. You pay a fine and that's the end of it.

Not when you're a Democrat who's been praying that the special counsel comes up with something, anything, that would sink the presidency of Donald J. Trump.

Let's start with Democratic Congressman Jerry Nadler, who will lead the House Judiciary Committee next month. He went on CNN and said if President Trump broke campaign finance laws by arranging hush-money payments to the two women, he would have committed "impeachable offenses … in the service of fraudulently obtaining office."

Nadler, aware of the potential blowback that would hurt Democrats, did add: "Whether [the allegations] are important enough to justify an impeachment is a different question."

Nadler, by the way, was a member of the Judiciary Committee when it voted to impeach former President Bill Clinton, which Nadler said at the time was tantamount to an attempted coup and a gross abuse of the impeachment power.

That was then.

And over at CBS, another liberal congressman, Adam Schiff, said that “There's a very real prospect that on the day Donald Trump leaves office, the Justice Department may indict him. … He may be the first president in quite some time to face the real prospect of jail time.”

That's what wishful thinking sounds like when you want the progressive base to know you're on their side.

Lying about sex and paying hush money may be wrong but what does it have to do with colluding with the Russians to throw the 2016 presidential election? After all, that's what the special counsel was supposed to look into when he started his investigation 19 months ago.

And an editorial in the Wall Street Journal had this to say about the Democrats and their outrage: "Mr. Trump lied to the public about his dealings with Mr. Cohen. Bill Clinton lied to the public and under oath in a legal proceeding, yet Democrats defended him. Good luck trying to impeach Mr. Trump for campaign finance violations."

Or as Alan Dershowitz put it on Fox:

“I want everyone out there to imagine the following scenario: Let’s assume that when Bill Clinton was running for president, Paula Jones came up to him and said, ‘Unless you pay me $130,000, I’ll reveal our affair.’ And let’s assume that Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton together did exactly what is alleged that Donald Trump and [Michael] Cohen did together. I guarantee you, The New York Times, NBC, MSNBC would be railing against any prosecutor who dared to suggest that this was a violation of the campaign finance law. Everybody would be on the other side of this issue. There would be Republicans out there saying strip him of the presidency, impeach him, indict him. Every Democrat would be saying this is a witch hunt, this is terrible… We need a single standard. If you wouldn’t go after Bill Clinton, don’t go after Donald Trump. If you’re going after Donald Trump, then you have to go after Hillary Clinton for everything she allegedly did.”

Once upon a time that kind of even handed approach would have been obvious. But that was when principles mattered. Now all that counts is what side you're on. Principles may have died but hypocrisy is alive and well.


JWR contributor Bernard Goldberg, the television news reporter and author of several bestselling books, among them, Bias, a New York Times number one bestseller about how the media distort the news. He is widely seen as one of the most original writers and thinkers in broadcast journalism. Mr. Goldberg covered stories all over the world for CBS News and has won 10 Emmy awards for excellence in journalism. He now reports for the widely acclaimed HBO broadcast Real Sports. He is a graduate of Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey and a member of the school's Hall of Distinguished Alumni and proprietor of