Cipollone: Any Law Student Would Have an Easy Answer to Impeachment Question: Reject It

By Susan Jones | January 28, 2020 | 5:57am EST
White House Counsel Pat Cipollone (Photo: Screen capture)
White House Counsel Pat Cipollone (Photo: Screen capture)

( - President Trump's defense team has argued for two days that a partisan impeachment, just to get rid of a despised president, is not what the Founders intended.

In his closing remarks on Monday, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone posed a hypothetical question: How would the rushed and partisan Trump impeachment, based on no crime, taking place nine months ahead of an election, look to students of the law?

"You'd have an easy answer," Cipollone said, if the question before the Senate right now were to appear on a law school exam.

In his final remarks before the trial adjourned, Cipollone shared his observations with the senators:

I was sitting here listening to Professor Dershowitz, and believe it or not, my mind went back to law school. And I began thinking, how would this impeachment look as a law school hypothetical question on an exam? How would we answer that question?

And I found myself thinking maybe that's a good way to think about it.

The question would go something like this: Imagine you are a United States senator, and you are sitting in an impeachment trial. The articles of impeachment before you have been passed on a purely partisan basis for the first time in history. In fact, there was bipartisan opposition to the articles of impeachment.

They have been trying to impeach the president from the moment of his inauguration for no reason. Just because he won.

The articles before you do not allege a crime or even any violation of the civil law. One article alleges obstruction of Congress simply for exercising long-standing constitutional rights that every president has exercised.

The president was given no rights in the House of Representatives. The Judiciary Committee conducted only two days of hearings. You are sitting through your sixth day of trial. The House is demanding witnesses from you that they refused to seek themselves.

When confronted with expedited court proceedings regarding subpoenas they had issued, they actually withdrew those subpoenas. They are now criticizing you in strong, accusatory language if you don't capitulate to their unreasonable demands and sit in your seats for months.

An election is only months away, and for the first time in history, they are asking you to remove a president from the ballot. They are asking you to do something that violates all past historical precedents that you have studied in this class and principles of democracy and take the choice away from the American people.

It would tear apart the country for generations and change our constitutional system forever. Question: What should you do?

Your first thought might be, that's not a realistic hypothetical. That could never happen in America. But then you would be happy, because you'd have an easy answer and you can be done with your law school exam, and it would be -- you immediately reject the articles of impeachment.

Bonus question: Should your answer depend on your political party? Answer, no.

Cipollone made two other observations about the day's events:

He called it "instructive" to watch videos of the Clinton impeachment trial, when some of the same politicians who are now trying to impeach Trump had very different arguments about the law and precedent when the target was a Democrat.

You were right then, Cipollone told those senators: "And if you won't listen to me, I would urge you to listen to your younger selves."

In his third observation, Cipollone noted that Judge Kenneth Starr had mentioned that "we are in the age of impeachment --in the age of constant investigations. Imagine -- imagine, imagine if all of that energy was being used to solve the problems of the American people. Imagine if the age of impeachment was over in the United States. Imagine that.

And I was listening to Professor Dershowitz talking about the 'shoe on the other foot' rule. And it makes a lot of sense. I would maybe put it differently. I would maybe call it the golden rule of impeachment. For the Democrats, the golden rule could be, do unto Republicans as you would have them do unto Democrats. And hopefully we will never be in another position in this country where we have another impeachment.

Cipollone concluded:

"But at the end of the day, the most important thought is this: This choice belongs to the American people. They will get to make it months from now. The Constitution and common sense and all of our history prevent you from removing the president from the ballot. There's no basis for it in the facts, there's simply no basis for it in the law. And I would urge you to quickly come to that conclusion so we can go have an election."


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