Good Friday Morning, especially to Johnson & Johnson, who released incredible reports from their vaccine research for COVID-19:
Data demonstrated that, after a single vaccination, neutralizing antibodies against COVID-19 were detected in over 90 percent of study participants at Day 29 and 100 percent of participants aged 18-55 years at Day 57. These neutralizing antibodies remained stable through Day 71, currently the latest timepoint available in this ongoing study, in all participants aged 18-55 years.
I keep hitting a single point: our vaccine ramp-up and the end of this pandemic are much closer than the experts say. Between Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and potentially AstraZeneca, we could have four viable vaccines in the system. Together they will produce more than enough vaccines for every man, woman, and child in the country. It will take longer, obviously, to vaccinate the rest of the globe. But the end is on the horizon in America.
Compare our four vaccines to China’s single vaccine. The WSJ reports this week that China has been lying about as to the efficacy. Independent researchers scrutinizing the Chinese vaccine data found that it was barely better than a coin flip on working: 50.4% efficacy. That’s quite a different story from anyone who has written anything praising the “Chinese model.”
One last note on the vaccines: Note the timelines in that research: 29 days and 57 days. You are observing things after one and two months. The reason you have to continue wearing a mask and being smart after getting a vaccine is that it takes time for your body to build up immunity. The time that it takes is going to vary by person. So when you get that vaccine, continue being smart and give your body’s immunity a chance to ramp up. We’re almost done with this pandemic!
This week I’m going through impeachment, why the Democratic case for impeachment is lousy, and what comes next after the House vote. Links to follow.
Where you can find me this week
Please subscribe, rate, and review my podcast on iTunes, Spotify, or Google Play — the reviews help listeners, and readers like you find me in the algorithms. Make sure to sign up for the Conservative Institute’s daily newsletter and become a subscriber at The Dispatch, where I’m a contributor.
The leadership crisis of America – The Conservative Institute.
Carnage at US Capitol threatens America’s great gift – The Conservative Institute.
The Impeachment Conundrum.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Donald Trump is now the only President to have been impeached by the House of Representatives twice. If you were alive for the 1990s, you’ve witnessed 75% of all impeachments in American history (there have only been four total, and Trump has two). None of the House impeachments have led to the Senate affirming the House vote so far.
The Democrats’ Lone Article of Impeachment Makes No Sense.
Let’s start at the top. The House’s sole impeachment article is here. It’s four pages long and a quick read. What happened on January 6, and Trump’s conduct around it was entirely impeachable (perhaps even necessarily impeachment given Trump’s behavior/actions). That said, the article of impeachment Democrat’s put forward, alleging that Donald Trump incited a riot is hot garbage.
After going through their impeachment power and more, the article essentially boils down to this:
Donald John Trump engaged in high Crimes and Misdemeanors by inciting violence against the Government of the United States…
Democrats argue that Trump violated the law with his speech and caused the violence at the Capitol. I think you can make a cohesive argument Trump needed to get impeached for January 6, but that this incitement charge is just nonsense. And the reason for that is straightforward: Democrats are alleging Trump broke the law, but there’s no evidence Trump violated any law regarding incitement.
The first major issue with the incitement allegation is we don’t know if it is even true. Thursday, CNN started reporting that investigators were looking into the possibility that the storming of the Capitol was pre-planned:
Evidence uncovered so far, including weapons and tactics seen on surveillance video, suggests a level of planning that has led investigators to believe the attack on the US Capitol was not just a protest that spiraled out of control, a federal law enforcement official says.
Among the evidence the FBI is examining are indications that some participants at the Trump rally at the Ellipse, outside the White House, left the event early, perhaps to retrieve items to be used in the assault on the Capitol.
A team of investigators and prosecutors are also focused on the command and control aspect of the attack, looking at travel and communications records to determine if they can build a case that is similar to a counterterrorism investigation, the official said.
Along with that, some early evidence suggests of the protestors had insiders helping get into the Capitol. They got that aid from either Capitol Hill police, or from elected Representatives.
I don’t know if either of these allegations is true. But I do know that it deserves a thorough investigation. I also know this: you can’t incite what was already pre-planned. The impeachment article tries to get around this by saying that Trump’s election fraud claims after the November election caused the incitement. That means they’re saying all of Trump’s speech caused a general form of incitement, and but for those speeches, tweets, and words, we wouldn’t have had the storming of the Capitol.
But maybe not, too.
The point is, we don’t know. The answer is worth investigating, both by police and Congress. The FBI released a nation-wide warning this week of armed protests ahead of Biden’s inauguration. Their intelligence seems to suggest a broadly planned response. That kind of alert also cuts against an incitement charge.
For reference, the legal definition of “incitement” is as follows:
(b) As used in this chapter, the term “to incite a riot”, or “to organize, promote, encourage, participate in, or carry on a riot”, includes, but is not limited to, urging or instigating other persons to riot, but shall not be deemed to mean the mere oral or written (1) advocacy of ideas or (2) expression of belief, not involving advocacy of any act or acts of violence or assertion of the rightness of, or the right to commit, any such act or acts.
Generally speaking, there has to be a continuation of events. There’s the speech that advocates for specific law-breaking and convinces the listeners to do that crime. In general, Trump’s speech and his rhetoric are awful but don’t fit the particular charge that Democrats have alleged.
Democrats should have charged that Trump violated his oath of office by refusing to defend the United States in an instance of potential insurrection/attack on the Capitol. Suppose Trump wasn’t the one who ordered troops to get control of the situation, and he didn’t respond at all. In that case, that’s a direct dereliction of his duty that demands an answer. And there’s evidence that he didn’t step up to do anything. Any President who refuses to defend the United States or its Capitol when an angry, armed mob charges the Capitol building, kills a police officer, injures countless more, and ransacks the building should answer for that his decisions in that moment.
All that said, none of this matters. Congress can impeach for whatever reason it wants to legally-speaking. In my piece, Autopsy of an Impeachment, at The Dispatch in March of 2020, I wrote the following:
[W]hile legally, there are no limits as to what the House and Senate could impeach the president over (like a well-done steak with ketchup or David French’s movie opinions, for instance), politically speaking, since a House impeachment requires a majority vote and the Senate a two-thirds vote for removal, the bar on impeachment is very high. If you can’t build a bipartisan consensus on impeachment, then it’s destined to fail.
Democrats are cheering that they’ve achieved the most bipartisan impeachment in history with ten House Republicans joining onto the effort. And that’s true, historically speaking. It’s also pretty meaningless because Democrats seemed uninterested in getting to an actual removal. We’ll return to this point, because I think it’s worth asking: Do Democrats actually want impeachment?
The last point I want to make on impeachment in general is that I believe Trump’s double impeachment is going to further lower the bar on impeachments. The more we use this power, the less power/meaning it has. I know that sounds crazy, but the impeachment power is an extreme power, meant to break out “in-case-of-emergency.” That runs counter to convention wisdom on the impeachment. I noted in my Dispatch piece:
As a historical note, it’s worth adding that at the time of the Constitution’s ratification, getting a simple majority in the House and a two-thirds majority in a Senate in a country with only 13 states was easier than it is now. As the Republic has grown, the political bar for impeaching and removing the president has risen, since it requires more votes among a diverse set of states and peoples. Also adding term limits to the presidency makes the argument for immediate removal even more difficult.
The bar to impeach has never been higher, politically or legally speaking. And yet, counter-intuitively, after only one impeachment in the first 200 some odd years of the country (Andrew Johnson, 1868), two of the last four Presidents have been impeached, and three of the last four impeachments has come in that time frame. And frankly, neither the Clinton nor first Trump impeachments seem worth it in hindsight.
That we’re constantly returning to this extreme power bodes ill for the future. It also suggests that the actual impeachment power is losing its status as a real threat to executive overreach. Partisan fights with no real attempts to conduct a true impeachment hearing are and for the political legitimacy of the impeachment power. And I say that as a person who believes impeachment should be investigated in this situation involving January 6, very seriously.
Do Democrats Actually Want Impeachment?
We’re not going to get that sober investigation, nor serious-minded conversations on barring Trump from holding future office. And I can’t tell if that’s not going to happen because Democrats are utterly incompetent, or they don’t want Republicans to vote to impeach Trump in the Senate.
Here’s why. Trump’s approval ratings are headed towards all-time lows. January 6 has him at nearly 60-40 oppose/support. The Senate requires a 2/3 majority to convict on an impeachment article. Plenty of Republican legislators believe Trump’s conduct was wrong and even impeachable. But only ten voted for in the House, and we don’t know about the Senate yet. One of the Republican House members who voted for impeachment was Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois. Jake Tapper of CNN reported the following:
@RepKinzinger’s staff reached out to House Democrats requesting 7 minutes to speak in favor of impeachment, thinking maybe they would give him 5. They said sorry they could only offer one minute, he tells me, so he said nevermind. Seems like a missed opportunity for Democrats.
Another person who didn’t speak in favor of impeachment: Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming. Both Cheney and Kinzinger voted for impeachment. A smart political move would be to trot out supporters of impeachment within the President’s own party.
Part of impeachment is building that political case in favor of impeachment. If you’re a Democrat, getting a Republican to build a case for impeachment does two things. First, It makes your argument seem righteous and bipartisan. Second, it protects your more moderate members in purple districts by placing all the heat on those Republicans and not Democrats. Your weak flank can hide behind Republicans instead of their own vote. Nancy Pelosi and Democrats got neither of these things.
The easy explanation for this, which could be true regardless of what I say, is that Pelosi and Democrats are inept nincompoops. The proof for this is pretty simple: Pelosi doesn’t have any skill at working with “the other side.” You’re either doing what she wants, or nothing gets done at all. And when I say “other side,” I mean both Republicans and the various factions within her party. She’s not a dealmaker. She’s a prolific fundraiser and someone who only knows how to shove partisan legislation through with a simple majority. All her major legislative achievements from Obamacare on down required plowing through hyper-partisan legislation with no input from the other side.
Pelosi is an overpaid baseball pitcher with a single fastball pitch in her toolbox. Every Speaker of the House before her had a wide array of pitches and skills. She doesn’t, and there’s never been an ounce of evidence she’s capable of learning anything new. It certainly looks like it didn’t occur to her or Democratic House leadership to pressure impeachment curious Republicans in 2019. They made the same failures in 2021. That’s just straight-up political incompetence.
The other explanation gives her more credit by suggesting that Democrats don’t want the Senate to convict Trump. They’ve purposely hammered this proposal because they only desire Democrats supporting it and no Republicans. Democrats are trying to keep Trump alive and well because they want him torturing Republicans for the next four years and potentially running again in 2024. Trump, with the black mark on him, is politically radioactive. Having Trump around is beneficial to Democrats electorally.
By giving Republicans no room to jump into this process, Democrats are pushing them back to Trump so they can continue blasting the right in the media.
That’s not the only thing at issue at play. There are also secondary problems with starting a Senate trial trying to convince Republicans to convict Trump: that would take time. The shortest impeachment time was the first one with Trump. It took 21 days in the Senate. The Senate is out of session until January 19. The inauguration is on the 20th. Democrats have not sent the articles of impeachment over to the Senate. Mitch McConnell has already said it’s better to let the inauguration events to complete themselves first before heading into an impeachment trial.
Joe Biden has asked whether or not the Senate can bifurcate proceedings. He wants them to pass through some of his cabinet appointees and also run the impeachment trial. That’s a plan that’s never been done in the past, and Republicans aren’t incentivized to do it either. Typically, when the Senate conducts an impeachment trial, all other legislation, hearings, or votes of any kind in the Senate come to a screeching halt. Regular business cannot resume until the trial is complete.
It’s noteworthy, then, that Biden has released a $1.9 billion COVID-19 relief plan now, instead of waiting. Biden is trying to sweeten Congress up by saying, “Let’s put an impeachment trial off. Give me my cabinet appointees and I’ll give you a massive spending bill to take back to your constituents.”If Congress takes that bait, the soonest you might see any action on the impeachment trial would probably be around April.
Ironically, if I’m a Republican and wanted to hamstring Biden right out of the gate, I’d advocate an immediate impeachment trial. Biden gets none of his cabinet, and he enters office with a closely divided Congress that’s procedurally unable to do anything because of a trial started by Pelosi and the House.
What happens next?
I’d look for Biden to try and cut a deal with Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell to put a trial off. And, to be frank, I’d like some of Biden’s cabinet offices filled too, particularly those in defense and intelligence. Secretary of State, Transportation, Education, and others don’t matter as much. But anything dealing with national security or even the Department of Justice should be candidates for getting filled.
Suppose no deal gets cut between now and the inauguration. In that case, the question is whether Democrats hold a trial now or hold the article of impeachment to prevent the Senate from getting shut down. If Democrats want to pass through cabinet members and get legislation passed, they won’t send the articles over. In a bizarre role reversal, Republicans are incentivized to hold the trial while Democrats are suddenly looking at impeachment as a situation where they stepped on multiple rakes all at once.
One interesting note on withholding the article from the Senate: Harvard Law Prof. Noah Feldman argued in December 2019 that refusing to send the impeachment articles to the Senate meant that the President hadn’t been impeached. I disagreed with this take at the time. But what happens if a Pelosi-led House refuses to send the article over at all during Biden’s entire term? It’s a long-shot, but worth considering. I’d give Feldman’s argument a second look if that happens. Because yes, the House would have had a vote. But at no time would they have had a trial. That undercuts the notion they went forward with impeachment.
Another possibility, if they don’t go forward with the trial and never do anything. What happens if the House continues holding the article into the 2022 midterms and Republicans win control of the House and Senate? Do you see Republicans rescind that impeachment? There are many fascinating scenarios at play right now. It all depends on what Democrats decide to do in the coming days.
Links of the week
The real reason most Republicans opposed impeachment – Ben Shapiro, Politico Playbook (the piece that tore up the left-wing media section of the internet on Thursday).
Covid-19 immunity likely lasts for years: A new study shows immune cells primed to fight the coronavirus should persist for a long time after someone is vaccinated or recovers from infection. – MIT Technology Review
Everything Is Broken – And how to fix it – Alana Newhouse, Tablet Magazine
Resist the Pharisee Temptation on Social Media – Daniel Darling, The Gospel Coalition
Twitter Thread(s) of the week
Satire of the week
Pence Rolls Out Ambitious Agenda For First 100 Minutes In Office – The Babylon Bee
Thanks for reading!