Matt Whittaker offered the latest Trumpie defense of the indefensible:
Speaking with Fox News’ Laura Ingraham, Whitaker blasted the House Democrats for “secret testimony” and “selective leaking to preferred outlets” after warning that a future Republican Speaker of the House could similarly seek “a lot of payback” against a Democratic president. “This is not good for the Republic,” he added. …
“I’m a former prosecutor and what I know is this is a perfect time for preliminary hearings, where you would say ‘Show us your evidence. What evidence of a crime do you have?’ Abuse of power is not a crime. Let’s fundamentally boil it down, the Constitution is very clear that there has to be some pretty egregious behavior and they cannot tell the American people what this case is even about.” [emphasis added]
As was recently said of another Trump defender, was Whittaker asleep the day they taught law in law school? (Maybe he was; federal investigators last year were looking into his connections with a patent company accused of fraud.)
But just as a refresher: The third article of impeachment against Richard Nixon charged him with abuse of power (although it didn’t use those exact words). The House also considered an abuse of power charge against Bill Clinton, but it failed 148-285.
Hamilton said explicitly that abuse of one’s office is impeachable in Federalist #65:
A well-constituted court for the trial of impeachments is an object not more to be desired than difficult to be obtained in a government wholly elective. The subjects of its jurisdiction are those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust. [emphasis added]
In explaining the impeachment process, Charles Savage wrote in the New York Times:
The term “high crimes and misdemeanors” came out of the British common law tradition: it was the sort of offense that Parliament cited in removing crown officials for centuries. Essentially, it means an abuse of power by a high-level public official. This does not necessarily have to be a violation of an ordinary criminal statute.
New York magazine summed up Trump’s position:
As the factual defense of Trump’s behavior in the Ukraine scandal has disintegrated, Trump has slowly fallen back to the case he truly believes in his heart. Sessions was too naïve, and Barr too sophisticated, to present Trump’s worldview in such bald terms. It fell to Whitaker to articulate the ethos of the 45th president — that he is entitled to abuse power as he sees fit.