Shapiro on Ukrainegate

President Donald Trump in the Oval Office, June 24, 2019 (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Ben Shapiro thinks there are two possible explanations for President Trump’s conduct — and one of them, if true, nullifies the case for impeachment. One explanation he calls “the Get Biden Theory.” The one he considers more plausible he calls the “Miasma of Corruption Theory.”

It’s the story not of a quid pro quo to help Trump in 2020, but of a quid pro quo to target a miasma of Trump-perceived “corruption” that the president believes led to the Russian-collusion narrative that damaged his legitimacy. If it’s true, Trump was foolish, stubborn, and wrong — but did not commit an impeachable offense.

It is possible, of course, that Trump was acting on some mixture of both the MOCT and the GBT. But I am not sure that the MOCT, even if exclusively true, is much of an argument against impeachment. Like the GBT, it assumes that Trump was using U.S. foreign policy, and ignoring a congressional directive, to pursue a partisan rather than a national interest. It’s not obvious that the first account of his motives falls on one side of a bright line of impeachability while the second falls on the other.

The defense also suggests that Trump was at the least alarmingly gullible about what Shapiro rightly calls “the baseless conspiracy theory that Russia was framed by Ukraine for the 2016 hack and subsequent release of a damaging tranche of Democratic National Committee emails.” The dominance of the GBT in discussions of this scandal has muffled attention to this point, but it is at least arguable that a congressman could legitimately consider the setting of foreign policy on the basis of a conspiracy theory as a high crime and misdemeanor.

The temptation to reach for a bright-line rule for impeachability is not unique to Shapiro; I see it everywhere. But impeachment and removal inevitably requires Congress to exercise judgment — even if it is in short supply.

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Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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