Lefty Professor on CNN: If Dems Impeach Trump, ‘Shoot to Kill’

Editor's Note: This post has been updated, please read below.

Appearing on CNN’s New Day on Tuesday to promote his new book on presidential impeachment, left-wing Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe warned Democrats against being too quick to call for President Trump’s impeachment. He argued that they should wait for “overwhelming” bipartisan consensus on the issue and proclaimed: “If you’re going to shoot him, you’ve got to shoot to kill.”

Anchor Chris Cuomo praised Tribe’s book, To End a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment, as “a really great and pretty digestible walk down what impeachment means and where it comes from.” He then pointed out that the text “comes with a note of political caution” that “Democrats shouldn’t be rushing down the road of impeachment.”

 

 

However, before discussing that caution, Cuomo first teed up the liberal academic to wildly theorize, without evidence, on crimes the President may have committed and even build a case for Trump’s impeachment: “...you give an interesting take on what you think might qualify as a high crime or misdemeanor, the threshold for articles of impeachment. And you say abuse of power may be something that has to be focused on. Take us through the case.”

Tribe happily obliged:

It’s not about garden variety crime. And if it turns out, as I wouldn’t be surprised to find, that Donald Trump has been guilty of tax evasion, that may be a crime, but it’s not an impeachable offense.

On the other hand, if Donald Trump uses the powers of the United States government to cover-up his own criminality or to cover-up the way in which he cooperated with Moscow in order to win the presidency, that may or may not qualify as an ordinary federal crime, but it's certainly an impeachable offense. Or if he decides, you know, “I’m simply not going to protect the United States from foreign attack, I’m busy making money, I’d rather be a kleptocrat than carry out my oath,” that’s not a crime, but it’s certainly a basis for removing a president.

And if the evidence that Robert Mueller is collecting forms a kind of compelling case that an overwhelming bipartisan majority of the American people find convincing, that this guy is just too dangerous to keep in power, then we do have the emergency power of impeachment available.

Ironically, after laying out the supposed case for removing Trump from office, Tribe worried that impeachment talk was being thrown around far too casually:  

But it will be available only if we don’t use it loosely and kind of ring the bell every time something looks amiss. You can’t be the boy who cried wolf and expect to have a viable impeachment power. You can’t use it over and over again against the same president.     

He then used a rather harsh metaphor to emphasize his point: “If you’re going to shoot him, you’ve got to shoot to kill.” Tribe fretted that absent “an overwhelming majority of a bipartisan kind,” any impeachment effort would fail, and “you’re just gonna nick the guy and make him feel empowered and vindicated.”

Cuomo feared: “But if you don’t have it successfully, if you don’t have a real consensus, you now have what you call a wounded and dangerous tiger.”    

UPDATE: Tribe took to Twitter later Tuesday morning to apologize for his “terrible word choice” during the interview with Cuomo:

Here is a transcript of the May 22 exchange:

8:21 AM ET

(...)

CHRIS CUOMO: Let me ask you about the book, Professor.

LAURENCE TRIBE [HARVARD PROFESSOR, CO-AUTHOR, TO END A PRESIDENCY: THE POWER OF IMPEACHMENT]: Yeah.

CUOMO: This book is a really great and pretty digestible walk down what impeachment means and where it comes from, but it comes with a note of political caution from you. That, one, Democrats shouldn’t be rushing down the road of impeachment, that there are real implications. But at the same time, you give an interesting take on what you think might qualify as a high crime or misdemeanor, the threshold for articles of impeachment. And you say abuse of power may be something that has to be focused on. Take us through the case.

TRIBE: Well, the basic point – and it’s clear from what the framers said at the very beginning and it’s clear in the history of the impeachment power – is that it’s really about abusing the authority that we give to high officials like the president. It’s not about garden variety crime. And if it turns out, as I wouldn’t be surprised to find, that Donald Trump has been guilty of tax evasion, that may be a crime, but it’s not an impeachable offense.

On the other hand, if Donald Trump uses the powers of the United States government to cover-up his own criminality or to cover-up the way in which he cooperated with Moscow in order to win the presidency, that may or may not qualify as an ordinary federal crime, but it's certainly an impeachable offense. Or if he decides, you know, “I’m simply not going to protect the United States from foreign attack, I’m busy making money, I’d rather be a kleptocrat than carry out my oath,” that’s not a crime, but it’s certainly a basis for removing a president.

And if the evidence that Robert Mueller is collecting forms a kind of compelling case that an overwhelming bipartisan majority of the American people find convincing, that this guy is just too dangerous to keep in power, then we do have the emergency power of impeachment available.

But it will be available only if we don’t use it loosely and kind of ring the bell every time something looks amiss. You can’t be the boy who cried wolf and expect to have a viable impeachment power. You can’t use it over and over again against the same president. If you’re going to shoot him, you’ve got to shoot to kill. And that requires an overwhelming majority of a bipartisan kind, otherwise you’re just gonna nick the guy and make him feel empowered and vindicated.

CUOMO: Right, you look at the two examples we have in history of Clinton, and of course, President Johnson. Johnson got by, I think, by what, one vote, or something?  

TRIBE: One vote, right.

CUOMO: But if you don’t have it successfully, if you don’t have a real consensus, you now have what you call a wounded and dangerous tiger.

Professor Tribe, appreciate it.

TRIBE: Thanks, Chris.

The book is a must read for people who want to talk about this topic. Thank you for being on the show.

TRIBE: Thanks.


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