Kangaroo Court


gabriel conroy

Gabriel Conroy [pseudonym] is an ex-graduate student. He is happily married with no children and has about a million nieces and nephews. The views expressed by Gabriel are his alone and do not necessarily reflect those of his spouse or employer.

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56 Responses

  1. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    Thing is, you have the right of it, impeachment is a political act. It is not a matter of civil or criminal law, it is purely political. High Crimes and Misdemeanors has no objective definition, it is whatever a sufficient number of legislators decide it is.

    So Trump does not need to be guilty of a crime, there merely needs to be enough legislators in both houses to find him unacceptable. The crime merely needs to be, he’s pissed off enough of them for a vote to carry. Likewise, he could be very obviously guilty of serious crimes, and he may not get impeached.

    As for the Kangaroo aspect, of course it is. There is no process laid out in the constitution, so the rules are exactly what the houses of congress decide they are. And the key here is that the rules the GOP is whining about are the rules it helped to craft.Report

    • It may sound strange, but I see it slightly differently, although one might not know it from the post I wrote. Norms, for lack of a better word, constrain the politicians, so their bar might be higher than merely being ticked off at the president (though, of course, lower than actual crime).

      The rules you mention, which the GOP so opportunistically whines about are another constraint. They can be changed, and they evolve, but they’re still a hurdle until that change happens, or until the standards for meeting the rules are met, or both. Even if the rules can be and are ignored, they still play a role of “that which must be ignored.”Report

      • Avatar JS in reply to gabriel conroy says:

        In an irony, the rules the GOP are currently complaining about the loudest are rules the GOP put in place for the House in 2015.

        Specifically no longer requiring the minority leader to sign off on subpoenas is the one that has their goat the most.Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to gabriel conroy says:

        They are only constrained by norms and house rules. That’s it. Impeachment is almost the definition of a Kangaroo Court.

        But that’s OK, because the worst that an impeachment can do is remove the president. This is like a corporate board removing a CEO. It’s basically a formal way of firing the president.

        Everyone is wailing and gnashing teeth over this like the democrats are going to send him to prison if the senate ‘convicts’. But the reality is, he’ll just become a private citizen again.

        Hell, AFAIK, impeachment is not a bar to running for a second term.Report

        • Avatar North in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          It can be a bar to running again if the Senate chooses to make it so.Report

          • Avatar gabriel conroy in reply to North says:

            It might even be an automatic bar, depending on how one interprets “Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States:….”

            Does that mean that if the senate convicts, it decides on the punishment and the punishment can include those things but need not? Further–and I just now thought of this–can the Senate “convict” but have no punishment whatsoever (i.e., not remove the president from office)?Report

  2. Avatar Jaybird says:

    What precedents are we going to set by impeaching?

    What precedents are going to set by *NOT* impeaching?

    What precedents will be worse? I oppose the decision, no matter what it is, that has worse precedents set.Report

    • Avatar CJColucci in reply to Jaybird says:

      The thing about precedents, as those of us in the precedent business soon come to learn, is that we don’t know, and can’t know, what a precedent means until the next case comes along and the interested parties argue for contested readings that favor their clients’ interests.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to CJColucci says:

        This makes sense to me. I figure that both of these options are crappy.

        There’s an old piece of advice best told in a Scottish/Irish accent: Someday you will find yourself at a fork on a very, very muddy road. No matter which one you take, you’ll soon be wishing you took the other.

        I’m down with Trump being impeached. I just know that we’re going to have another impeachment after his. Maybe the one after that. I suspect that that will be a good thing… I hope it’ll be one.Report

    • Avatar pillsy in reply to Jaybird says:

      I’m not entirely convinced that the basic structure of impeachment allows for a precedent to be set. Past Congressional decisions don’t bind future Congresses in that way.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to pillsy says:

        Yeah, none of the previous impeachments appear to have set any precedents beyond “pay attention to what the voters think about your impeachment effort”. The GOP never impeached Obama, despite their right wingers desperately wanting to, because he never gave them a reason that the public would take seriously.Report

      • Avatar InMD in reply to pillsy says:

        I think the precedent matters immensely with respect to how the nation recovers. This is in large part why I thought impeachment over the Russia allegations was wrong, but am quickly coming to support it over the proposal to the president of Ukraine. The conduct was clear and sets a simple line.Report

  3. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    Jaybird’s question:

    1. What precedents are we going to set by impeaching?

    Hopefully people will learn that the President is not above the law, he is a citizen like everyone else, the office of the President is not to be used for bribery and enrichment, nor should aid to an ally be withheld until the ally digs up dirt on a political opponent.

    What Republicans are likely to do is remember everything and learn nothing and become more radicalized but we should not be cowards because of this.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      That’s the precedent we think that this will set?

      Full speed ahead.Report

    • “but we should not be cowards because of this.”

      Hmmm….I don’t feel particularly brave about advocating for impeachment. I mean, I do fear what might happen and I fear some of the precedents, not the ones you mention, but other possible precedents. But they’re not a coward’s fear. The fears are more like forebodings.

      Not that I’m not a coward. If I weren’t in social and online circles where almost everyone favored impeachment and almost all of the others oppose it only for practical reasons….then maybe my advocacy for impeachment would require bravery.

      I suppose congresspersons are pretty much the only cowards when it comes to not wanting to impeach. I wish more of them showed some political courage, all the more so because political courage is one of the lesser forms of courage. They might be primaried out or whatever, but they can probably get another job pretty easily.

      So no, with the special exception of congresspersons and the more general exception of people who live in Trump country, I don’t find it to be an issue of cowardice or bravery.Report

  4. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    Speaking of Kangaroo courts, let’s talk about Deadspin.

    Deadspin is effectively dead. The private equity managers sent out a stick to sports memo even though the purchase deal promised editorial independence or so I am told. Some editors were fired, other writers quit in protest. The corporate overlord put out a press release stating no one liked the non-sports stories. People quickly fact-checked this lie.

    The whole thing is depressing and disturbing. The private equity bros were too cowardly to admit that they just did not like the politics of the sites they purchased. Splinter was shut overnight without warning that was an openly left political site. The Deadspin lie was obviously false but elite impunity is so strong that it does not matter. They can lie and be called out on it and nothing matters.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      This is one hell of an opportunity for an enterprising person. Call it… I dunno… “airball.com” or something.

      There are a lot of writers out there who will totally create content for the new sports/culture site.

      That will, presumably, make the enterprising person who sets it up a lot of money.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Jaybird says:

        Perhaps there’s some barstools that the writers could sit on.

        Or maybe they’ll just go around posting on Twitter all day about how there’s no work out there, it’s all just clickbait mills, nobody seems to want good writers who do a good job and hardly ever start screaming about the fucking BASTARD who’s RUINING THE COUNTRY and THINKS ALL THE TRANS BLACK WOMEN SHOULD BE PUT INTO A no don’t take my inhaler you bastards im not done typingReport

  5. Avatar Doctor Jay says:

    I have a 20 dollar bet outstanding with a friend that Trump will not complete this term in office. I made this bet not because I necessarily thought he would be impeached, but because I saw so many different paths to his exit. I’ve been thinking lately that I might be a loser, but Parnas and Fruman’s story make me wonder otherwise. I think that story has the potential to explode on Trump.

    Because politics is, at heart, a team sport, and Trump is not a team player.

    I think it is entirely proper that the House move forward on impeachment. I saw a piece today where Nancy Pelosi said it was either that or go home and not bother to have a co-equal branch of government. “Why run for office?” she asked. Because Congress holds the power of the purse, not the President, particularly the House.

    And what Trump has done – he has admitted to this against his interest, and there is now plenty of direct witnesses to corroborate it – is to redirect money allocated by Congress to serve his own political end.

    And that’s ignoring the effect this will have on the government’s policy toward Ukraine. Trump’s actions would have had the very likely effect of undermining the strong bipartisan support in this country for the Ukraine, and doing so in an incredibly underhanded way.

    This is not normal. This is not business as usual. This is not something where “everybody does it”.
    Congress is entirely correct to object in the strongest terms, and the strongest term of objection for them, procedurally, is to impeach him.

    Calling it a kangaroo court sort of undermines the seriousness of the situation we are in, which Trump has put us in. But yeah, it’s a political process, not a legal one.Report

    • I agree it’s not normal. I also agree that it’s not essentially a kangaroo court. But I also suggest that the “kangaroo court-ness” of this can’t be avoided entirely.Report

      • Avatar JS in reply to gabriel conroy says:

        Well, what’s happening right now isn’t a court at all — it’s more akin to a grand jury investigation, although it appears this one is allowing the potential accused to question witnesses so long as he’s turning over subpoenaed evidence. So more fair to potential defendants than your average grand jury investigation.

        The actual Court would be the Senate trial, wherein the Senate is the jury, and the Judge is Justice Roberts.

        The sort of casual conflation with the House impeachment inquiry and an actual trial is quite common, and really should be pushed back on.

        In all honesty, literally the only difference between what’s going on now and routine Congressional oversight is the seriousness of the issue. Routine House oversight might cause Cabinet members to be resigned or removed, in case of wrong doing. This one goes a bit higher, onto an elected official, so things are more formal and court-like.Report

        • Avatar gabriel conroy in reply to JS says:

          You point to an ambiguity of which many of us, including me in the OP, are guilty. We–I–often conflate “impeachment” with “impeachment + conviction by the senate.” The first is necessary for the second, but it’s not sufficient.

          I do agree with you (if I read you right) that Congress using its oversight power to investigate is in many ways “normal” and unremarkable.Report

      • To follow up: I do admit that “kangaroo court” is an emotionally charged word, and I realize your comment is objecting to my use of the word. That’s a reasonable objection, even if I don’t agree.Report

  6. Avatar JoeSal says:

    My prediction is that the office/position of the president will become a useless edifice of regulatory capture of the political kind.

    (if it hasn’t already)Report

  7. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    And as if we needed anything to make the process more complicated, the current budget continuing resolution expires Nov 21. Any odds on Trump vetoing whatever bits happen to get passed before then, saying “I’ll be happy to look at your budget papers once the impeachment process stops.”?Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Michael Cain says:

      I can’t think of anything more likely to make the GOP desperately turn on him faster than Trump threatening to precipitate a government shutdown based on the demand that they stop impeachment*. Pelosi would say “Oh please don’t throw us in that briar patch!” and impeach away and the GOP would be in serious danger of losing everyone except their most Trumpist base. The Senators would have to impeach him just to try and staunch the bleeding and save their jobs.

      *unless, and only unless, the House fishes up the impeachment hearings really fishing badly and public opinion turns south on it severely. But in that case Trump would want it to drag out anyhow.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to North says:

        I was late to the party, anyway. Appears that Schumer raised his concerns about this a couple of days ago.Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to North says:


        Trump is acting like an anchor to McConnell, and Amy McGrath is neck and neck with him.

        If McConnell is faced with saving his seat or saving Trump, the choice is already written.Report

        • Avatar North in reply to Chip Daniels says:

          Absolutely. McConnell would throw Trump under the bus so fast his tan spray would be left floating in the air.

          But I cannot believe there’s any solid chance of McConnell being defeated. We are a sinful people, and this is a sinful world. A glorious thing like that simply doesn’t happen in this fallen world we live in.Report

        • Avatar George Turner in reply to Chip Daniels says:

          They must be badly misreading the poll. Their sample was 48% Democrats and 40% Republicans, yet:

          Q1 Do you approve or disapprove of President
          Donald Trump’s job performance?
          Approve 60%

          Rand Paul polled much, much higher than Mitch. That’s because Rand Paul is firmly against impeachment while Mitch said the Senate would have to “consider it”.

          Amy McGrath doesn’t have a chance. She lost to Andy Barr in the 6th district, the Bluegrass area around Lexington, which leans heavily Democrat. Andy Barr only got his law degree in 2001 and was first elected in 2013. Most people couldn’t pick him out of a police lineup, as we never hear from him, so he’d be one of the easiest to unseat. Yet she failed, and failed in 2018 when other centrist Democrats were unseating Republicans.Report

          • Avatar Philip H in reply to George Turner says:

            We’ve been over this – the Senate has to consider impeachement once the House drops Articles. Its in the friggin Constitution. They don’t have to convict, but especially for a Party that claims to revere the Constitution as its own living demi-God, they have no choice but to convene hearings at that point.Report

    • Avatar Philip H in reply to Michael Cain says:

      Never underestimate this guy. Never. He asked for loyalty oaths from no less the the FBI Director and AG. So unless the CR passes with a veto proof majority in the Senate – which would require McConnell compromising on a few things he’d rather not, I and my federal colleagues are expecting to be furloughed. Merry Christmas to us I guess.Report

  8. Avatar George Turner says:

    My prediction is that the Presidency will give way to a military junta run by generals and the heads of the CIA, DHS, FDA, OSHA. This will be known as the Committee for Public Safety.Report

  9. Avatar pillsy says:

    I think this is a fair point…

    Speaking of “tomorrow problems,” let’s remember that a successful impeachment won’t magically change the minds of those who have supported Trump in the first place.

    …but at the same time I see people raise this point a lot more than they raise the dual point about people who have opposed Trump from the jump, and who have a lot of evidence validating their priors since then. I don’t know if “precedent” is the right way to view this, but I think a lot of people are going to be extremely furious if Trump isn’t impeached and then removed from office, and while their expectations may be a little unrealistic, I really believe they are justified.

    Trump supporters aren’t the only people who are invested in political outcomes in this country, and the way the wrath of Trump supporters is routinely invoked as something that Trump’s opponents should constantly bear in mind, while the wrath of Trump opponents is usually ignored or met with scolding… looks a lot like a demand for appeasement.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to pillsy says:

      In this country we have always privileged white, conservative resentment. Every advance in civil rights for minorities of disfavored groups has been met with warnings from Very Serious People about a backlash. Though it’s only in the past decade or so that that the champion of “regular people” has been a whining grifter.Report

    • Avatar gabriel conroy in reply to pillsy says:

      “… looks a lot like a demand for appeasement.”

      Believe it or not, I’ve thought about that, almost in those same words. And the fact that it does look like appeasement–and that I might be one of the appeasers–is sobering.Report

      • To follow up: When I wrote the part you quoted, I wasn’t consciously thinking of “the wrath of Trump supporters” so much as I was thinking that the problem would still be with us even if we can get rid of Trump by some legal means. It’s necessary to do that, but we’ll still have the problem even after he’s out of office.Report

  10. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    Trump moved his primary residence to Florida? Do you know what this means? Trump is Florida Man!!!Report

  11. Avatar Dark Matter says:

    I also believe it’s possible to take a principled stand for impeachment and against… bigotry, even if we stipulate that no crime has been committed.

    I don’t. I also think this is where a lot of support for removing Trump is coming from.

    The problem with removing someone because of “bigotry”, is the bar for what it takes to be a non-bigot has been lowered to the point where it means “voted for the Dem”. Yes, Trump not only passes that bar, but he’d pass a bar set higher… but he wouldn’t pass other bars set by other Presidents whom we didn’t (and don’t) view as problems.

    I’m also extremely dubious that team blue has suddenly discovered that they’re not cool with “abuses of power”.

    Yes, what Trump did was an abuse of power. Yes, it’s impeachable. However imho it’s also less of an abuse than what Team Blue would comfortably tolerate if their own gal were in there.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Dark Matter says:

      So now the right and you have graduated from whataboutism to whataboutwhatweimagineyouwoulddoism? That’s really really pathetic.Report

      • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to North says:


        Do you think selling pardons is an impeachable offense? Not thinking about it, not suggesting it, but actually doing it? If so then a President HRC could and should have been impeached the moment she was elected.

        I get to “imagine” you looking the other way for corruption worse than what Trump has done because she came so close to be elected. I get to call it “worse” because Trump didn’t actually follow through on what he was suggesting. There was no investigation and the Ukraine got their money on time.Report

    • While I support much (most?) of what Team Blue advocates and while in recent years I have even voted for them, more or less consistently, I find it very difficult to do so, if only because of how some (many, but probably not a majority) of them treat those who aren’t on their team, or worse, those who assume aren’t on their team because of where they live, how they worship, the accent they speak with, or their level of formal education.

      But….sometimes I have to stand up for what is right even if that means making common cause even with those people, who, again, I don’t think are a majority of Team Blue.

      Now, if the situation were a bit different, but essentially the same type of bigotry (and, I’ll add, danger and incompetence) were being presented, would I be consistent with my principles? I hope so, but I’m not confident I would be.

      I’m not going to chide you for “whataboutism.” There’s more to “whataboutism” than those who complain about “whataboutism” acknowledge. And so, while I disagree with you, I have to admit you have a good point.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        Could you elaborate on this Gabriel? I’m really feeling like I’m missing significant something here.
        The kind of overt corruption and explicit violations Trump has overseen in office are pretty unprecedented. There is a parade of witnesses pouring through congress right now warranting that he misappropriated vast sums that Congress earmarked for Ukrainian aid and used it to ineptly try and dragoon the Ukrainian government into manufacturing a fake scandal against one of his potential political rivals. He has overseen a historic parade of Executive branch officials and Cabinet Secretaries who have resigned for naked graft, incompetence and corruption. And those two are just, in my mind, the most nondebatable and egregious of Trumps assorted failings.
        What possible counterexample are you and Dark thinking of here? Compared to this Clintons two terms were boring and staid. Remember how hard the GOP had to strain to gin up outrage over the Lincoln Bedroom mess? Or his assorted pardons? Trump pardoned a Sherriff for ignoring the courts and terrorizing immigrants in his first year! And that is flat out handing you a base and going back 20 fishing years instead of 4 to the last Democratic administration which suffered from none of those failings. By what logic, or reason, can one credibly claim that HRC would have been more incompetent and more corrupt than Trump? By what insane rationale can one seriously think she’d have done anything equivalent or worse than what Trump pulled in Ukraine? Or that her officals would have gone along with it?
        And how does the fact that you can find a lot of liberals; overwhelmingly on wobbly perches in academia or media enterprises rather than in the Democratic Party or in Democratic Party elected positions; who display contempt for non-coastal rural people factor into this? I suppose I shouldn’t even mention what conservatives and ruralia has been and still do say about urban dwellers for, oh, all of this nation’s history? How is this relevant at all to the question at hand?Report

        • Avatar gabriel conroy in reply to North says:

          In my response to Dark Matter, I implied that he was correct to say that Trump “wouldn’t pass other bars set by other Presidents whom we didn’t (and don’t) view as problems.” I was wrong and other than Nixon, I can’t think of a comparable counterexample, and even Nixon wasn’t as bad. I retract what I implied there.

          For your point about whataboutism not being relevant to the question at hand, I agree. Trump should be impeached (or otherwise removed through some legal means) regardless of the truth or lack thereof when it comes to whataboutism. I realize my response to Dark Matter suggests otherwise, because I said, believed, and believe there is something to whataboutism. But I do agree that it is irrelevant.Report

          • To follow up further, you were probably objecting to this sentiment: “there is something to whataboutism.” I should have said, “there is something to ‘whataboutwhatweimagineyouwoulddoism.'” I try to imagine what I would do in a particularly dark situation, and I’m not very pleased at all with what I believe I would probably do.

            That of course doesn’t answer your objection, because you referring to other people claiming what other people would do. All I can say is, I’d like to see some introspection all around. Having said that, as Pillsy implied elsewhere in this thread (but in slightly different context), I realize that my writing in this style sounds like appeasement, and all the ugliness that appeasement implies.Report

            • Avatar North in reply to gabriel conroy says:

              Thanks for clarifying. Introspection is a precious commodity and is sorely needed by all sides but I’d agree it’d be especially salutary to the arch liberals and their kind (but being a moderate squish I would).Report

            • Avatar pillsy in reply to gabriel conroy says:

              I’m not sure how I’d react if the partisan alignment were reversed.

              But it would definitely be harder to do the right thing.

              Nonetheless, I generally think that you should definitely do the right thing when it’s easy, and Dark Matter’s argument is perverse. You’ll at least be doing the right thing sometimes.

              Also, if the situation comes up again and it is a harder case for you for partisan reasons, maybe you can look back and say, “Hey, when the tables were reversed I committed to these principles, and now it’s time to stick to them even though it isn’t so convenient.”Report

              • Avatar gabriel conroy in reply to pillsy says:

                I agree, especially with the part about how we should definitely do the right thing when it’s easy. In the case of Trump, I think it’s an easy call to remove Trump by some legal means. Perhaps not practically, but it’s easy to come to the decision that removal has to be the goal.Report

              • Avatar George Turner in reply to gabriel conroy says:

                Everyone on the right would think removing Obama was an easy call and the right thing to do, and they will think that about virtually any Democrat.

                That’s not how democracy is supposed to work.Report

              • Avatar Philip H in reply to George Turner says:

                You are right, its not. But Mr Obama and his cabinet put up with dozens of trumped up investigations by House Republicans, costing many tens of millions of taxpayer dollars that all resulted in zero referrals for criminal prosecution. The last gasp of those investigations was the Trump State Department looking into Sec. Clinton’s emails again, and concluding that no illegal activity occurred, even though there were internal policy violations (likely triggered by the Trump Administration retroactively retroactively classifying numerous emails that were not deemed classified by the Obama administration).

                And Obama and his Cabinet testified, turned over documents and sent their subordinates to the Hill regularly. Not the stance we see from the current White House.Report

    • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      The real argument being made is that nothing is worse than allowing a Democrat to hold power, so any criminality to thwart that is justified.

      The only legitimate order for them is the hierarchy.Report

      • Avatar pillsy in reply to Chip Daniels says:

        One interpretation of the “Constitutional conservative” approach is that conservative governance is the only governance that’s constitutional, which means that if liberals take power it is inherently a constitutional crisis.

        The back-to-back reactions of the GOP to Obama and Trump suggest that this interpretation is the dominant one among soi dissant Constitutional conservatives.Report

  1. September 13, 2020

    […] have thought the Nuremberg trials were a victor’s peace and perhaps in some ways a “kangaroo court.” I’d have probably said the trials were necessary and the outcome mostly just, but I […]Report