Anatomy of a Witch Hunt

A year has now passed since Donald J. Trump was elected president of the United States. Trump frequently refers to the daily barrage of attacks on his presidency as a “witch hunt.” A quick review of the opinion essays published by mainstream (liberal) outlets shows the president is not exaggerating.

The liberal media began calling for the undermining of Trump’s presidency from almost the moment he was elected. For example, on November 17, 2016, Paul Waldman opined in the Washington Post that President-elect Trump “shouldn’t ever be treated like an ordinary president with whom Democrats just have some substantive disagreements,” while Dahlia Lithwick and David S. Cohen insisted in the New York Times on December 14, “As Monday’s Electoral College vote approaches, Democrats should be fighting tooth and nail.”

With respect to the Electoral College itself, Theodore G. Venetoulis proclaimed in the Baltimore Sun that it was “the electors’ duty” to reject Trump and let the U.S. House of Representatives pick the president. Venetoulis’ plea went nowhere. However, Richard Cohen took the inevitable next step when, on January 9, he outlined in his Washington Post column “how to remove Trump from office.” Of course, Trump didn’t actually take office until January 20, 2017—a not-so-minor detail that Cohen failed to appreciate.

Liberal attacks on Trump went from bad to worse after he took the oath of office. For instance, a pair of legal scholars published an article in Time magazine less than three weeks after Trump became president in which they insisted that Trump should be impeached and removed from office for violating the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, an obscure provision addressing corruption and curry-favoring at the hands of foreign governments. Two problems with that claim: first, Trump has not violated the provision and, second, the provision applies only to appointed officials, not to elected ones.

Robert Reich didn’t care that the Emoluments Clause argument was a nonstarter. In an April 8 op-ed for the Chicago Sun-Times, President Clinton’s former labor secretary included the Emoluments Clause in a list of “at least four grounds for impeaching Trump.” The other three on Reich’s list were President Trump’s alleged “unfaithfully executing his duties as president” in faulting President Obama on several occasions; his alleged violation of the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of religion with his travel ban; and his alleged violation of the First Amendment protection for a free press in criticizing the media for criticizing him. Reich threw in a “possible” fifth ground at the end of his op-ed: “treason against the United States.”

With all due respect to Reich, that is an extremely serious charge for him to levy against any president, let alone a president who had only been in office for less than three months at the time. Moreover, Reich offered no evidence to support the charge. It was as if he expected people would simply agree with the charge on its face.

Laurence H. Tribe added his voice to the impeachment chorus when he wrote in the Washington Post on May 13 that Trump “must be impeached” for “obstruction of justice” after firing FBI Director James Comey. Revealingly, Tribe tried to explain why, in his not-so-impartial opinion, what Bill Clinton had done when he was president was not an impeachable offense. “In Clinton’s case,” Tribe wrote, “the ostensible obstruction consisted solely in lying under oath about a sordid sexual affair that may have sullied the Oval Office but involved no abuse of presidential power as such.”

Of course, Tribe conveniently failed to mention that the House rejected the Left’s attempts to trivialize Clinton’s misconduct when it impeached Clinton. The federal judge who presided over the lawsuit in which Clinton perjured himself disagreed too when she held Clinton in contempt of court, as did the Arkansas Supreme Court when it suspended Clinton’s law license for five years.

The Left’s most desperate tactic is to argue that President Trump is not “mentally fit” to serve and should be stripped of power under the 25th Amendment. That amendment provides that the vice president and a majority of the cabinet, or a congressionally appointed body, can decide the president is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office” and remove him. On June 16, Prudence L. Gourguechon, a Chicago psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, published an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times in which she insisted the president’s “Twitter habits” are inconsistent with the U.S. Army’s manual on leadership and therefore raise 25th Amendment concerns.

As if that weren’t enough of a stretch, Jeannie Suk Gerson reported in an October 16, 2017, article in The New Yorker that “the Duty to Warn movement” has broken with “long-standing protocol to sound the alarm on an unstable President.” Apparently, none of the so-called mental health experts who comprise the Duty to Warn movement have ever examined the president, which makes their public diagnosis of him both unconvincing and unethical. Moreover, no one should take seriously a group of liberal doctors who insist  President Trump presents “the greatest psychiatric emergency in the history of the United States, maybe in the history of the world.”

This sort of over-the-top rhetoric is a disservice to the American people. So, too, is the liberal media’s incessant attempts to manufacture grounds for overturning a presidential election that Donald Trump won fair and square. It is likewise the dictionary definition of a “witch hunt”: “the searching out and deliberate harassment of those (such as political opponents) with unpopular views.”  

As President Trump himself tweeted a few days ago,

The presidential election was over a year ago. It is time for the president’s critics to accept that fact and work with the president, not against him.


About Scott Douglas Gerber

Scott Douglas Gerber is a visiting professor at Brown University’s Political Theory Project and a law professor at Ohio Northern University. His nine books include A Distinct Judicial Power: The Origins of an Independent Judiciary, 1606-1787 (Oxford University Press).

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19 responses to “Anatomy of a Witch Hunt”

  1. Time and past, but they will never work with him. He is an existential threat to their goals.

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  2. One way to end it would be to charge them with sedition. They tend to not be so brave when they’re held accountable for what they say.

  3. —With all due respect to Reich—

    So that’d be none then?

    • Reich is not only a physical midget, he’s also a mental midget.

  4. All due respect to Scott Gerber, the clarion call was Nov. 9, 2016, Remnick, The New Yorker “An American Tragedy”. He is the high priest of the ‘resistance’ that IS the ‘obstruction’. Culture shapes politics, and whoever has the most powerful echo shapes the culture.

    The “witch hunt” refers to one key example of mass hysteria, the Salem Witch Trials, “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds”, an early study of crowd psychology by Scottish journalist Charles Mackay, first published in 1841. It was once required reading for Wall Street, until the 1980’s. This is the 2016 edition:

    There are not enough sane voices with enough echo to burst the bubble of mass hysteria. If anything, it is getting worse, because too many in the ‘pundit class’ refuse to acknowledge any reality. This post was one day too early. Today’s Virginia election will now give new life to this mass hysteria that is making American media the laughing stock of the world, but doing real harm to all citizens of the USA.

    I wish this were funny, or simply a matter of saying ‘snap out of it’. There is nothing humorous in a 50-year project to reframe history, and cultural norms, into a postmodern theory built on the seventy-year institutions of the “Liberal International Order”, institutions that need more than some caulk.

    There are not enough sane voices with enough echo to burst the bubble of THIS mass hysteria. Do not underestimate the power of shunning and intimidation to force conformity to the beliefs of technocrats who believe they just need to tweak solutions to the wrong problems.

  5. —With all due respect to Reich—So that’d be none then?

  6. Time and past, but they will never work with him. He is an existential threat to their goals.

  7. They will never work with him – he threatens the very financial existence of many of them. Case in point (kudos to Sharryl Attkisson’s book “The Smear”)…who owns (or most certainly bailed out the failing “Paper of record) the NY Times? Isn’t it a Mexican oligarch called Carlos Slim? Isn’t he the guy who owns the cell phone monopoly in Mexico and isn’t it a good thing for him for Mexican immigrants (legal or otherwise) to be in the USA, earning and sending much of those earnings back to Mexico and helping fund otherwise poor Mexicans to buy cell service between the US and Mexico? Isn’t Mr. Trump’s positions on illegal immigration (from Mexico for sure) a direct threat to Mr. Slim’s financial interests? And how better to attack Mr. Trump, than through the once world (but now simply Democrat drones) renowned NYT? It all fits together. Mr Trump is goring many oxen – an the wranglers are not happy about it one bit. This will not stop, we must simply tune out the propaganda and apply common sense. If you hear things that make no sense to you – they most likely make perfect sense to those whose financial interests are at risk from Trumpism.

    • I have been commenting on this since last year when the “collusion” meme arrived and the NYT was openly bragging how it wanted to influence the election. When Slim bought the stock, the sale needed approval – and one of the questions raised was “editorial controla” bla – bla – bla – contract – no control I promise. Yeah – and Hillary didn’t know she paid for the dossier until she heard about it in the news. (snarc)

  8. The President is blessed AND defined by his enemies and detractors. You can tell he is a genuine threat to all that came before by the attacks he draws from the elite. It’s not left v right… it’s the connected class having a fit.

  9. Russia must be jubilant. The US intelligence community concluded that Russia’s goal in the 2016 election was to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, and Democrats have enabled the Russians to succeed beyond all expectations.

  10. I remember back in the early 1980’s when it was reported that The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists had moved the hands of the Doomsday Clock closer to midnight because Reagan was going to destroy us all in a nuclear war.

    Pity we didn’t have the internet then to work the hysteria then up to the full level it needed.

  11. It would be so great. A good start would be if the MSM could drop their horrible characterizations about the President and simply, dispassionately, report what he does. If they were to stop the disrespect embedded in every report on Trump, that would go a long way towards calming the waters and freeing politicians to actually work with POTUS once in a while.

  12. Let there be no seditious libel against the orange monkey-king!

  13. Good thing the Resistance has the 25th Amendment – it has become their last best hope!