Erwin Chemerinsky: It’s truly an honor and pleasure to be with you. And it’s wonderful to be with Professor Reich. I’ve admired him for so long, but this is the first time we’ve had the pleasure of meeting. I thought what I might do thats useful is to talk about what the Constitution says and doesn’t say with regard to impeachment. After all, impeachment is something that’s provided for by the Constitution, and the Constitution is to govern the procedures that are used. I thought I would focus on four questions.
First, what are the mechanisms for removing or sanctioning a president of the United States? Obviously, a president could choose to resign. That’s happened once in American history, Richard Nixon in August 1974. Also, there is the 25th Amendment to the Constitution. It provides a procedure where the vice president and the majority of the cabinet could vote, that the president is incapable of discharging the duties of office. If the president disagrees, then you take a two thirds vote of both houses of Congress to move that person from office. There’s been discussion about the 25th Amendment over the last three years, but I don’t think it’s been really serious conversation.
Also, there is the possibility of a censure of a president. Both houses of Congress by a majority vote could choose to censure the president of the United States. This has been done once in American history. It was done to Andrew Jackson in 1834 for keeping certain documents secret. Three years later, the Congress rescinded the censure of the Andrew Jackson. I would not be surprised if down the road there is much more talk about censure of Donald Trump as it may be clearer that there’s not two thirds vote in the Senate to remove him. But a desire of perhaps a majority in both houses to do something. There are no legal consequences to a censure. It is simply an expression of displeasure with the president and its stronger than just displeasure, but that mechanism is there.
And then, of course, there’s impeachment. And the Constitution provides that the president, the vice president, federal judges, all offices of the United States can be impeached and removed from office for quote, “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” Impeachment comes to the United States from English law. In fact, you might even try to trace it back to earlier countries than that. And it’s clear that what was planned here was modeled to some extent on what England had in England if both the House of Commons and House of Lords agreed, an office holder could be removed. Not that different from the procedure in the Constitution.
Well, that then leads me to the second question to address what are impeachable offenses? I gave you the language of the Constitution. Treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors. The Constitution defines what’s necessary for treason. And it makes it very difficult to prove that somebody is given quote, “aid and comfort to the enemy.” Bribery has been defined by federal statutes since 1790. The real focus with regard to the Trump impeachment is what does it mean to say other high crimes and misdemeanors? Gerald Ford, when he was in the House of Representatives, said high crimes and misdemeanors means whatever majority the House and two thirds of the Senate say it means. And in one sense, that’s true.
The House, by majority vote can impeach, the Senate by two-thirds vote can convict and remove the person from office. On the other hand, I think these words of the constitution should be interpreted like all other words of the Constitution. There should be meaning given to them. Let’s start with the word other. I think the other tells us it needs to be something that’s as serious as treason or bribery. There’s a good deal of discussion of what high crimes and misdemeanors means at the constitutional convention in the Federalist Papers. I think it’s meant to mean a serious abuse of power. Those are almost exactly the words that Alexander Hamilton used in defining high crimes and misdemeanors.
There is often talk about what’s the relationship of this phrase, high crimes and misdemeanors, to the criminal law. And I would say a criminal violation is neither necessary nor sufficient for it to be a high crime and misdemeanor. What I mean by that is there could be impeachable offenses, even though it is not criminal conduct, if it is a serious abuse of power. And again, you can find statements from the framers. You can even go back to English law and find support for the idea that high crimes and misdemeanors doesn’t need to be a criminal act. But at the same time, a criminal act isn’t sufficient. If it’s a violation of a relatively trivial law, that wouldn’t rise to the level of other high crime or misdemeanor. We can learn something from history. Nineteen times in American history the House of Representatives has impeached. Nine times the Senate has convicted. That doesn’t necessarily mean that in all the others, the Senate acquitted and some of those instances once impeached, the individual then resigned from office. Almost all of those impeachments have been with regard to federal judges.
Two presidents have been impeached. There’ve been serious impeachment investigations before now of a third. The first to be impeached was Andrew Johnson. It has to be remembered that Andrew Johnson was a Southerner, he had been a senator from Tennessee who’d been named to run as Lincoln’s Vice president 1864 for a unity ticket. Johnson was singled out because he didn’t favor the South seceding from the union. But he was very much a Southerner in his beliefs, in his sensibilities. He strongly opposed reconstruction. He vetoed the Reconstruction Act. And it was clear that this Southerner presiding over Reconstruction was very much disfavored by Congress. They saw him as trying to undo who had won the civil war.
Congress passed a statute called the Tenure in Office Act that said that if President Johnson fired any members of the Cabinet, and these were Lincoln’s cabinet officials, that would be deemed a high misdemeanor. It’s clear that when Congress passed the Tenure in Office Act, they were setting this up to be an impeachable offense. Well, the cabinet officials, knowing they couldn’t be fired, took full advantage of that. The then secretary of war, Edwin Stanton, openly disobeyed Andrew Johnson and mocked Andrew Johnson. Johnson finally had enough and fired Stanton. Within days, the House of Representatives voted articles of impeachment, all focusing on how Johnson had violated the Tenure in Office Act. It was one vote short of what was necessary to convict in the Senate, takes a two-thirds vote there, and they didn’t have it so Johnson could finish the term as president.
There is no doubt today that the Tenure in Office Act was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court has explicitly held that the president of the United States has the authority to fire Cabinet officials. So Johnson was impeached for violating a statute that’s clearly unconstitutional. Nonetheless, it was just one vote short of removal. The second serious effort at impeachment didn’t lead to one because the president resigned. That, of course, with regard to Richard Nixon in 1974. Everyone’s familiar with how there was a burglary at the Democratic National Headquarters in June of 1972. There was then uncovered that this was a cover up that led all the way to the campaign to reelect the president and perhaps to the president as well.
The Senate Select Committee on Watergate in the summer of 1973, chaired by Senator Sam Ervin, held hearings. As part of the hearings, they learned there was a video voice activated recording system in the Oval Office. They then ensued a year of litigation over the tapes and that system made public. What’s often forgotten today is that the House of Representatives, through its Judiciary Committee, held impeachment hearings in June and July of 1974, while access to the tapes was still being litigated. And the House voted three articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon. And it was only after that the House Judiciary Committee voted articles, that the Supreme Court in United States vs. Nixon ordered that Nixon have to produce the tapes. Nixon then released the tapes. At least one of the tapes showed that he engaged in obstruction of justice. He resigned from office. So the House Judiciary Committee voting articles of impeachment, but it never went to the House of Representatives.
The final instance in which there was consideration of impeachment of a president was of Bill Clinton in 1998. Whitewater special prosecutor Kenneth Starr at a deposition where President Clinton denied having sex with Monica Lewinsky. This was regarded as perjury. It led to articles of impeachment being voted by the House Judiciary Committee in the House of Representatives, and the Senate did not convict. In fact, there was not even a majority in the Senate to remove President Clinton from office. That’s it. That’s the history of efforts to impeach a president.
How does what’s going on now relate to the question of high crimes and misdemeanors and how does going now relate to these earlier efforts in impeachment? I think it’s important to note that this is much more similar to the Johnson and the Clinton impeachment than to the Nixon impeachment in terms of the relevance of fact finding. For the Johnson and the Clinton impeachment, there was no real need to do extensive backlighting. There was no dispute that Andrew Johnson fired Edwin Stanton. There was no dispute that Bill Clinton lied about having sex with Monica Lewinsky. The only question was, should that amount to a high crime and misdemeanor? With regard to Nixon, it was different. With regard to Nixon, there was always the question, what did the president know and when did the president know it? And I don’t think when we got the Watergate tapes in August 1974, was that question answered.
I think with regard to President Trump’s statements, Presidents Zelensky from the Ukraine, there’s not really a dispute over what was said. I mean, we all know that President Trump said, I need a favor, though, in the context of the United States was going to give this military aid to the Ukraine. In fact, none other than Mick Mulvaney, the president’s chief of staff, said it was a quid pro quo. Get over it. So, though there have been the hearings and there’s going to be further hearings with House Judiciary Committee, I don’t think that the fact finding is gonna be nearly as important here is where they got to Nixon.
I think this is going to be a question of is this another high crime and misdemeanor? And I think ultimately it’s going to come down to on the one hand, those who say this is a serious abuse of power. It’s the president using the authority of the Oval Office to try to pressure a foreign country to investigate a political rival. And I think his defenders are going to say this is something presidents do, it doesn’t rise to the level of high crime and misdemeanor. And that’s what the choice is going to be.
Now, there might be other articles of impeachment voted. There’s certainly the question of the emoluments clauses and the president has been violating those since the beginning of taking office. I felt until January 2017, most people thought emoluments were just a skin cream. But Article 1, Section 9 says that a person who holds a position of trust in the federal government, can’t receive any presence or emoluments from a foreign government. Among those being benefits. Article 2, Section 1 says that the president cannot receive any emoluments for serving in office other than the salary that’s paid for it. I think there’s no doubt that the president has been violating these provisions since the day he took office. I’m one of many lawyers involved in one of those lawsuits against the president, but they are pending. I don’t know that they’ll be done by the time President Trump is finished in office, but Congress could decide that’s an impeachable offense.
There’s also the question of whether Congress is going to focus on obstruction of justice with regard to the investigation of Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election. Special prosecutor Robert Mueller was very clear in saying that under Justice Department rules, he could not indict a sitting president. Therefore, he said he would not express an opinion on whether President Trump committed a criminal act. I personally don’t think that therefore follows. But he said it’s left to the impeachment process to decide if the president has violated crime. Congress may decide to pursue that as well. My own sense, and this is from being talked to several representatives and their staff, is that there’s real disagreement among members of the House at this stage, about whether to focus just on the Ukraine or whether to look at other impeachable offenses as well.
Third question, I was going to address what procedures must be followed with regard to impeachment? The Constitution says the House has the sole power to impeach and it’s by majority vote. It says that if the house impeaches. There is then a Senate trial. The Senate trial would be presided over by the chief justice of the United States. And in order to remove a president takes a two thirds vote of the Senate. I have now told you everything the Constitution says about the procedures with regard to impeachment. If anyone wants to argue that the Constitution requires other procedures, that’s their interpretation, not anything in the Constitution, not anything that any court has ever said.
So examples: President Trump and his White House counsel, Pat Cipollone said that there has to be a resolution by the House authorizing an impeachment inquiry. There is nothing in the Constitution that says that. No court has ever said that. Sometimes there has been, sometimes there hasn’t been. President Trump last Thursday tweeted that his due process rights were violated by the procedures that the House had created. I don’t think due process applies here at all in a constitutional sense. Due process applies only if the government is depriving a person of life, liberty or property. A house inquiry isn’t depriving anybody of life, liberty or property.
In fact, the house is much like a grand jury. A grand jury indicts somebody and then there’s a trial. Grand jury proceedings are entirely in secret. Now, I think it’s important for many reasons to have open hearings before the House Judiciary Committee. I think that they should be fairly constructed where both sides get the opportunity to call and cross-examine witnesses, but I do not believe that due process applies. President Trump has suggested that he has a right to know who his accuser is, specifically the whistleblower. Nonsense. There is nothing in the Constitution that requires that.
The Sixth Amendment says that a person who is facing criminal penalties has the right to confront his accuser. But President Trump doesn’t face any criminal penalties with regard to the impeachable seedings. The question is, did he commit a high crime and misdemeanor? So I think it is very important, as you hear the rhetoric, to know that the Constitution says very little about the procedures. A fourth and final question. What’s the role of the courts in all of this? And this is something too that’s received a lot of media attention. And the answer is the courts are likely to play no role whatsoever.
And this goes to a Supreme Court decision from 1993. Nixon versus the United States. The Nixon in this case was Walter Nixon, a federal district court judge in Mississippi. I’m sure it reflects my age, but I find a delicious irony that the only Supreme Court case in history to ever do with impeachment still had the title Nixon vs. the United States. After Walter Nixon was impeached by the House, the matter went to the Senate for a trial. The Senate formed a committee to hear the evidence against Walter Nixon and then make recommendations to the whole body. Nixon objected. He said the whole Senate should have to sit and try him. He took the case and went all the way the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court unanimously ruled against Walter Nixon. The Supreme Court said the challenges the impeachment and removal process are not matters that the federal courts can hear. The Supreme Court said since the impeachment removal process is one of the few checks on federal judges with life tenure, the courts should stay out of it entirely. And it’s really left to Congress.
So in terms of some of the things I’ve heard speculation about, what if the House votes articles of impeachment and Mitch McConnell and the Senate say “That’s nice, we’re not going to hold a trial.” I think that’s clearly unconstitutional. Just the thing is clearly unconstitutional for then after all the hearings and a vote on the nomination of Chief Judge Merrick Garland. But unless the court abandons Nixon for Senate states, there’s nothing that can happen. Or another thing that really bothered me in the Clinton impeachment proceedings, the the Senate trial was done entirely in secret, was done entirely behind closed doors.
The idea that the Senate can deliberate on whether to remove the president United States in secret is to me very offensive. But any effort to open it up failed in part because of tradition, in part because the courts aren’t involved. Now, if the president is impeached by the House, the president can never be pardoned for the offenses that led to the impeachment. A President can issue a pardon for anyone accused or convicted of federal crime. But there’s one exception the constitution. Once there’s been an impeachment, there can never be a pardon for those offenses. So Bill Clinton can never be pardoned for the offenses for which he was impeached. Had the House of Representatives a whole voted articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford couldn’t have pardoned him.
And the Constitution also sets up two separate questions. Should the person be removed from office? And second, should the person be disqualified from holding future office? Those are not the same question. Throughout most of history, when a person has been removed, they’ve also been disqualified. But I could imagine, given the timing, the Senate could conceivably have to consider independently. Should the president be removed? Should the Senate then also disqualify the president from being able to run again in 2020? So that’s the quick summary of what the Constitution says about impeachment. And the bottom line is it doesn’t say very much.
Robert Reich: Well, first of all, Erwin, it is a pleasure to have a chance to talk with you. I’m sorry, it’s taken a while and we have to have a discussion in such a public place. But I’m I’m glad we at least have an opportunity. Let me also thank social science matrix for putting this together. I have all sorts of questions for the dean. And this is not the right time to ask, but I want to just put a flag down on one thing you said, and that has to do with the Constitution and the role of the Supreme Court in governing any aspect of that Senate procedure, particularly with regard to the presiding officer who is the chief justice under the Constitution of the Supreme Court.
You said that Mitch McConnell could basically do whatever he wanted. But since the Constitution actually says the presiding officer of the impeachment in the Senate is going to be the Supreme Court chief justice, it would seem to me the chief justice of the Supreme Court would have some say over what Mitch McConnell does. I want to just reserve that.
All right. Let me just first of all, confess that I have some personal relationship to this question of impeachment. Not that I was ever impeached, but the first job I ever had in the federal government came one and a half weeks after Richard Nixon resigned and I took a job with a fellow named Robert Bork. Robert Bork was at that time solicitor general of the United States. I was an assistant to the solicitor general, Robert Bork. As some of you may remember, some of you who are old enough to remember, I had presided in a way over the so-called Saturday Night Massacre. He alone, among the top officials of Justice Department, did not make any kind of a promise to the Senate that he would not or disobey Richard Nixon, the president, with regard to firing Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor. And so he was not the most popular person in the world when I joined. I think I was maybe the only applicant for that job. But it was a time in which everybody was talking about the details of impeachment.
Everybody was talking about Richard Nixon, the threat that Richard Nixon had posed to our democracy. People were quite appalled that he did what he was alleged to have done. And as more and more of the details began trickling out over 1974 and 1975, mostly through The Washington Post, people became even more appalled. And then when Gerald Ford, who was indirectly my first boss as president, pardoned Nixon. Well, Gerald Ford was and is remembered for almost nothing else. So there is an irony to me in what has happened now.
The other part of the irony, obviously, is that I was in the cabinet of the next person who was impeached. I luckily had finished my tenure there. I had left the Clinton administration. I had met briefly Monica Lewinsky and I knew my boss, that is Bill Clinton from the age of 22 when he was 22 and already beginning to think about running for president. But that’s another story. Let me just say a couple of things. I want to emphasize a point that the dean ended with, and that is that the Constitution doesn’t say much. And therefore, this is all about politics and power. So as much as we would like to find answers in the Constitution, they really are not there.
We’ve got to find the answers in politics and in power. It seems to me almost impossible that the Senate would come up with 20 Republican votes to impeach, convict Donald Trump of impeachment, assuming that the impeachment comes up to the Senate and I assume that assuming that every Democratic senator votes for impeachment. I tell you why it’s almost impossible. It’s almost impossible because we have a very different system of politics, a very different allocation of power than we had during Richard Nixon’s tenure, certainly during Bill Clinton. I began to shift a little bit in the 1990s, and I’ll get to that. If I don’t get it to now, I’ll get it to you in your questions.
But we have now, at least 38%, if not 40% of Americans who are entranced in a counter-narrative about what is happening. They do not believe that Donald Trump even engaged with Ukraine in any kind of a negotiation. Quid pro quo or not. And those who are beginning to believe that maybe there was a quid pro quo and maybe there was some sort of engagement with Ukraine, even they are enveloped in a counter narrative that says, well, this is not anything, no big deal. It’s not just messaging. This is the, I think, the thing that gets me most worried about where we are as a democracy. To maintain and sustain counter narratives, you have to have a counter system of informing people, a counter system of shaping people’s brains around what is actual reality. A counter method of mobilizing them, and that’s what has happened. We have a president who lies, like most people breathe. His lies reach 68 million people on Twitter every day. 68 million Americans, unfiltered.
Now, we’ve never had a system in which a president lies this much, but also we’ve never had a system in which those lies get to individuals without any filter. We used to have, in fact, the Constitution and the First Amendment guarantees freedom of the press. Why do we take the press so seriously? Why did the framers of the Constitution take the press so seriously? Because the process of democracy, it was thought, it was assumed, even in the 18th century, needed intermediaries, needed publishers and journalists who were translating for the public what was happening. They weren’t always great. We had yellow journalists, certainly in the 19th century. We’ve had very irresponsible press, certainly. But at least the notion was there was a fourth estate that there was a separate, in effect, branch of government that had the mediating that hence the word media inter mediating role. And now we have 68 million people getting direct lies from a president. And we also have Facebook.
Now, Facebook is interesting because Facebook, about 60% of Americans say that they get their news everyday from Facebook. Now, that also is not a journal, that is not a newspaper, that is not any kind of a media. There is no filtering that goes on there. And then thirdly, we have obviously Fox News. But just to give you some sense of numbers here. Fox News reaches about 3 million people on average a night. The New York Times has a subscription of maybe there 4.5 million subscribers to the New York Times when I last looked. Now three million Fox News viewers, four and a half million subscribers. The New York Times sounds like large numbers. Remember what I said a moment ago? Sixty-eight million people are getting, directly, lies from the president. And 60% of Americans, you do the math, are getting non-intermediated so-called, quote unquote, news on Facebook.
So the problem is not really Fox News. The problem is lack of intermediation, combined with a president who will say anything, which gets me to my next point. Everybody here, I think, and certainly in the Berkeley bubble and probably in the California bubble and maybe throughout, if you did a if you did a brain scan of the United States, you’d find that most people would agree with what I’m about to say. Democracy is about means. It’s not about ends. Our Constitution and our constitutional system and our rule of law is all about how you resolve disputes, how you decide as a country on what you’re going to do, not on what you were going to do. Disputes about ends are left to the process. That’s why we have law schools and law school deans. That’s why we have lawyers. That’s why we have a constitutional process and the Supreme Court. That’s why process is so intrinsic to democracy.
We have, however, now a president who does not fundamentally understand what I just said. I might as well have been speaking a different language if he were here. He doesn’t understand the difference between means and ends. For him, everything is an end and any means are appropriate to reach that end. And it doesn’t matter what. He will win by any means. Now that conflict between a president who feels that way, who runs the executive branch. Many Republicans who are following lockstep behind him. Why? Because 88%, in fact, probably 89% right now, I checked this morning and it’s going up, of people who are registered Republicans favor Donald Trump, approve of what he is doing. This is far beyond partisanship. People often talk about tribalism. Well, this is even beyond tribalism. This has to do with people in this country who have a different conception of what we are about. And as long as you’ve got 88, 89% of Republicans who believe this and who are going to follow him, you’re not going to have Republican senators in droves who are going to be committing suicide, politically. So therein lies our fundamental dilemma.
But I want to venture with you, and this is the last thing I’ll say, that the dilemma is even deeper. Donald Trump did not come from nowhere. Donald Trump is the culmination of years of something happening in this country. And it is and would be, I think, inappropriate for me just to have a discussion about what is happening right now without talking about what led to what is happening right now in part here, again, personal confession. I was there. I was in conversations with Democrats in the House and the Senate and the president of the United States at that time, in the 1990s, about what to do about the working class, what to do about the fact that wages were stagnant, what to do about the fact that there was a huge increase in anger, hostility, suspicion, frustration, all sorts of worries about jobs and wages that reached their zenith after I left, reached their zenith in the financial crisis of 2008, after which point we had on the right the Tea Party movement and on the left, briefly, the Occupy movement, but remarkably saying much the same thing. The system is rigged. It is rigged. Against us.
In 2015, I was out in Wisconsin and Minnesota and North Carolina and Missouri and several other swing states, Iowa. I was doing a research project, but I would ask people in kind of an ongoing process of talking to various people, I’d ask them, who do you think is going to be president? Who do you like? Who are you most interested in? This was at a time when the establishment had designated Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush as the natural inevitable candidates. And I kept on getting from this free-floating focus group the response that I’m going to give you. We like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. My first response when I heard this was you can’t put those two men in the same sentence. They are completely different. But here’s what I got back. And this was not just once or twice. This was at least 30, 40, 50 times when I got back in all of these states. And many of these people are people who I knew vaguely. They were labor leaders I had worked with when I was secretary of labor years before. When I got back was he’s going to one of them is going to shake things up. He’s going to end the rigging, because the system is not working for us. We no longer believe in it. I want to suggest to you that where we are today, the dilemmas, the anxieties that many of us feel in this room are a product in part of what has come over the last 30, 40 years, the failure of our political system, including Democrats, to respond effectively, to the frustrations, anxieties and eventually hopelessness of a large number of people in this country. On that upbeat note, I will end, thank you.
Mediator: Thank you, Bob. And Erwin both. Let’s open it up to questions, observations. I’ll take about three or four, as I mentioned. Please try to be as concise as you can so that we can maximize the flow of questions. And then I’ll turn back to the two speakers.
Question 1: A one-sentence comment and then my question. I believe that Trump’s victory election as president can be laid right at the feet of the Democratic Party and that the DNC rigged the nomination of an electorally incompetent and one of the most despised Democrat nominees in any living person’s memory. My question is, I was against any impeachment attempts against Trump until the Democrats won the House because Pompeo is ideologically much worse. But isn’t the value of a formal impeachment inquiry or formal impeachment committee, and I don’t actually know the answer to this, but the special rights, the special legal rights that it gives them for opening up inquiries in areas where it otherwise might not be able to?
Question 2: I guess two comments. Would we be more resistant to the politics of identity and personal destruction, if we had a parliamentary democracy?
Question 3: For the dean, I’m curious, can you say a little more about what and what Mitch McConnell’s discretion is here for trial in the Senate. You already said it was considerable. For example, I read that he could require the standard of proof being beyond a reasonable doubt. Maybe he can do that because apparently he can, you think he can not even hold a trial. So just say more about that and how that is consistent with the Constitution.
Question 4: Political bosses, especially now, what do you see is the pros and cons of proceeding based on either continuing in the effort related to Ukraine or expanding the inquiry into many other areas where he’s equally guilty, if you will, in terms of the political reaction and the effect on the election in 2020.
Mediator: Thank you. One more question, then I’ll throw it back to our speakers.
Question 5: Thank you. First, could you comment on the sort of class politics of the Republican Party and how it manages to combine the support of this large, alienated group with a crust of elite? I’m curious how that holds together and is related to my more core question is once upon a time I thought the Republican Party would happily impeach Trump in order to put Pence in power because Pence seemed like a better reflection of their institutional priorities and self understanding. Now it seems like that’s an impossibility, and I’m left wondering are they clinging to Trump because they literally have nothing else to hold on to politically? Like their entire brand has been basically rendered meaningless and obsolete except for him. So they have nothing else to hang onto.
Mediator: Why don’t you begin, Bob, please.
Robert Reich: All right. There are a lot of great questions, in fact, so many that I can basically say whatever I want in response. But first of all, with regard to the Republicans right now, I think it’s fair to say that Donald Trump is the ideal person to do two things for the Republicans: to maintain the Republican oligarchical support that is Wall Street, large corporations and at the same time take advantage of the anger and anxiety of common people.
How does Trump do this? Well, because Trump is a Trojan horse. Trump is speaking like a populist for the working class. And he has a style of speaking that sounds like he is a populist. And he goes to the fights and he goes to and he acts tough and he swears and he and he does things occasionally, I mean his trade war does respond to some of those anxieties. But at the same time, he gives Wall Street and corporate America exactly what they want. This gigantic tax cut, two trillion dollars that never paid for itself. It was just everybody knew it was going to be another example of trickle down economics and something that is not getting nearly enough attention. And that is the regulatory rollbacks that also have generated huge profits for certain industries, especially Wall Street and also oil and gas, and we could go to some of the other industries. So you couldn’t invent a person who would be the ideal better Republican. Does that mean all Republicans are going to support him? Well, in the Senate, they are going to cling to him like a lifeline because he has given them a meaning and coalition that they could never otherwise have got.
Now, having said that, let me also say that the impeachment proceedings I feared, as you also did, that the impeachment proceedings would play into the counter narrative story of this poor beleaguered president who is being hounded by the deep state and Democrats and elites and Berkeley professors and everybody else. And they you know, they if they’ve formed, this is what they do. This is what Nancy Pelosi, the liberal limousine from San Francisco. This is just the culmination of exactly what they do. I was worried about that. But I came to the conclusion that the Democrats had no choice, that otherwise it would have been Donald Trump and the Republicans thumbing their nose at the Constitution, at our entire legal system in so brazen a way that they had to go forward.
Now, having reached that conclusion, I was still nervous, obviously. But Nancy Pelosi, I think, and Adam Schiff have handled it exactly right in tone. They’ve maintained a dignity that Nancy Pelosi also was bent over backwards in terms of providing procedural of whatever the Republicans wanted in terms of process. I think that at the margin and we’re all just we’re talking about the margin politically, independents, we’re not talking about Trump followers, we’re talking about when it comes to it, what are the independents going to do? I think that if this is handled correctly, even though no actual conviction of impeachment is going to occur, it will help the Democrats in 2020, because at the margin, there will be more people who come around and say, well, this guy has no business being president and he’s dangerous.
Erwin Chemerinsky: I was just listening to Professor Reich. My grandmother really did use the expression “From your lips to God’s ears.” Let me respond to a few of the questions first. But somebody in the audience, Mr. Reich, asked about Mitch McConnell. Let me be clear, the Constitution says, if there is an impeachment in the House, there is a trial in the Senate to write it over by the chief justice of the United States. And so when Bill Clinton was impeached by the House, there was a trial that was presided over by Chief Justice William Rehnquist. He later remarked he did very little and did very well. I was hypothesizing what if Mitch McConnell says, “That’s nice, but I’m not convening a trial,” just like he said with regard to the nomination of Chief Judge Merrick Garland. “I’m not going to hold hearings.” No other time in American history had the Senate said “No hearings, no vote.”
And unfortunately, unless the Supreme Court reconsiders its decision in Nixon vs. United States, I’m not sure there is a remedy. Somebody suggested what if Mitch McConnell says proof beyond a reasonable doubt? Now, in reality, each senator will decide for himself or herself whether or not it meets high crimes and misdemeanors. But I don’t know of any way around that. If the Supreme Court adheres to, it’s entirely up to Congress with regard to the procedures.
A second thing, this goes to your question. Many believe that a value of the impeachment process is we’ll give more weight in the courts to subpoenas that are issued. There are so many cases now being litigated about various subpoenas. If you look at the law in this area, it’s very much on the side of Congress. The Supreme Court has consistently upheld a very broad subpoena power for Congress. Now, I’m uncomfortable with some of those cases because a lot of them came in the late 1940s and the early 1950s in terms of the power of the House un-American Activities Committee to enforce its subpoenas. But the conclusion of those cases supports Congress. Many believe, and I would agree that if the subpoenas are to gather information for possible impeachment, then courts are going to be more willing to enforce the subpoenas. But that’s speculation. The courts might enforce the subpoenas even without impeachment proceedings. They may not enforce the subpoenas even with impeachment proceedings. But that’s the argument that’s made.
Finally, in terms of the pros and cons of impeachment, I so agree with Professor Reich here. I have to admit, until we learned about the conversation with the president Ukraine, I was much more ambivalent about whether the House should proceed with impeachment proceedings. I was aware that even if the House would impeach, it seemed very unlikely the two thirds to remove in the Senate. I worried that impeachment would help President Trump politically in 2020, just like ultimately impeachment helped Bill Clinton’s approval ratings.
Professor Reich said that President Trump’s approval right now among Republicans is 89%. What he didn’t mention was President Trump’s approval rating among those who are registered Democrats is five. I think that’s 5%, not 5 people, but it might just be five people. That’s an unprecedented difference in that, you know, last Thursday, when the House voted on its procedures, not one Republican voted to go forward and every Democrat, but two voted against it. Yet when the conversation with the president of Ukraine came out, this seems to me to so cross the line of what’s acceptable presidential behavior for the president to use the powers of that office to help his own political campaign in this kind of way. I understand why Nancy Pelosi otherwise wasn’t willing to proceed, was willing to do so now. In my dreams, when all of the evidence comes out, maybe some of those Republican senators will back away and be troubled by it. But I don’t have any basis for that hope right now.
Mediator: Four questions, please.
Question 6: This isn’t exactly on impeachment, but it relates to the last thing you said, Professor Reich. So I think all of us understand the discontent many Americans had that Trump was able to take advantage of. What I don’t understand is why so many of these people who voted for him, to whom he’s turned his back and hasn’t done anything or perhaps has done negative, are still supporting them. I don’t understand that they elected somebody who is doing the opposite of what they hoped.
Question 7: My question is kind of related to what his question is. Do you have any sense of whether his, the people who supported him back in 2016 have changed somewhat in seeing what he’s actually doing or are they still believing he’s the one who’s gonna shake up the system to make life better for them?
Question 8: Hi. This question is specifically for Dean Chemerinsky. Notwithstanding the Constitution’s silence on the matter, I believe that the Senate and the public at large will default to a criminal law standard with respect to a finding of culpability. And his defense is probably going to rest on some sort of lack of culpable mental state. So I’m gonna give you a hypothetical. If you were tasked as his defense attorney in front of the Senate, what would be your argument that he was not guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors? Thank you.
Mediator: I think one more question.
Question 9: As a layperson, I think of misdemeanor as a less culpable act than a crime. Could you speak about the distinction between crime and misdemeanor in this context?
Mediator: Let’s stick with those questions, I’ll turn to you, sir, immediately afterwards. Erwin, why don’t you begin?
Erwin Chemerinsky: Sure. Three quick points. One is what’s been emitted from the discussion so far is any mention of the Electoral College. And the reality is Hillary Clinton did win the popular vote by 3 million votes. My guess is we all agree whoever is the nominee in 2020 for the Democrats is going to win by an even larger margin of popular votes. And really, what we’re talking about is what’s going to happen in Florida and North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa. That’s what we really are talking about with regard to the 2020 presidential election.
Second, a criminal law standard. I don’t believe it should be a criminal standard. The consequences of impeachment removal are not the deprivation of liberty or life. It’s no person has a right to be president of the United States. So I will certainly argue, however futile it may be. It’s not a criminal standard. If I were President Trump’s lawyer, what I would do is say this isn’t a high crime or misdemeanor. This is the kind of thing that presidents just do. And you may not like it, but that’s what I can do as president, because I don’t think there’s a dispute over facts here. I don’t think that in the end, there’s going to be dispute over the procedures.
I think his defense is going to be what Mick Mulvaney said. Presidents do it. Get over it. And I think the Democrats are going to say, no, this is an abuse of power. And the Republicans are going to say, no, it’s not a high crime and misdemeanor. But I think that’s how ultimately it’s going to play out. And finally, in terms of the phrase, there’s consensus among scholars that high crimes and misdemeanors was meant to be looked at as a phrase and that the words weren’t to be passed, that if you go back and look at English law, if you look at the statements of people like Alexander Hamilton at the constitutional convention, at the Federalist Papers, they were really speaking of high crimes and misdemeanors, a phrase I think the best book that’s been written about this was by Charles Black. And he really documents in detail why high crimes and misdemeanors is a phrase what the phrase was meant to connote is a serious abuse of power. And he can try to tie that to English law. You can tie it to what others have said. But I think that’s what it means.
Robert Reich: Well, let me build on that, if I may, and then come back to the political questions about Trump’s followers. I think that the quid pro quo here is something that Republicans and the Republican talking points are already embracing. That is the argument that, well, all presidents do this and the presidents do this with regard to foreign policy. The big difference, obviously, and what Democrats ought to be saying as clearly and as loudly and in a unified way as possible is but the quid pro quo here was about the personal benefits that accrue to a president, not a quid pro quo about the United States. Indeed, what this quid pro quo did was to hold up military aid to Ukraine against Russia.
And I think that the Democrats, although a lot of Americans don’t pay a lot of attention to foreign policy, I think it is very important to get out the notion and understanding that although Donald Trump is arguably the most isolationist nationalist president we have ever had, certainly in modern history. He is also a president that knows no bounds with regard to seeking foreign help for his personal fortune. And as for personal political gain. And that has shadowed his entire administration. That’s what the mother investigation was about. That’s what we’re talking about now with regard to Ukraine. And and that is a story and that’s a narrative that it has the virtue of being true, but also has the virtue of separating for the public.
And I think it’s important that the public separate what he has done for himself and his intention to build his and entrench his political power and his money versus the danger he’s exposed the United States to. Just again, to build on that, I am no constitutional expert, and I’m presuming, this is very presumptuous be to even say, but my vague memory from the 1780s is that when high crimes, misdemeanors were being discussed, there was a lot of concern about foreign entanglements. A lot of concern about the United States getting entrapped in the kind of affairs of Europe, mostly Britain and France. And again and again, you have references in the Federalist, Hamilton and Jefferson and Madison, and then you have Washington’s farewell address.
Beware of these kinds of foreign entanglements, particularly with regard to a president who might be subject or might find himself or might fall under the prey of some foreign power. That was a central discussion, ironically, in terms of determining and deciding and defining high crimes and misdemeanors. And I hope that is all discussed. Now back to politics. The question was well, how can a lot of these Midwest and again, it is Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and and Minnesota and Ohio and Iowa and Florida and North Carolina, how can these working class, mostly working class people, mostly working class whites, how can they fall for Donald Trump because he’s done so little for them. In fact, if anything, he’s made them worse off in narrow economic terms.
I will tell you what I have learned both from my free-floating focus groups but also from others. Arlie Hochschild, who was on this faculty, emeritus, now sociologist, wrote a wonderful book called Strangers in Their Own Land. If you haven’t read it, I do recommend it to you because she found just exactly what I found but and found it in more eloquent set of contributions from individuals in Louisiana, Trump’s supporters. Again and again, what I heard and what she heard has to do with respect. It’s not just economics. What many of these people feel is that Trump, at least understands them, responds to them, respects them, speaks their language. He doesn’t speak the language of the elites. And that is very, very important to keep in mind.
The Democratic Party, in my experience and in my view, did not just lose working class whites. The Democratic Party lost the working class and it didn’t do it suddenly. It did it over a period of 25 or 30 years. And it didn’t do it necessarily intentionally. It did it because the Democrats became fixated on the suburban swing voters, the soccer moms, the people who were upper middle class. Beginning in the 1980s, Tony Coelho, the head of the Democratic Campaign Committee for the Democrats in the House, decided that the Democrats should begin to drink at the same trough as the Republicans in terms of big business and Wall Street. And you see a tremendous shift in the Democratic Party from concerns about the working class to concerns about, again, upper middle class and even the wealthy. Unions used to be the ground troops of the Democratic Party.
Now, here you’re going to hear this, you are hearing this from somebody who was secretary of labor. And I can tell you again and again. In 1993, 4, 5 ,6, and then on up because I continued being in touch with union leaders and rank and file people felt the Democratic Party was not paying attention or was taking them for granted every time they wanted labor law reform. Bill Clinton said no. Barack Obama said no. Labor law reform would have made it easier to form unions and increase the penalties on companies that basically violated the labor laws. But neither Obama nor Clinton, even when Democrats had majorities in the House and the Senate did anything to help organized labor. So when I speak to union groups and I do even now. I tell you, at least 30, if not 40 percent of the people I speak to are Trump supporters. I rest my case.
Mediator: Somebody I had a question, I believe.
Question 10: Yeah, I was actually hoping to hear more about what the ideal defense would be. Or will be. Cause that’s one of the open questions we don’t know. We know what’s going to happen with the politics and power, which is the Sanders can’t. It’s suicide to vote against Trump. But the question is, if there is a trial on the floor of the Senate or in this counter narrative machine that will be spinning up, what will make the voters comfortable with that outcome? What will make the senators comfortable with that outcome? So there’s the suggestion by the dean, which is surely right, that part of it is presidents do this all the time. But then the question is, what is the this? And maybe a hint it was in what Mulvaney said, which is the this was trying to pursue corruption. I could feel good about that. Mitt Romney had a comeback, which is why only here. The comeback for that maybe is well, actually, we’re doing it everywhere. We can’t give you the names because it’s all secret. But we’re, you know, about getting foreign countries to help us get corrupt Americans and corrupt leaders in jail all the time. That’s what we’re about. Or is there a better — how does that one play or is there a better defense that’s going to spin up in this counter narrative machine to make people feel good about what we know they’re going to do?
Question 11: I’d just like to ask a little bit about the notion that the white working class feels disrespected and and the language Trump uses about minority communities, immigrants, and it seems to me that that speaking about something other than disrespect and and that people are responding to that and maybe have you comment on that, please.
Question 12: Hi, with deep respect to our constitutional scholar, I am struggling through a scenario in which, you know, if the Constitution only has power as long as people choose to continue to uphold it and follow its processes. What happens when such a substantial part of our government no longer follows it? And and is there a scenario in which by continuing to push process and hold our representatives to a standard that we have set, we actually just reveal the whole system to be a farce? And what happens then?
Question 13: I was working on the political issue in the working class of another aspect that hasn’t, I think, been mentioned, which is the the focus which I’m not going to contest on the merits of a lot of Democrats on what might be called women’s issues and women’s rights. And it strikes me that in a way it’s kind of politically ill timed because so many of the people who feel disrespected and are white working class men who I think may get the vibration that the Democratic Party is sort of aligned with their with their fate rather than trying to help it by by virtue of this. I just think this is a political matter. I wonder if Professor Reich has any thoughts about that.
Erwin Chemerinsky: Let me deal with the legal questions and leave all the discussion of the political things to professor Reich. In response to the first question I want to separate what I think is going to be the legal defense that’s advanced from all of the noise that’s raised, because I do think there’s a distinction there. I think there’s going to be lots of noise about this is a witch hunt, how these procedures don’t follow due process. And I even think here that we’re uncovering corruption. And there’s all these things about Joe Biden. One hundred Biden that we had to pursue. The problem with that beyond noise is there’s absolutely no indication that anything wrong was done. And absent that, I don’t know that that can really be a legal defense. The can certainly be lots of dust in the air and noise.
In terms of a legal defense, and this goes to what I said earlier, were I Trump’s lawyer, I would say no quid pro quo. But of course, the response it is a quid pro quo isn’t necessary in order to be abuse of power. And this was a quid pro quo, by any definition. If there is an employee in the law school who’s looking for a raise and I say I need a favor, though. Sleep with me or do this illegal thing for me, any court in the country would say that’s a quid pro quo. And then I think what it really is going to come down to is the defense of this isn’t a high crime and misdemeanor.
I agree completely when professor Reich says that President Trump was doing this for his own personal gain that separates it, but I think the rhetoric is going to be: This isn’t a basis for impeachment. And that’s why I think every Republican voted against it the previous week.
In terms of at what point does the Constitution become a farce? There’s some wonderful books that had been written recently. There’s a book by a couple of Harvard professors, How Democracies Die. There’s a book written by Burton Newborn an NYU law professor And When the Mob is Swayed and the point that these make is that democracies are there until they’re not. And you can look around the world at countries that were democracies and then became other forms of government and that the guard rails that exist slowly give way. I don’t think we’re close to that at this point, but if Donald Trump is elected to a second term and regards that as a mandate and given his authoritarian impulses, as afraid as I am now in terms of what it’s going to mean, I’m all that much more afraid in the future.
And finally, the only thing I’ll say is that I think the Democrats have to make reproductive choice a central issue. It is a key dividing issue between the Republicans and the Democrats. And the Democrats should not back away from that issue. In the 2016 election, the number one reason Republican voters gave for voting for Donald Trump was the Supreme Court. In the CNN exit poll, fifty four percent of those voted for Trump said the reason they did so was for Supreme Court. For Democratic voters, the number four reason they gave was the Supreme Court. And we’re gonna have a conservative Supreme Court as result for decades to come. I think Democrats need to find a way of explaining to people that all of our rights and the most intimate, important aspects of our lives depend on this. And I don’t think the Democrats should back away from choice whatsoever.
Robert Reich: I agree. It would be nice if we found something that we disagreed on. Make it more interesting. But sticking to the difference between law and politics may be a way of doing it. Let me respond to a few questions about racism, misogyny, let’s say xenophobia, identity politics and all of that. Let’s stipulate that racism and misogyny and even xenophobia are not new in the United States. They didn’t start in 2016. Our culture is deeply, deeply mired in these dark traits and they have colored our history. The question is, what led in 2016, all of these things to pop up in such ugly ways and such visible ways in our politics? And I think what Donald Trump did maybe consciously and willingly, but I think almost instinctively, and he says he’s guided by his instincts, and I think that this is an example of some of his darkest instincts, sociopathic instincts. He understood that the way you get elected, is you take frustrations and anger and anxiety and you channel it toward these dark areas, toward racism, toward misogyny, toward xenophobia. You take advantage and exploit these really deep and negative currents because you know that that’s how anger can be expressed.
They’re scapegoats. This is not new. I mean, the history of the human race, the history of the 20th century is filled with authoritarians who did exactly this. So I don’t think it’s one or the other. It’s not class and it’s not race. And that’s not misogyny versus something else. It’s all of it together. It interacts. It’s the interaction between all of this. When you have so many such a large percentage of Americans who have not had a raise in 40 years, who have come to see after, again, I want to emphasize the financial crisis of 2008, because I think that was a critical turning point, when they come to see the the system as rigged against them in a very profound and poignant way, when they no longer believe that they are going to make it and they no longer believe that their children are going to live better than they will live. And that’s another part of the American dream that was destroyed.
And at the same time, they’re losing job security. That creates the fertile ground for authoritarianism of the most ugly sort. Now, how do we respond to that? We respond to it. I think we have to respond to it. And here, I’m stepping out of role. But since we’re all friends, I think we have to hope that the Democrats, and it is Democrats, we’re not gonna have a third party at least this time around, respond to it with a very powerful progressive message and not get caught up in this silliness over centrist versus left versus right. Because today it’s not right versus left. The real division in American politics, if you followed my argument is no longer right versus left, it’s democracy versus oligarchy. And that’s important for people to begin to feel and understand and recognize and connect the dots. And I hope Democrats begin to do that.
And my final hope is that years from now, we all get together. Please, God. And we look back on the Trump years and we say, you know, “We needed that. We needed a wakeup call. We were becoming too complacent. We didn’t understand what we needed to do. We allowed wealth and income to get so lopsided in this country and power to take over our government, power that was derived exactly from wealth. And we forgot that we were all together. We forgot about the constitution. We forgot about the common good. We needed Donald Trump. Thank God he’s gone.”
Mediator: Let’s take two more questions, I think, and then we’ll come back and let Erwin and Bob have the final say.
Question 14: Hi, this question is for professor Reich. I was just thinking one comment first, which is why do people support Donald Trump? And I actually think it’s something more basic. I heard another scholar talk about a book she was researching in rural America. And it’s that not because they’re necessarily misogynistic or racist or anything else, but what they don’t want to pay is more taxes. And so the challenge for the next Democratic candidate, and I think this is probably Warren’s biggest, I don’t know, foil, I’m not sure what the right word is, is that Warren is going to make me have to pay more taxes? And I may not like Donald Trump. I may not like what he does, but I know under him I’m not going to pay more taxes. So how does the next Democratic candidate really win in those places where people have given up hope? They think I’m not going to make more money. But I definitely do want to pay more taxes. So what would be your advice, you know, to to whoever the Democratic candidate is going to be with regard to that?
Question 15: Professor Reich, you mentioned before. I think it was Tony Coelho, under his stewardship, the orientation of the Democratic Party changed towards the suburbs. In order to know how, you know, you obviously know intimately the workings of the Democratic Party, was it at the same time concurrent with that, that the funding of the Democratic Party was in the large part, I believe, provided by hedge fund managers and other very wealthy individuals? And how did that correlate with that change of the nature of the Democratic Party? And how do you see it playing out in the in the near in the mid-term future, you know, the funding of the Democratic Party by these very defined corporate interests?
Question 16: I just want to build on a question that was asked earlier in the back about the expansion of the impeachment process to include the emoluments clause and all the effects, the benefits that especially after this testimony that’s come out about the deposed ambassador to Ukraine and how she said that the people acting on Giuliani’s and Trump’s behalf were that were business interests, those were two forward business activities.
Mediator: Erwin, would you like to take begin there at least? Thank you.
Erwin Chemerinsky: Sure. To me, one thing that we haven’t said are the words “rule of law.” And to me, a great deal of what this is about is the concept of the rule of law in court to the rule of law is that no one, not even the president, is above the law. And I think it’s so important that as the impeachment things go on, the Democrats have a clear but simple message that this is about the rule of law. There is a federal law that makes it a crime to solicit or receive foreign benefits with regard to an election campaign. Isn’t that something that President Trump violated with regard to the conversation with the president of the Ukraine? Isn’t it a clear abuse of power for the president to say before you get your foreign aid? I quote, need a favor, though, and it is dig up dirt on my political rival. Isn’t that inconsistent with the rule of law?
In terms of the emoluments clauses, part of me thinks they should be part of the articles of impeachment because the president has been violating them every day since Jan. 20, 2017, and constitutional provisions are meaningless unless they’re enforced. Wasn’t it just two weeks ago that President Trump referred to, quote, the phony emoluments clauses at a cabinet meeting? They’re not phony. They’re in Article 1, Section 9 and Article 2? Section 1, the Constitution. And again, it’s about the rule of law. That the president has to follow these provisions of the constitution. They’re not new. They’ve been there since 1787. But I also understand that the Democrats impulse may be to keep this as simple as possible and focus on the Ukraine rather than add in the emoluments clause or obstruction of justice. In that, I think is a political calculation that could go either way. But I hope that the central message that the Democrats are going to get out is look at all the ways that President Trump has put himself outside of the law. And that’s not acceptable in a constitutional democracy.
Robert Reich: Well, it’s interesting, Erwin, when you say rule of law, I superimpose on what you’ve said, these conversations I’ve had and what I’ve read and Arlie Hochschild’s conversations with so many of these disaffected people who think that the system is rigged. And I think about Anatole France’s great quote, you know, talking about the marvelous equality of the law, punishing rich and poor alike for sleeping under bridges and stealing loaves of bread. I don’t know that the rule of law is as powerful an argument any longer. When so many people feel like the game is rigged, which gets to these two political questions, one, on taxes, it’s undoubtedly true that if your income has stagnated for years, you’ve not had a raise. Adjusted for inflation, you don’t want to face a higher tax.
In fact, the tax revolts that swept across this country beginning in the late 1970s really started when middle class incomes, working class incomes, started flatlining. But how, to go back to Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., paying taxes is the sign of a civilized society. You can’t do what you need to do collectively, whether it’s infrastructure or schools or one out of five of our children is in poverty in this country. How can you, possibly the richest country in the world, turn your back on all of that of homelessness? So the question is not so much taxes, it’s who’s going to pay.
Just before I came over here, I was doing a segment on MSNBC with a billionaire who’s complaining that Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders wealth tax was unfair. I said, “Why is it unfair?” “Well, it’s unfair because I worked for my billion dollars.” I said, “Well, wait a minute. You worked for it. But can you get by on one billion instead of four billion? Is that possible?” “No, it’s a matter of principle. I worked for it. It’s mine. And I don’t want government telling me.”
Well this is exactly the same conversation we’ve been having since the progressive income tax was first instituted at the start of the 20th century. Either we believe in the idea of progressive taxes or we don’t. Right now, when we have so much wealth at the top, when the top one tenth of 1% has over 20% of the nation nation’s wealth, you know, the bottom 90% has 25% of the nation’s wealth. We’re coming very close to the point with the top one-tenth of 1% has as much wealth as the bottom 90%. At the bottom half of this country has 1.3% of the nation’s wealth. I mean, we haven’t seen anything like this since the Gilded Age.
To ask Warren Buffett, and let me use Warren Buffet because he symbolizes the kind of, “Well, I should be supporting America.” Warren Buffett last year earned something like, or not earned, Warren Buffett, he has a net worth of $60 billion. Last year, his $60 billion created just sitting there doing nothing except collecting money, created another $3 billion. Warren Buffett did not earn that $3 billion. His money earned the $3 billion. But now at the end of the year, he had $63 billion. A tax, even the so-called Buffett tax, which we Democrats got very excited about a few years ago, everybody has to pay at least 30%. Warren Buffett in 2017, I don’t know anything since then, Warren Buffett actually cashed in only about $10 million of his stocks, which means under the Buffett Rule, he’d be paying $3 million in taxes on $3 billion of increased in terms of his fortune. You have to have a wealth tax. Given all of that, given what we have to do as a country, we have to have a wealth tax.