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John Avlon's Reality Check: 'Acquittal Doesn't Mean Exoneration'

"The last test will be whether the Senate votes to censure the president," the CNN analyst said, warning us not to hold our breath.
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John Avlon's Reality Check segment today looked at the impending impeachment vote.

"Remember this. Acquittal is not exoneration. and that's especially true in the impeachment trial of President Trump," the CNN analyst said.

"His acquittal today is a foregone conclusion, but impeachment will be in the first paragraph of his obituary, putting him in a presidential Hall of Shame. Unlike the impeachments of Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, it was about something the Founding Fathers feared: foreign interference in our elections. Even Steve Doocey said it was wrong at one point.

If the president said I'll give you the money but you have to investigate Joe Biden, that is really off-the-rails wrong.

"While the president and his legal team argued he did nothing wrong, at least a half dozen Republicans now admit the evidence does not exonerate him. They've settled on saying his conduct was improper but not impeachable. It's definitively both. George Washington warned foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of Republican government. James Madison argued for impeachment at the Constitutional Convention, saying a president might betray his trust to foreign powers.

"This isn't subtle but what about Trump's argument that abuse of power isn't a legitimate cause? Alexander Hamilton put the kibosh on that, saying it was for the misconduct of public men from the abuse of some public trust. Republicans also argued that obstruction of Congress was an absurd charge citing George Washington's executive fight with Congress. But they wrote Congress had no reason to see his papers except that of an impeachment. What about this argument from Alan Dershowitz?

If a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.

"Well, not so much. William Davey argued at the Constitutional Convention, 'If he be not impeachable whilst in office he'll spare no efforts or means whatsoever to get re-elected.' That's what's at stake today. President Trump hasn't admitted wrongdoing. And Republicans' lack of interest even in witnesses could open the door to a massive expansion of presidential power -- including foreign interference in our elections at the same time we know they're trying to interfere in our elections.

"The last test will be whether the Senate votes to censure the president. It requires only a simple majority vote. This is not acceptable for presidents of either party to act this way. But don't hold your breath that Mitch McConnell will let that vote come to the floor because it might upset the president. Republicans say the Founders never intended for there will be a partisan impeachment but they didn't realize how hyperpartisan polarization could short circuit our system and cause the Senate to forget the First Principles.

"And that's your reality check."

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