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Story 1: Dirt Desperate Democrats of The Senate and House Intelligence Committees Questioned Convicted Felon Michael Cohen in Closed Sessions (No Evidence of Russian/Trump Collusion (Which Is Not A Crime) and House Oversight Committee in Open Session — Videos

Mark Levin slams Michael Cohen’s plea deal

Andrew McCarthy on Michael Cohen’s guilty plea and sentencing

Michael Cohen to testify before Congress this week

How Michael Cohen became Trump’s worst enemy | With Chris Cillizza

Trump will benefit if Democrats try to impeach him: Dennis Miller

Cohen’s lawyer wants Trump censured by the House

‘The Press, Prosecutors & Partisans’: Ingraham on Clinton ‘Fixer’ Lanny Davis & CNN’s ‘Bombshell’

Full Lanny Davis Interview: Michael Cohen Was ‘Never, Ever’ In Prague | MTP Daily | MSNBC

New York Times: Michael Cohen Hires Lanny Davis | Hardball | MSNBC

Mark Levin: Mueller’s purpose is to remove the president

Andrew McCarthy – Mueller’s End Game May Be Impeachment

Dershowitz Pushes Back on Liberal Critics: My Arguments Against Trump Impeachment Are Not Political


Michael Cohen testifies behind closed doors on Capitol Hill in first of three hearings

By Alex Pappas | Fox News

Michael Cohen, the ex-Trump fixer who has been sentenced to three years in prison, arrived on Capitol Hill Tuesday for the first of three congressional hearings this week where he is expected to testify against his former boss.

Cohen’s testimony Tuesday before the Senate Intelligence Committee is taking place behind closed doors. On Wednesday, Cohen is testifying before the House Oversight Committee, which will be open. On Thursday, Cohen appears behind closed doors for a House Intelligence Committee interview.


As he entered the hearing room Tuesday, Cohen did not answer questions from reporters about why he should be trusted. As part of a deal with prosecutors, Cohen pleaded guilty to previously lying to Congress about Trump’s past business dealings in Russia, among other crimes.

The White House, in a statement Tuesday, sought to portray Cohen as a liar.

“Disgraced felon Michael Cohen is going to prison for lying to Congress and making other false statements,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said. “Sadly, he will go before Congress this week and we can expect more of the same. It’s laughable that anyone would take a convicted liar like Cohen at his word, and pathetic to see him given yet another opportunity to spread his lies.”

Asked by reporters Tuesday what he hopes to hear from Cohen, Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., replied: “Truth.” But Burr added that Cohen has got a questionable track record, when asked if he could believe Cohen or not.


Democrats said ahead of the hearing they want to press Cohen about Trump’s past business endeavors in Russia.

“Because we know that Donald Trump, during his campaign, said ‘I have no interest in Russia’ but that’s yet another one of his total lies,” Senate Judiciary Committee member Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, said Monday.

Cohen worked for Trump’s business for years before Trump ran for president, serving as the president’s personal lawyer and counselor.

According to a recent memo sent out by committee staff, Cohen’s appearance before the House oversight panel will concern various financial issues related to the 2016 presidential campaign, including payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal that federal prosecutors in New York say were directed by Trump. The hearing will also examine whether Trump has complied with campaign finance and tax laws, his ties to the Trump International Hotel in Washington and “potential and actual conflicts of interest.”


A person with knowledge of Cohen’s planned testimony before the House Oversight Committee told the Wall Street Journal that Cohen will publicly accuse Trump of criminal conduct in relation to the hush-money payments.

The Wall Street Journal also reported that Cohen will accuse Trump in his testimony of inflating or deflating his net worth at times to avoid property taxes.

Cohen will not be questioned about the ongoing investigations by Special Counsel Robert Mueller or the House and Senate Intelligence Committees into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

Last week, a federal judge approved Cohen’s request to push back the date he is scheduled to report to federal prison by two months. Cohen’s attorneys had pushed for the postponement, saying he had recently undergone shoulder surgery and needed the extra time to complete physical therapy as well as his congressional testimony.

Cohen was originally scheduled to report to jail on March 6 to begin serving a three-year sentence after he pleaded guilty to campaign finance and other violations last year. He is now scheduled to report to jail May 6.

In December, Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to campaign finance violations, tax evasion and lying to Congress. He agreed to cooperate with prosecutors as part of a deal.

The charges against Cohen arose from two separate investigations – one by federal prosecutors in New York, and the other by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Both cases hold potential implications for Trump. Cohen’s admission in the former to breaking the law in making hush-money payments during the 2016 campaign to two women who claimed affairs with Trump has raised questions about whether prosecutors may eventually pursue charges against the president. Cohen said he did so at Trump’s direction.

Speaking in court in December before the judge issued the sentence, Cohen said “blind loyalty” to Trump led him “to take a path of darkness instead of light.”


Lanny Davis

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Lanny Davis
Lanny picture.tif
Lanny Jesse Davis

December 12, 1945 (age 73)

Education Yale University (BAJD)
Known for Former Clinton advisor, political strategist
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Elaine Charney[1] (divorced)
Carolyn Atwell
Children Seth

Lanny Jesse Davis (born December 12, 1945) is an American political operative, lawyer, consultant, lobbyist, author, and television commentator. He is the co-founder and partner of the law firm of Davis Goldberg & Galper PLLC, and co-founder and partner of the public relations firm Trident DMG. From 1996 to 1998, he served as a special counsel to President Bill Clinton, and was a spokesperson for the President and the White House on matters concerning campaign-finance investigations and other legal issues.[citation needed]

In July 2018, Davis was hired by Michael Cohen, a former personal attorney to Donald Trump, to represent him as co-counsel in the Stormy Daniels–Donald Trump scandal.[2] Davis later represented Cohen when he pleaded guilty to tax fraud, bank fraud, and violation of campaign finance laws on August 21, 2018.[3]

Davis’s clients have included Porton GroupNational Women’s History MuseumNational Black Chamber of Commerce, eHealth, Sofitel Hotels, Trent LottGene UpshawDan SnyderMartha Stewart and the Office of the President at Penn State University. Davis has been a regular television commentator and political and legal analyst for MSNBCCNNCNBC and network television news programs.[4] He currently has a column called “Purple Nation” that appears regularly in a variety of publications spanning the political spectrum, including The HillThe Huffington and The Daily Caller. A Yale Law School graduate, he won the Thurman Arnold Moot Court prize and served on the Yale Law Journal.[citation needed]

In 2005, President George W. Bush appointed Davis to serve as the only Democratic member of the five-member Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, created by the U.S. Congress as part of the 2005 Intelligence Reform Act.


Davis grew up in Jersey City, New Jersey, in a Jewish family. His father Mort was a dentist in Jersey City and his mother worked as the office manager of his father’s dental office.[5] He attended Newark Academy in Newark, graduating in 1962. As an undergraduate at Yale, he was a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity. According to an item in U.S. News & World Report, as part of his initiation into the fraternity, Davis underwent hazing by, among others, the future President of the United States George W. Bush.[6] He also served as chairman of the campus newspaper, the Yale Daily News.[7] Davis went on to receive his J.D. degree from Yale Law School in 1970. It was there that he first met Hillary Clinton.[8]

Davis has four children, and now lives in Potomac, Maryland, with his second wife, Carolyn Atwell-Davis, who is the legislative affairs director for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. One of his sons, Seth, is a columnist for Sports Illustrated magazine and a college basketball commentator for CBS.[9]



Lanny Davis, 2014

From 1970 to 1972, Davis was National Director of Youth Coalition for Muskie, the youth organization of Edmund S. Muskie‘s unsuccessful campaign for the 1972 Democratic Party Presidential nomination.[citation needed]

In 1976 Davis ran for Congress as a Democrat in Maryland’s 8th congressional district and lost to Republican Newton Steers.[citation needed]

Davis served three terms (1980–1992) on the Democratic National Committee representing the State of Maryland. In 2005 President Bush appointed Davis to serve as the only Democrat on the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board.[citation needed]

Davis was the treasurer for Joe Lieberman‘s Reuniting Our Country PAC.[10]


Davis started his legal career as an associate at Patton Boggs in 1975 and became a partner in 1978. He served as special counsel to the President from 1996 to 1998, during which time he also was the spokesman for Clinton in issues regarding campaign finance investigations and other legal issues, including President Clinton’s impeachment trial.[citation needed]

After leaving the White House, Davis returned to Patton Boggs. There he worked as a lobbyist for the nation of Pakistan prior to the attacks of September 11, 2001.[11] In 2003, Davis became a partner in Washington, D.C. office of the law firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe. There, he provides counseling to corporations and government contractors on crisis management. He left the firm in late 2009 to join McDermott Will & Emery, but separated from the firm seven months later to open his own company, Lanny J. Davis & Associates.[12][13]

He was a senior advisor and spokesman for the Israel Project. In 2009, he did “damage control for hawkish Democratic congresswoman Jane Harman over the American Israel Public Affairs Committee leak story“.[14]

In January 2012 Davis launched a new public affairs firm, Purple Nation Solutions. Davis also joined the Philadelphia-based law firm of Dilworth Paxson L.L.P. in March 2012, practicing out of the firm’s Washington office and focusing on “legal crisis management.”[15]

In October 2012 Davis was the subject of a CBS Sunday Morning segment where he took investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson behind the scenes into the world of lobbying, focusing on his work for eHealthInsurance.[16] In October 2013 Davis began acting as outside legal counsel to the Washington Redskins to help defend the organization’s nickname.[17] He also represented Kathleen Kane and Bo Dietl in his solo practice.[13]

In 2016, at the age of 70, Davis co-founded the law firm of Davis Goldberg & Galper with partners Adam Goldberg and Joshua Galper, stating that he needed to continue supporting his family but was too busy to handle his workload by himself.[13] In addition to co-founding Davis Goldberg & Galper, Davis started a new PR firm, called TridentDMG, in partnership with Eleanor McManus, who had worked with Davis since 2010 and previously served as a senior producer for CNN’s “Larry King Live.”[18]

Michael Cohen

File:Full Lanny Davis Interview- Michael Cohen Was 'Never, Ever' In Prague - MTP Daily - MSNBC.webm

Davis on MSNBC in 2018

In July 2018, Davis was hired by Michael Cohen, a former personal attorney to Donald Trump, to represent him as co-counsel in the Stormy Daniels–Donald Trump scandal.[2] Davis encouraged Cohen to reveal that he and Trump had discussed a payment surrounding a different affair with model Karen McDougal. Davis later revealed that Cohen had secretly recorded the conversation with Trump, and he released a tape of the conversation to CNN, which played it on the air. On it, Trump and Cohen can be heard discussing how to make a payment for “all of that info regarding our friend David,” interpreted as meaning David Pecker, the head of American Media which publishes the National Enquirer.[19][20]

Davis continued to serve as Cohen’s attorney when Cohen came under federal criminal investigation by the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York,[3] and papers and other materials were seized from Cohen in April 2018 under a subpoena.[21][22] Davis helped Cohen to negotiate a plea bargain under which he agreed to plead guilty to several charges in return for leniency in sentencing. On August 21, Cohen pleaded guilty to eight charges: five counts of tax evasion, one count of making false statements to a financial institution, one count of willfully causing an unlawful corporate contribution, and one count of making an excessive campaign contribution at the request of a candidate or campaign.[23][24]

After Cohen’s guilty plea and conviction, Davis made several public comments, indicating that Cohen is ready to “tell everything about Donald Trump that he knows”,[25] and alluding to Cohen’s knowledge which could be used against Trump.[26] He later added that he believed Cohen would agree to testify before Congress, even without immunity.[27] He also rejected the possibility of a presidential pardon from Trump, saying that Cohen would “never accept a pardon from a man that he considers to be both corrupt and a dangerous person in the oval office.”[28]

Foreign government representation

In July 2009 Davis represented the Honduran Business Council and testified publicly before the House Western Hemisphere Subcommittee on its behalf. He criticized the deportation of former President Manuel Zelaya but also supported a reconciliation solution based on principles of the rule of law and due process.[29]

In 2010 Davis worked with the State Department’s West African Bureau and the U.S. Ambassador to Equatorial Guinea to assist in transitioning to a transparent democracy that protected due process and human rights. These efforts culminated in a speech Davis wrote for the President of Equatorial Guinea[30] that was ultimately endorsed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa.[31]

For ten days in December 2010, Davis represented the Washington, D.C. Ivory Coast Embassy and Ambassador and worked closely with the State Department’s West African Bureau to facilitate a phone call from President Obama to the defeated president of Ivory Coast to try to persuade him to avoid bloodshed and make a peaceful exit from office. When the defeated Ivory Coast president refused to accept the phone call, Davis resigned.[32] On January 1, 2011, the official spokesman of the U.S. State Department, P. J. Crowley, publicly acknowledged that Davis’ role was “helpful”.[33]

Author and commentator

In 1999, Davis wrote a memoir about his work in the White House titled Truth to Tell: Tell It Early, Tell It All, Tell It Yourself: Notes from My White House Education. His most recent book, which appeared in 2006, is titled Scandal: How “Gotcha” Politics Is Destroying America. The book received praise from politicians and commentators across party lines, including Senators Evan Bayh and Lindsey Graham.

Davis has also served as a frequent political commentator on television, radio, and newspapers. He writes for The Hills online Pundits Blog.

In 2006, through opinions expressed in The Wall Street Journal (August 8, 2006) and on Fox News, Davis strongly supported longtime friend Joseph Lieberman in his losing bid against Ned Lamont for the Democratic Party nomination for the post of U.S. Senator from Connecticut. He then continued to support Lieberman when he ran and won the General Election as an Independent.[citation needed]

In 2008, Davis supported Senator Hillary Clinton in her race for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States, and has appeared on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC as a surrogate for her. After Clinton conceded, Davis went on to support Barack Obama.[34]

In 2008, Davis questioned the United States’ response to the conflict between Russia and Georgia and advised present and future U.S. leaders to consider the point of view of the Russian leaders before unilaterally supporting the government of Georgia in the conflict.[35]

Currently, Davis appears weekly on three radio programs: America’s Morning News Radio Show with John McCaslin, WMAL’s Mornings on the Mall, and Andy Parks Live. He was a participant in the D.C.’s Funniest Celebrity competition in 2011.[36]

Opinions and criticism

Glenn Greenwald, a lawyer and columnist for Salon, criticized Davis in 2009 for Davis’s perceived failure to disclose his clients. Greenwald asserted his clients included dictatorships and opponents of unions and health care reform.[37]

According to Salon columnist Justin Elliot, Davis “specializes in lobbying for controversial corporate and foreign clients, particularly those seeking Democratic representation in Washington“.[38] He has “built a client list that now includes oligarchic coup supporters in Honduras, a dictator in Equatorial Guineafor-profit colleges accused of exploiting students, and a company that dominates the manufacture of additives for infant formula“, as well as an “Ivory Coast strongman whose claims to that country’s presidency have been condemned by the international community and may even set off a civil war”. Among his clients are “Ivory Coast leader and flagrant human rights violator Laurent Gbagbo” and “Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, the longtime dictator of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea.”[38]“Just as Davis was assuring the American press that his client, Gbagbo, opposed violence, Gbagbo’s forces were in fact mounting a campaign of organized violence against the opposition”.[39] The latter representation has earned him criticism from human rights groups, who claim that he “appears to be engaged in little more than a whitewashing exercise designed to rehabilitate the image of the Obiang regime on the international stage”.[40] Similar criticisms were aired in an acerbic exchange with Jon Lovett in The Atlantic.[41]

At the time of the events in the Ivory Coast, State Department spokesman P. J. Crowley issued the following statement: “Lanny did open another alternative channel of communications for us, and was providing the right advice to his client. President Gbagbo has declined to engage our ambassador, Phillip Carter. Absent that avenue, Lanny became another route to encourage President Gbagbo to leave. Unfortunately, every indication is that his client wasn’t heeding his advice.”[33]

Some of Davis’s emails with Hillary Clinton were released to the public as part of the Hillary Clinton email controversy. The flattering emails were characterized by some media members as “cringeworthy.”[42][43]

See also



Chris Cillizza

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Chris Cillizza
Chris Cillizza 2012 05.jpg

Chris Cillizza at Miller Center in 2012
Christopher Michael Cillizza

February 20, 1976 (age 43)

Nationality American
Alma mater Georgetown University
Occupation Journalist
Employer CNN
Spouse(s) Gia Cillizza

Christopher Michael “Chris” Cillizza (/sɪˈlɪzə/; born February 20, 1976)[1] is an American political commentator for CNN. Prior to joining CNN, he wrote for The Fix, the daily political weblog of The Washington Post, and was a regular contributor to the Post on political issues, a frequent panelist on Meet the Press, and was an MSNBC political analyst. Cillizza is also co-host of The Tony Kornheiser Show.[2][3] In April 2017, Cillizza began working for CNN, including writing and onscreen appearances.


Early life and education

Cillizza was born and raised in MarlboroughConnecticut.[4][5][6] Cillizza attended The Loomis Chaffee School (which he often refers to jokingly as the “Loomis Chaffee School for the Rich”),[7][better source needed] an independent boarding school in Windsor, Connecticut, and graduated in 1994.[8][6] He attended Georgetown University from 1994 to 1998, where he graduated with a B.A. in English.[9] He currently resides in Falls Church, Virginia with his wife and two children.[2] He is of Sicilian and Irish descent.[10]


After working as a novelist and later an intern for conservative writer George Will,[11] Cillizza began his career in journalism. He initially desired to work as a sports writer, but decided that sports “would be less fun” than politics.[11] At The Cook Political Report He later worked on Roll Call prior to joining The Washington Post.[12] For the Cook Report he covered gubernatorial races and southern House races. He wrote a column on politics for Congress Daily. During his four years at Roll Call, which he joined in June 2001, he reported on campaign politics from the presidential to the congressional level, finishing his time at Roll Call as the paper’s White House correspondent.[13]

His freelance work has appeared in publications such as The Atlantic MonthlyWashingtonian, and Slate.[14] He has also been a guest on CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC.[13] After multiple guest appearances on the network, he was named an MSNBC Political Analyst, a position he resigned when he accepted a position at CNN.[15] He is also a frequent panelist on Meet the Press.

The Fix

Cillizza founded the blog The Fix in 2005 and wrote for it on a regular basis until he joined CNN in 2017.[16] The blog’s focus was American electoral politics, with Cillizza commenting on gubernatorialCongressional and presidential elections. He hosted the weekly Fix live chat. Cilizza also oversaw a monthly trivia contest called “Politics and Pints” at the Washington, D.C. bar Capitol Lounge.[17]


From 2007 to 2008, Cillizza was a co-host of the MySpace/MTV Presidential Dialogues, which hosted John McCainBarack Obama, and others in a live-streamed, interactive Presidential event series. Cillizza and fellow The Washington Post columnist Dana Milbankappeared in a series of humor videos called Mouthpiece Theater, hosted by The Washington Post. An outcry followed a video in which, during a discussion of the White House “Beer Summit“, they chose new brands for a number of people, including “Mad Bitch Beer” for Hillary Clinton. Both men apologized for the video and the series was canceled.[18]

In July 2012, Broadway Books (a division of Penguin Random House) released his book, The Gospel According to the Fix.[19] Written in a blog-like format,[20] it contains lists such as “The 10 Best/Worst Negative Ads”, as well as coverage of the “deep personal hatreds that politics provoke” and predictions for the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections.[21]

Since 2014, Cillizza has served a regular co-host of The Tony Kornheiser Show.[2][3]


On April 3, 2017, Cillizza joined CNN as a “political reporter and digital editor-at-large,” contributing online and on television.[16][22]

On June 28, 2017, CNN Politics announced the launch of “The Point with Chris Cillizza.” According to the official press release, the new “multiplatform brand” will include “daily columns, on-air analysis, an evening newsletter, [a] podcast, and the launch of trivia night events in Washington, DC.”[23][24]


Columbia Journalism Review has described Cillizza’s informal, “everyman” style as being popular with readers, but extremely unpopular with other journalists and media experts.[11] Media critic Jay Rosen has compared his approach to infotainment which turns political analysis into gamesmanship detached from real-world implications.[25][11] Examples of his unserious approach to politics cited in the Columbia Journalism Review including a “second-by-second” analysis of a handshake between Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron[26]and an article about the relationship between Jeff Sessions and the President,[27] among others.[11] Former CNN host Soledad O’Brien has also described Cillizza’s work as facile.[28][29] David Weigel has criticized Cillizza for focusing on arbitrary predictions rather than factual analysis.[30] Cillizza, along with Mark Halperin and Ron Fournier, was cited by Felix Biederman and Virgil Texas as one of the inspirations for their parody political pundit Carl Diggler.[31]


Story 2: Make Trump’s Day and Assure Trump’s Reelection in 2020 — Please Impeach Him and Face American People Backlash — Videos

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Jan. 7, 1999: President Clinton’s impeachment trial

Impeach Donald Trump

Starting the process will rein in a president who is undermining American ideals—and bring the debate about his fitness for office into Congress, where it belongs.

On january 20, 2017, Donald Trump stood on the steps of the Capitol, raised his right hand, and solemnly swore to faithfully execute the office of president of the United States and, to the best of his ability, to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. He has not kept that promise.

Instead, he has mounted a concerted challenge to the separation of powers, to the rule of law, and to the civil liberties enshrined in our founding documents. He has purposefully inflamed America’s divisions. He has set himself against the American idea, the principle that all of us—of every race, gender, and creed—are created equal.

This is not a partisan judgment. Many of the president’s fiercest critics have emerged from within his own party. Even officials and observers who support his policies are appalled by his pronouncements, and those who have the most firsthand experience of governance are also the most alarmed by how Trump is governing.

“The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naïveté, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate,” the late senator and former Republican presidential nominee John McCain lamented last summer. “The president has not risen to the mantle of the office,” the GOP’s other recent nominee, the former governor and now senator Mitt Romney, wrote in January.

The oath of office is a president’s promise to subordinate his private desires to the public interest, to serve the nation as a whole rather than any faction within it. Trump displays no evidence that he understands these obligations. To the contrary, he has routinely privileged his self-interest above the responsibilities of the presidency. He has failed to disclose or divest himself from his extensive financial interests, instead using the platform of the presidency to promote them. This has encouraged a wide array of actors, domestic and foreign, to seek to influence his decisions by funneling cash to properties such as Mar-a-Lago (the “Winter White House,” as Trump has branded it) and his hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue. Courts are now considering whether some of those payments violate the Constitution.

More troubling still, Trump has demanded that public officials put their loyalty to him ahead of their duty to the public. On his first full day in office, he ordered his press secretary to lie about the size of his inaugural crowd. He never forgave his first attorney general for failing to shut down investigations into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and ultimately forced his resignation. “I need loyalty. I expect loyalty,” Trump told his first FBI director, and then fired him when he refused to pledge it.

Trump has evinced little respect for the rule of law, attempting to have the Department of Justice launch criminal probes into his critics and political adversaries. He has repeatedly attacked both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Special Counsel Robert Mueller. His efforts to mislead, impede, and shut down Mueller’s investigation have now led the special counsel to consider whether the president obstructed justice.

As for the liberties guaranteed by the Constitution, Trump has repeatedly trampled upon them. He pledged to ban entry to the United States on the basis of religion, and did his best to follow through. He has attacked the press as the “enemy of the people” and barred critical outlets and reporters from attending his events. He has assailed black protesters. He has called for his critics in private industry to be fired from their jobs. He has falsely alleged that America’s electoral system is subject to massive fraud, impugning election results with which he disagrees as irredeemably tainted. Elected officials of both parties have repeatedly condemned such statements, which has only spurred the president to repeat them.

These actions are, in sum, an attack on the very foundations of America’s constitutional democracy.

The electorate passes judgment on its presidents and their shortcomings every four years. But the Framers were concerned that a president could abuse his authority in ways that would undermine the democratic process and that could not wait to be addressed. So they created a mechanism for considering whether a president is subverting the rule of law or pursuing his own self-interest at the expense of the general welfare—in short, whether his continued tenure in office poses a threat to the republic. This mechanism is impeachment.

Trump’s actions during his first two years in office clearly meet, and exceed, the criteria to trigger this fail-safe. But the United States has grown wary of impeachment. The history of its application is widely misunderstood, leading Americans to mistake it for a dangerous threat to the constitutional order.

That is precisely backwards. It is absurd to suggest that the Constitution would delineate a mechanism too potent to ever actually be employed. Impeachment, in fact, is a vital protection against the dangers a president like Trump poses. And, crucially, many of its benefits—to the political health of the country, to the stability of the constitutional system—accrue irrespective of its ultimate result. Impeachment is a process, not an outcome, a rule-bound procedure for investigating a president, considering evidence, formulating charges, and deciding whether to continue on to trial.

The fight over whether Trump should be removed from office is already raging, and distorting everything it touches. Activists are radicalizing in opposition to a president they regard as dangerous. Within the government, unelected bureaucrats who believe the president is acting unlawfully are disregarding his orders, or working to subvert his agenda. By denying the debate its proper outlet, Congress has succeeded only in intensifying its pressures. And by declining to tackle the question head-on, it has deprived itself of its primary means of reining in the chief executive.

With a newly seated Democratic majority, the House of Representatives can no longer dodge its constitutional duty. It must immediately open a formal impeachment inquiry into President Trump, and bring the debate out of the court of public opinion and into Congress, where it belongs.

Democrats picked up 40 seats in the House of Representatives in the 2018 elections. Despite this clear rebuke of Trump—and despite all that is publicly known about his offenses—party elders remain reluctant to impeach him. Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, has argued that it’s too early to talk about impeachment. Many Democrats avoided discussing the idea on the campaign trail, preferring to focus on health care. When, on the first day of the 116th Congress, a freshman representative declared her intent to impeach Trump and punctuated her comments with an obscenity, she was chastised by members of the old guard—not just for how she raised the issue, but for raising it at all.

In no small part, this trepidation is due to the fact that the last effort to remove an American president from office ended in political fiasco. When the House impeached Bill Clinton, in 1998, his popularity soared; in the Senate, even some Republicans voted against convicting him of the charges.

Pelosi and her antediluvian leadership team served in Congress during those fights two decades ago, and they seem determined not to repeat their rivals’ mistakes. Polling has shown significant support for impeachment over the course of Trump’s tenure, but the most favorable polls still indicate that it lacks majority support. To move against Trump now, Democrats seem to believe, would only strengthen the president’s hand. Better to wait for public opinion to turn decisively against him and then use impeachment to ratify that view. This is the received wisdom on impeachment, the overlearned lesson of the Clinton years: House Republicans got out ahead of public opinion, and turned a president beset by scandal into a sympathetic figure.

Instead, Democrats intend to be a thorn in Trump’s side. House committees will conduct hearings into a wide range of issues, calling administration officials to testify under oath. They will issue subpoenas and demand documents, emails, and other information. The chair of the Ways and Means Committee has the power to request Trump’s elusive tax returns from the IRS and, with the House’s approval, make them public.

Other institutions are already acting as brakes on the Trump presidency. To the president’s vocal frustration, federal judges have repeatedly enjoined his executive orders. Robert Mueller’s investigation has brought convictions of, or plea deals from, key figures in his campaign as well as his administration. Some Democrats are clearly hoping that if they stall for long enough, Mueller will deliver them from Trump, obviating the need to act themselves.

But Congress can’t outsource its responsibilities to federal prosecutors. No one knows when Mueller’s report will arrive, what form it will take, or what it will say. Even if Mueller alleges criminal misconduct on the part of the president, under Justice Department guidelines, a sitting president cannot be indicted. Nor will the host of congressional hearings fulfill that branch’s obligations. The view they will offer of his conduct will be both limited and scattershot, focused on discrete acts. Only by authorizing a dedicated impeachment inquiry can the House begin to assemble disparate allegations into a coherent picture, forcing lawmakers to consider both whether specific charges are true and whether the president’s abuses of his power justify his removal.

Waiting also presents dangers. With every passing day, Trump further undermines our national commitment to America’s ideals. And impeachment is a long process. Typically, the House first votes to open an investigation—the hearings would likely take months—then votes again to present charges to the Senate. By delaying the start of the process, in the hope that even clearer evidence will be produced by Mueller or some other source, lawmakers are delaying its eventual conclusion. Better to forge ahead, weighing what is already known and incorporating additional material as it becomes available.

Critics of impeachment insist that it would diminish the presidency, creating an executive who serves at the sufferance of Congress. But defenders of executive prerogatives should be the first to recognize that the presidency has more to gain than to lose from Trump’s impeachment. After a century in which the office accumulated awesome power, Trump has done more to weaken executive authority than any recent president. The judiciary now regards Trump’s orders with a jaundiced eye, creating precedents that will constrain his successors. His own political appointees boast to reporters, or brag in anonymous op-eds, that they routinely work to counter his policies. Congress is contemplating actions on trade and defense that will hem in the president. His opponents repeatedly aim at the man but hit the office.

Democrats’ fear—that impeachment will backfire on them—is likewise unfounded. The mistake Republicans made in impeaching Bill Clinton wasn’t a matter of timing. They identified real and troubling misconduct—then applied the wrong remedy to fix it. Clinton’s acts disgraced the presidency, and his lies under oath and efforts to obstruct the investigation may well have been crimes. The question that determines whether an act is impeachable, though, is whether it endangers American democracy. As a House Judiciary Committee staff report put it in 1974, in the midst of the Watergate investigation: “The purpose of impeachment is not personal punishment; its function is primarily to maintain constitutional government.” Impeachable offenses, it found, included “undermining the integrity of office, disregard of constitutional duties and oath of office, arrogation of power, abuse of the governmental process, adverse impact on the system of government.”

Trump’s bipartisan critics are not merely arguing that he has lied or dishonored the presidency. The most serious allegations against him ultimately rest on the charge that he is attacking the bedrock of American democracy. That is the situation impeachment was devised to address.

After the house impeaches a president, the Constitution requires a two-thirds majority in the Senate to remove him from office. Opponents of impeachment point out that, despite the greater severity of the prospective charges against Trump, there is little reason to believe the Senate is more likely to remove him than it was to remove Clinton. Indeed, the Senate’s Republican majority has shown little will to break with the president—though that may change. The process of impeachment itself is likely to shift public opinion, both by highlighting what’s already known and by bringing new evidence to light. If Trump’s support among Republican voters erodes, his support in the Senate may do the same. One lesson of Richard Nixon’s impeachment is that when legislators conclude a presidency is doomed, they can switch allegiances in the blink of an eye.

But this sort of vote-counting, in any case, misunderstands the point of impeachment. The question of whether impeachment is justified should not be confused with the question of whether it is likely to succeed in removing a president from office. The country will benefit greatly regardless of how the Senate ultimately votes. Even if the impeachment of Donald Trump fails to produce a conviction in the Senate, it can safeguard the constitutional order from a president who seeks to undermine it. The protections of the process alone are formidable. They come in five distinct forms.The first is that once an impeachment inquiry begins, the president loses control of the public conversation. Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton each discovered this, much to their chagrin. Johnson, the irascible Tennessee Democrat who succeeded to the presidency in 1865 upon the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, quickly found himself at odds with the Republican Congress. He shattered precedents by delivering a series of inflammatory addresses that dominated the headlines and forced his opponents into a reactive posture. The launching of impeachment inquiries changed that. Day after day, Congress held hearings. Day after day, newspapers splashed the proceedings across their front pages. Instead of focusing on Johnson’s fearmongering, the press turned its attention to the president’s missteps, to the infighting within his administration, and to all the things that congressional investigators believed he had done wrong.

It isn’t just the coverage that changes. When presidents face the prospect of impeachment, they tend to discover a previously unsuspected capacity for restraint and compromise, at least in public. They know that their words can be used against them, so they fume in private. Johnson’s calls for the hanging of his political opponents yielded quickly to promises to defer to their judgment on the key questions of the day. Nixon raged to his aides, but tried to show a different face to the country. “Dignity, command, faith, head high, no fear, build a new spirit,” he told himself. Clinton sent bare-knuckled proxies to the television-news shows, but he and his staff chose their own words carefully.

Trump is easily the most pugilistic president since Johnson; he’s never going to behave with decorous restraint. But if impeachment proceedings begin, his staff will surely redouble its efforts to curtail his tweeting, his lawyers will counsel silence, and his allies on Capitol Hill will beg for whatever civility he can muster. His ability to sidestep scandal by changing the subject—perhaps his greatest political skill—will diminish.

As Trump fights for his political survival, that struggle will overwhelm other concerns. This is the second benefit of impeachment: It paralyzes a wayward president’s ability to advance the undemocratic elements of his agenda. Some of Trump’s policies are popular, and others are widely reviled. Some of his challenges to settled orthodoxies were long overdue, and others have proved ill-advised. These are ordinary features of our politics and are best dealt with through ordinary electoral processes. It is, rather, the extraordinary elements of Trump’s presidency that merit the use of impeachment to forestall their success: his subversion of the rule of law, attacks on constitutional liberties, and advancement of his own interests at the public’s expense.

The Mueller probe as well as hearings convened by the House and Senate Intelligence Committees have already hobbled the Trump administration to some degree. It will face even more scrutiny from a Democratic House. White House aides will have to hire personal lawyers; senior officials will spend their afternoons preparing testimony. But impeachment would raise the scrutiny to an entirely different level.

In part, this is because of the enormous amount of attention impeachment proceedings garner. But mostly, the scrutiny stems from the stakes of the process. The most a president generally has to fear from congressional hearings is embarrassment; there is always an aide to take the fall. Impeachment puts his own job on the line, and demands every hour of his day. The rarest commodity in any White House is time, that of the president and his top advisers. When it’s spent watching live hearings or meeting with lawyers, the administration’s agenda suffers. This is the irony of congressional leaders’ counseling patience, urging members to simply wait Trump out and use the levers of legislative power instead of moving ahead with impeachment. There may be no more effective way to run out the clock on an administration than to tie it up with impeachment hearings.

Jackson, Nixon, Clinton
As Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton each discovered, once an impeachment inquiry begins, the president loses control of the public conversation. (Everett Historical; Charles Tasnadi; J. Scott Applewhite / AP)
But the advantages of impeachment are not merely tactical. The third benefit is its utility as a tool of discovery and discernment. At the moment, it is often hard to tell the difference between wild-eyed conspiracy theories and straight narrations of the day’s news. Some of what is alleged about Trump is plainly false; much of it might be true, but lacks supporting evidence; and many of the best-documented claims are quickly forgotten, lost in the din of fresh allegations. This is what passes for due process in the court of public opinion.The problem is not new. When Congress first opened the Johnson impeachment hearings, for instance, the committee spent two months chasing rumor and innuendo. It heard allegations that Johnson had sent a secret letter to former Confederate President Jefferson Davis; that he had associated with a “disreputable woman” and, through her, sold pardons; that he had transferred ownership of confiscated railroads as political favors; even that he had conspired with John Wilkes Booth to assassinate Abraham Lincoln. The congressman who made that last claim was forced to admit to the committee pursuing impeachment that what he possessed “was not that kind of evidence which would satisfy the great mass of men”—he had simply based the accusation on his belief that every vice president who succeeds to the highest office murders his predecessor.There was public value, though, in these investigations. The charges had already been leveled; they were circulating and shaping public opinion. Spread by a highly polarized, partisan press, they could not be dispelled or disproved. But once Congress initiated the process of impeachment, the charges had to be substantiated. And that meant taking them from the realm of rhetoric into the province of fact. Many of the claims against Johnson failed to survive the journey. Those that did eventually helped form the basis for his impeachment. Separating them out was crucial.The process of impeachment can also surface evidence. The House Judiciary Committee began its impeachment hearings against Nixon in October 1973, well before the president’s complicity in the Watergate cover-up was clear. In April 1974, as part of those hearings, the Judiciary Committee subpoenaed 42 White House tapes. In response, Nixon released transcripts of the tapes that were so obviously expurgated that a district judge approved a subpoena from the special prosecutor for the tapes themselves. That demand, in turn, eventually produced the so-called smoking-gun tape, a recording of Nixon authorizing the CIA to shut down the FBI’s investigation into Watergate. The evidence that drove Nixon from office thus emerged as a consequence of the impeachment hearings; it did not spark them. The only way for the House to find out what Trump has actually done, and whether his conduct warrants removal, is to start asking.That is not to say that impeachment hearings against Trump would be sober and orderly. The Clinton hearings were something of a circus, and the past two years on Capitol Hill suggest that any Trump hearings will be far worse. The president’s stalwart defenders are already attacking the integrity of potential witnesses and airing their own conspiracy theories; an attempt to smear Mueller with sexual-misconduct claims collapsed spectacularly in October. His accusers, meanwhile, hurl epithets and invective. In Congress, Trump’s most committed detractors might be tempted to follow the bad example of the Clinton impeachment, when, instead of conducting extensive hearings to weigh potential charges, House Republicans short-circuited the process—taking the independent counsel’s conclusions, rushing them to the floor, and voting to impeach in a lame-duck session. Trump’s opponents need to put their faith in the process, empowering a committee to consider specific charges, weigh the available evidence, and decide whether to proceed.Hosting that debate in Congress yields a fourth benefit: defusing the potential for an explosion of political violence. This is a rationale for impeachment first offered at the Constitutional Convention, in 1787. “What was the practice before this in cases where the chief Magistrate rendered himself obnoxious?” Benjamin Franklin asked his fellow delegates. “Why, recourse was had to assassination in wch. he was not only deprived of his life but of the opportunity of vindicating his character.” A system without a mechanism for removing the chief executive, he argued, offered an invitation to violence. Just as the courts took the impulse toward vigilante justice and safely channeled it into the protections of the legal system, impeachment took the impulse toward political violence and safely channeled it into Congress.Nixon’s presidency was marked by an upsurge in political terrorism. In just its first 16 months, 4,330 bombings claimed 43 lives. As the Vietnam War wound down and the militant left began to lose its salience, it made opposition to the president its new rallying cry. “Impeach Nixon and jail him for his major crimes,” the Weather Underground demanded in its manifesto, Prairie Fire, in July 1974. “Nixon merits the people’s justice.” But that seemingly radical demand, intended to expose the inadequacy of the regular constitutional order, ironically proved the opposite point. By the end of the month, the House Judiciary Committee had approved three articles of impeachment; in early August, Nixon resigned. The ship of state, it turned out, had the capacity to right itself. The Weather Underground continued its slide into irrelevance, and political violence eventually receded.The current moment is different, of course. Today, the left is again radicalizing, but the overwhelming majority of political violence is committed by the far right, albeit on a considerably smaller scale than in the Nixon era. Trump himself has warned that “the people would revolt” if he were impeached, a warning that echoes earlier eras. When Congress debated impeachment in 1868, some likewise predicted that it would provoke Andrew Johnson’s most ardent supporters to violence. “We are evidently on the eve of a revolution that may, should an appeal be taken to arms, be more bloody than that inaugurated by the firing on Fort Sumter,” warned The Boston Post.

The predictions were wrong then, as Trump’s are likely wrong now. The public understood that once the impeachment process began, the real action would take place in Congress, and not in the streets. Johnson knew that inciting his supporters to violence would erode congressional support just when he needed it most. That seems the most probable outcome today as well. If impeached, Trump would lose the luxury of venting his resentments before friendly crowds, stirring their anger. His audience, by political necessity, would become a few dozen senators in Washington.

And what if the Senate does not convict Trump? The fifth benefit of impeachment is that, even when it fails to remove a president, it severely damages his political prospects. Johnson, abandoned by Republicans and rejected by Democrats, did not run for a second term. Nixon resigned, and Gerald Ford, his successor, lost his bid for reelection. Clinton weathered the process and finished out his second term, but despite his personal popularity, he left an electorate hungering for change. “Many, including Al Gore, think that the impeachment cost Gore the election,” Paul Rosenzweig, a former senior member of Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr’s team, told me. “So it has consequences and resonates outside the narrow four corners of impeachment.” If Congress were to impeach Trump, whatever short-term surge he might enjoy as supporters rallied to his defense, his long-term political fate would likely be sealed.

In these five ways—shifting the public’s attention to the president’s debilities, tipping the balance of power away from him, skimming off the froth of conspiratorial thinking, moving the fight to a rule-bound forum, and dealing lasting damage to his political prospects—the impeachment process has succeeded in the past. In fact, it’s the very efficacy of these past efforts that should give Congress pause; it’s a process that should be triggered only when a president’s betrayal of his basic duties requires it. But Trump’s conduct clearly meets that threshold. The only question is whether Congress will act.

Here is howimpeachment would work in practice. The Constitution lays out the process clearly, and two centuries of precedent will guide Congress in its work. The House possesses the sole power of impeachment—a procedure analogous to an indictment. Traditionally, this has meant tapping a committee to summon witnesses, subpoena documents, hold hearings, and consider the evidence. The committee can then propose specific articles of impeachment to the full House. If a simple majority approves the charges, they are forwarded to the Senate. The chief justice of the United States presides over the trial; members of the House are designated to act as “managers,” or prosecuting attorneys. If two-thirds of the senators who are present vote to convict, the president is removed from office; if the vote falls short, he is not.

Although the process is fairly clear, the Founders left us only vague instructions about when to implement it. The Constitution offers a short, cryptic list of the offenses that merit the impeachment and removal of federal officials: “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” The first two items are comparatively straightforward. The Constitution elsewhere specifies that treason against the United States consists “only in levying War” against the country or in giving the country’s enemies “Aid and Comfort.” As proof, it requires either the testimony of two witnesses or confession in open court. Despite the appalling looseness with which the charge of treason has been bandied about by members of Congress past and present, no federal official—much less a president—has ever been impeached for it. (Even the darkest theories of Trump’s alleged collusion with Russia seem unlikely to meet the Constitution’s strict definition of that crime.) Bribery, similarly, has been alleged only once, and against a judge, not a president.

It is the third item on the list—“high crimes and misdemeanors”—on which all presidential impeachments have hinged. If the House begins impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump, the charges will depend on this clause, but Congress will first need to decide what it means.

At the Constitutional Convention, an early draft included “treason, bribery, and corruption,” but it was shorn of that last item by the time it arrived on the floor. George Mason, of Virginia, spoke up. “Why is the provision restrained to Treason & bribery only?” he asked, according to James Madison’s notes. “Treason as defined in the Constitution will not reach many great and dangerous offences … Attempts to subvert the Constitution may not be Treason as above defined.” Mason moved to add “or maladministration.”

Madison, though, objected that “so vague a term will be equivalent to a tenure during pleasure of the Senate.” Gouverneur Morris further argued that “an election of every four years will prevent maladministration.” Mere incompetence or policy disputes were best dealt with by voters. But that still left Mason’s original concern, for the “many great and dangerous offences” not covered by treason or bribery. Instead of “maladministration,” he suggested, why not substitute “other high crimes & misdemeanors (agst. the State)”? The motion carried.Constitutional lawyers have been arguing about what counts as a “high crime” or “misdemeanor” ever since. The phrase itself was borrowed from English common law, although there is no reason to suppose Mason and his colleagues were deeply familiar with its uses in that context. The Nixon impeachment spurred Charles L. Black, a Yale law professor, to write Impeachment: A Handbook, a slender volume that remains a defining work on the question.Black makes two key points. First, he notes that as a matter of logic as well as context and precedent, not every violation of a criminal statute amounts to a “high crime” or “misdemeanor.” To apply his reasoning, some crimes—say, violating 40 U.S.C. §8103(b)(2) by willfully injuring a shrub on federal property in Washington, D.C.—cannot possibly be impeachable offenses. Conversely, a president may violate his oath of office without violating the letter of the law. A president could, for example, harness the enforcement powers of the federal government to systematically persecute his political opponents, or he could grossly neglect the duties of his office. That sort of conduct, in Black’s view, is impeachable even when it is not actually criminal.

His second point rests upon the principle of eiusdem generis—literally, “of the same kind.” As the last item in a list of three impeachable offenses, surely “high crimes and misdemeanors” shares some essential features with the first two. Black suggests that treason and bribery have in common three essential features: They are extremely serious, they stand to corrupt and subvert government and the political process, and they are self-evidently wrong to any person with a shred of honor. These, he argues, are features that a “high crime” or “misdemeanor” ought to share.

Black’s views on these points are not uncontested. Nixon’s attorneys argued that impeachment did require a crime. In 1974, before Black published his book, a report from the Justice Department split the difference, concluding that “there are persuasive grounds for arguing both the narrow view that a violation of criminal law is required and the broader view that certain non-criminal ‘political offenses’ may justify impeachment.”

John Doar, the attorney hired by the House Judiciary Committee to oversee the Nixon investigation, handed off the question of what constituted an impeachable offense to two young staffers: Bill Weld and Hillary Rodham. They determined that the answers they were seeking were to be found not in old case law, but in the public debates that raged around past impeachment efforts. The memo Weld and Rodham helped produce drew on that context and sided with Black: “High crimes and misdemeanors” need not be crimes. In the end, Weld came to believe that impeachment is a political process, aimed at determining whether a president has fallen short of the duties of his office. But that doesn’t mean it’s arbitrary. In fact, the Nixon impeachment left Weld with a renewed faith in the American system of government: “The wheels may grind slowly,” he later reflected, “but they grind pretty well.”

Some democrats have already seen enough from the Trump administration to conclude that it has met the criteria for impeachment. In July 2017, Representative Brad Sherman of California put forward an impeachment resolution; it garnered a single co-sponsor. The next month, though, brought the white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and Trump’s defense of the “very fine people on both sides.” The billionaire activist Tom Steyer launched a petition drive calling for impeachment. A second resolution was introduced in the House that November, this time by Tennessee’s Steve Cohen, who found 17 co-sponsors. By December 2017, when Representative Al Green of Texas forced consideration of a third resolution, 58 Democrats voted in favor of continuing debate, including Jim Clyburn, the House’s third-ranking Democrat. On the first day of the new Congress in January, Sherman reintroduced his resolution.

These efforts are exercises in political messaging, not serious attempts to tackle the question of impeachment. They invert the process, offering lists of charges for the House to consider, rather than asking the House to consider what charges may be justified. The House should instead approve a resolution authorizing an impeachment inquiry and allocating the staff, funding, and other resources necessary to pursue it, as the resolution that initiated the proceedings against Richard Nixon did.

Still, the resolutions proposed so far offer a valuable glimpse at the issues House Democrats are likely to pursue in such an inquiry. Some have made a general case that Trump has done violence to American values—Green’s stated that Trump “has betrayed his trust as President … to the manifest injury of the people of the United States”—but others have claimed specific violations of statutes or constitutional provisions. Both types of allegations may turn out to be important.

Despite the consensus of constitutional scholars that impeachable offenses need not be crimes, Congress has generally preferred to vote on articles that allege criminal acts. More than a third of representatives, and an outright majority of senators, hold law degrees; they think like lawyers. Democrats are thus focused on campaign-finance regulations, obstruction of justice, tax laws, money-laundering rules, proscriptions on bribing foreign officials, and the Constitution’s two emoluments clauses, which bar the president from accepting gifts from state or foreign governments.

They have studiously avoided, however, the primary area of public fascination when it comes to Trump’s alleged misdeeds: whether the president or his campaign colluded with Russia in the 2016 election. Lawmakers are clearly wary of bringing charges that could bear on Robert Mueller’s report, lest they interfere with an ongoing investigation that they hope will somehow force Trump from office. “It all depends on what we learn from hearings and from the Mueller investigation,” Representative Cohen told me. But the highly anticipated Mueller report is unlikely to provide the denouement lawmakers are seeking. Whether a president can be impeached for acts committed prior to assuming office is an unsettled question. As Trump himself never tires of pointing out, collusion with Russia is not itself a crime. And even if Mueller produces a singularly damning report, one presenting evidence that the president himself has committed criminal acts, he cannot indict the president—at least according to current Justice Department guidelines. Congress will have to decide what to do about it.

Once the House authorizes an impeachment inquiry, the committee must distill the evidence of Trump’s alleged crimes into articles capable of garnering a majority vote in that chamber. But that’s just the first challenge. To remove Trump from office, the House managers will then have to persuade the Senate to vote to convict the president. When the articles of impeachment are filed with the Senate, where the president will be tried, each article will be considered and voted on individually.

And then, suddenly, the members of the United States Senate will be forced to answer a question that many have long evaded: Is the president fit to continue in office? There will be no press aides to hide behind, no elevators into which they can duck. Some Democrats have already made their opinions clear. Others will have to decide whether to vote to remove a president backed by a majority of their constituents. For Republicans, the choice will be even harder.

This is where the dual nature of impeachment as both a legal and a political process comes into sharpest focus. The Founders worried about electing a president who lacked character or a sense of honor, but Americans have long since lost the moral vocabulary to articulate such concerns explicitly, preferring to look instead for demonstrable violations of rules that illuminate underlying character flaws. It is Trump’s unfitness for office that necessitates impeachment; his attacks on American democracy are plainly evident, and should be sufficient. But some Republican senators may continue to dismiss the more sweeping claims against the president, particularly where no statutory crimes attach. And so the strength of the evidence supporting narrower charges such as obstruction of justice and campaign-finance violations may ultimately determine his fate. If the committee can substantiate these charges, it will place even the most reluctant senators in a bind. When the moment finally comes to cast their vote, and the world is watching, how many will acquit the president of things he has clearly done?

The closest the senate has ever come to removing a president was in 1868, after Andrew Johnson was impeached on 11 counts. Remembered today as a lamentable exercise in hyper-partisanship, in fact Johnson’s impeachment functioned as the Founders had intended, sparing the country from the further depredations of a president who had betrayed his most basic responsibilities. We need to recover the real story of Johnson’s impeachment, because it offers the best evidence that the current president, too, must be impeached.

The case before the United States in 1868 bears striking similarities to the case before the country now—and no president in history more resembles the 45th than the 17th. “The president of the United States,” E. P. Whipple wrote in this magazine in 1866, “has so singular a combination of defects for the office of a constitutional magistrate, that he could have obtained the opportunity to misrule the nation only by a visitation of Providence. Insincere as well as stubborn, cunning as well as unreasonable, vain as well as ill-tempered, greedy of popularity as well as arbitrary in disposition, veering in his mind as well as fixed in his will, he unites in his character the seemingly opposite qualities of demagogue and autocrat.” Johnson, he continued, was “egotistic to the point of mental disease” and had become “the prey of intriguers and sycophants.”

Whipple was among Johnson’s more verbose critics, but hardly the most scathing. A remarkable number of Americans looked at the president and saw a man grossly unfit for office. Johnson, a Democrat from a Civil War border state, had been tapped by Lincoln in 1864 to join him on a national-unity ticket. A fierce opponent of the slaveholding elite and a self-styled champion of the white yeomanry, Johnson spoke to voters skeptical of the Republican Party’s progressive agenda. He horrified much of the East Coast establishment, but his raw, even profane style appealed to many voters. The National Union Party, seeking the destruction of slavery and the Confederacy, swept to victory.

No one ever thought Johnson would be president. Then, in 1865, Booth’s bullet put him in office. The end of the war exposed how different Johnson’s own agenda was from the policies favored by Lincoln. Johnson wanted to reintegrate the South into the Union as swiftly as possible, devoid of slavery but otherwise little changed. Most congressional Republicans, by contrast, wanted to seize the moment to build a new social order in the South, enshrining equality and protecting civil rights. Johnson sought to restore America as it had been, while the Republicans hoped to make it more perfect.

The two visions were irreconcilable. As the feud deepened, each side pushed its commitments to their logical extremes. Congressional Republicans approved the Fourteenth Amendment, voted to enlarge the role of the Freedmen’s Bureau, and passed the Civil Rights Act. Taken together, these measures established the equality of Americans before the law and, for the first time, made its preservation a federal concern. They amounted to nothing less than a social revolution, a promise of an America that belonged to all Americans, not just to white men.

Johnson and his supporters found this intolerable. In federal efforts to establish racial equality, they saw antiwhite discrimination. Johnson vetoed the Civil Rights Act, insisting that “the distinction of race and color is by the bill made to operate in favor of the colored and against the white race.” For the first time in American history, Congress overrode a veto to pass a major piece of legislation. Three months later, he vetoed the renewal of the Freedmen’s Bureau Bill, complaining that its plan to distribute land to former slaves constituted “discrimination” that would establish a “favored class of citizens.” Congress again overrode his veto. That set up an unprecedented situation, as the president was asked to administer laws he had tried to block. Instead of the promised peace, the nation found itself gripped by an accelerating crisis.

The Senate trial of Andrew Johnson
The Senate trial of Andrew Johnson. Recalled today as a folly, in fact Johnson’s impeachment spared the U.S. from the further depredations of a president who had betrayed his most basic responsibilities. (Library of Congress / Getty)
The question facing Congress, and the public, was this: What do you do with a president whose every utterance and act seems to undermine the Constitution he is sworn to uphold? At first, Republicans pursued the standard mix of legislative remedies—holding hearings and passing bills designed to strip the president of certain powers. Many members of Johnson’s Cabinet worked with their congressional counterparts to constrain the president. Johnson began to see conspiracies around every corner. He moved to purge the bureaucracy of his opponents, denouncing the “blood-suckers and cormorants” who frustrated his desires.It was the campaign of white-nationalist terror that raged through the spring and summer of 1866 that persuaded many Republicans they could not allow Johnson to remain in office. In Tennessee, where Johnson had until the year before served as military governor, a white mob opposed to black equality rampaged through the streets of Memphis in May, slaughtering dozens of people as it went. July brought a second massacre, this one in New Orleans, where efforts to enfranchise black voters sparked a riot. A mob filled with police, firemen, armed youths, and Confederate veterans shot, stabbed, bludgeoned, and mutilated dozens, many of them black veterans of the Union Army. Johnson chose not to suppress the violence, using fear of disorder to build a constituency more loyal to him than to either party.Congress opened impeachment hearings. The process unfolded in fits and starts over the next year and a half, as Johnson’s congressional opponents searched vainly for some charge that could gain the support of a majority of the House. Then Johnson handed it to them by firing his secretary of war, defying a law passed, in part, to stop him from undermining Reconstruction. The House passed 11 articles of impeachment, forcing Johnson to stand trial before the Senate. But the effort fell short by a single vote.When Johnson’s supporters learned that he had been spared, they were ecstatic. In Milwaukee, they careened down the street in a wagon, shouting for Johnson and liberty, sharing a keg of beer. In Boston and in Hartford, Connecticut, they fired 100‑gun salutes; in Dearborn, Michigan, they settled for 19 guns and bonfires. “We have stood for the last few months upon the verge of a precipice, a dark abyss of anarchy yawning at our feet,” the Maryland Democrat Stevenson Archer said, sketching an alternative result whereby “dark-skinned fiends and white-faced, white-livered vampires might rule and riot on the little blood they could still suck out by fastening on helpless throats.”But the euphoria proved short-lived. The New York Times urged Johnson’s supporters to look at the bigger picture: “Congress has assumed control of the whole matter of reconstruction, and will assert and exercise it.” Any effort to wrest control back from the House and Senate was held in check by the specter of another impeachment, which haunted Johnson’s remaining months in office. The Democrats took up Johnson’s political cause; their convention theme in 1868 was “This Is a White Man’s Country; Let White Men Rule.” But when the politically damaged Johnson made a bid for the Democratic nomination—“Why should they not take me up?”—he was refused. Ulysses S. Grant won on the Republican ticket, and threw the full force of the Army behind the project of Reconstruction. Johnson went home to Tennessee.

If the goal of impeachment was to frustrate Johnson’s efforts to make America a white man’s country again, it was an unqualified success. Instead of being remembered as a triumph, however, in the years that followed, it was memorialized as a failure. Defending the impeachment on substantive grounds required believing that all people born in the United States—white and black alike—deserved the same civil liberties. And a decade later, America changed its mind about that, abandoning the project of Reconstruction and reneging on its promise of civil rights for African Americans. Johnson had said he was fighting to preserve a “white man’s government,” and for the next century, that’s what the country largely had. Robbed of its animating force, the bill of particulars against Johnson began to seem hollow, petty, and misguided. How could it have been proper to impeach a president for undermining the Constitution’s guarantee of equality, when the nation as a whole had subsequently done the same?

The chorus of experts who now present Johnson’s impeachment as an exercise in raw partisanship are not learning from history but, rather, erasing it. Johnson used his office to deny the millions freed from bondage the equality that God had given them and that the Constitution guaranteed. To deny the justice of Johnson’s impeachment is to affirm the justice of his acts. If his impeachment was partisan, it was because one party had been formed to defend the freedom of man, and the other had not yet reconciled itself to that proposition.

Today, the United States once more confronts a president who seems to care for only some of the people he represents, who promises his supporters that he can roll back the tide of diversity, who challenges the rule of law, and who regards constitutional rights and liberties as disposable. Congress must again decide whether the greater risk lies in executing the Constitution as it was written, or in deferring to voters to do what it cannot muster the courage to do itself. The gravest danger facing the country is not a Congress that seeks to measure the president against his oath—it is a president who fails to measure up to that solemn promise.


Three Reasons House Democrats Likely Won’t Impeach Trump

Key leaders aren’t supporting calls for proceedings

President Donald Trump may avoid impeachment proceedings unless investigations uncover a whopper. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images file photo)

House Democrats will be hesitant to use their newly regained majority to launch impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump unless investigations uncover such major misdeeds that even Republicans would support the effort.

A vocal portion of House Democrats still are expected to call for Trump’s impeachment over allegations he has misused the office or committed crimes, and dozens backed an effort to force the House to consider articles of impeachment within the past year.

Watch: Now That That’s Over (Mostly) Roll Call Looks Ahead to 2020

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But key Democrats did not support that effort and have made only cautious comments when talking about the subject. They include Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., the expected chairman of the House Judiciary Committee where the impeachment process would begin, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and other party leaders.

“I think there’s some idea out there that impeachment is on the top of the agenda and this is something Democrats want to run with,” said John Hudak, a Brookings Institution fellow who has written about the topic. “I don’t think that’s the case.”

Margaret Tseng, a history and politics professor at Marymount University and author of “The Politics of Impeachment,” said it “is very unlikely Democrats would pursue something of that nature, even if they take control of the House.”

Here are three reasons Democrats would be reluctant to start impeachment proceedings against Trump:

It won’t succeed

House Democrats could impeach Trump, but two-thirds of the Senate would have to vote to remove him from office and there’s really no path to getting there with what is known about Trump today, Hudak said.

Depending on how many Democrats are in the Senate next term, about 18 Republicans would have to risk their political futures to remove a president who is popular among their party base and has criticized members of Congress from his own party.

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Hudak said the political argument would be difficult, short of a bombshell from a congressional investigation or from Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III — such as finding impeachable crimes in his probe into connections between Russian operatives and the president’s 2016 campaign.

Tseng agreed. “You’re talking about actual Republicans having to cross over the aisle and say, ‘We think these are impeachable offenses,’ ” she said.

That’s something Nadler himself has cautioned against when asked about impeachment, saying that you shouldn’t remove a president from office unless you get “an appreciable fraction” of Trump voters to agree that Democrats had to do it.

“If evidence arises that is of sufficient gravity to justify impeaching the president, and of sufficient persuasiveness to persuade people, at least by the end of the process, some of the people who voted on the other side, then you consider an impeachment, but not before,” Nadler said in a February appearance on MSNBC.

And even if Democrats could successfully remove Trump from office, they would face a President Mike Pence who would not have much different policy preferences than Trump. “What does that really do for you? Not that much,” Hudak said.

It’s a distraction

An impeachment effort would be a huge deal that would sap attention and resources from the other oversight investigations into the Trump administration that Democrats could use as a platform for the bigger prize of retaking the White House in 2020, Hudak and Tseng said.

“It would be smart for them to actually think about an agenda they could promote instead of being anti-Trump,” Tseng said.

Short of an obvious and clear violation of laws and violation of constitutional duties that would compel them to act, Democrats “can get a better bang for their buck elsewhere on their investigations,” Hudak said.

If Democrats want to highlight the incompetence and corruption they perceive in the Trump administration, then they can push investigation after investigation. That can be a more powerful narrative heading into the 2020 presidential elections than a failed impeachment effort, Hudak said.

It’s politically risky

An impeachment effort could risk appearing like a party that’s more intent on opposing Trump than improving or changing policies. And the Republican effort to impeach Bill Clinton in 1998 actually led to higher job approval ratings for the president.

“It seemed to fly in the face of what the public wanted,” Tseng said. “And the lesson would be, ‘Is this something we want to pursue because this would be a reflection of us as a party, especially ahead of a presidential election?’ ”

Pelosi recognizes that being perceived as overreaching on impeachment could hurt Democrats, even as it stirs the base of both political parties, Hudak said.

The question for Pelosi “is not whether Democrats want her to move forward with impeachment, it’s whether independents want her to move forward with impeachment,” Hudak said.



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China Is Not As Powerful As You Think

Why U.S. universities are shutting down China-funded Confucius Institutes

n January 2011, Chinese President Hu Jintao visits a Beijing-funded Confucius Institute in Chicago — housed at Walter Payton College Preparatory High School. (Pool photo via AP )

January 11

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has made a huge effort to promote China’s image as a global leader. In a Jan. 2 speech, Chinese leader Xi Jinping reiterated the theme of China’s “great rejuvenation,” a view that emphasizes the “Chinese Dream,” a return to the nation’s former glory as a global powerhouse.

But do these efforts actually work? In October, Vice President Pence complained that the “Chinese Communist Party is spending billions of dollars on propaganda outlets in the United States, as well as other countries.” This week, reports emerged that at least 10 U.S. universities had closed their Confucius Institutes(CIs), saying a polite “no thanks” to these Chinese-funded language and cultural programs on college campuses.

What’s the story on China’s big PR drive and the ensuing pushback — and how do CIs fit in? Here’s what you need to know.

China looks to tighten control of its image

The CCP and Xi have launched a full-fledged campaign to “tell China’s story well,” spending billions of dollars on propaganda efforts — including the purchase of paid supplements in major news outlets like the Economist and The Washington Post. Yet while an authoritarian state like China can control political discussion at home, it is more difficult to craft a message of benevolent paternalism abroad. China’s efforts to improve its image overseas at times have been ham-handed and the subject of parody, or sometimes ignored.

Nevertheless, the CCP continues to try. In recent years it has grown increasingly concerned with what it calls “China Threat Theory,” and has looked for ways to counter foreign claims that China is a military and economic danger. The CIs are a part of the government’s response to reframe the country in positive terms.

Confucius Institutes are part of this grass roots effort

China is working actively to improve its image abroad from the ground up. CIs are arrangements on university campuses across the globe to host Chinese culture and language instructors. The Chinese Language Council International, or Hanban, oversees these institutes. This effort falls under the Ministry of Education, which ultimately is supervised by the CCP’s Central Propaganda Department.

The proliferation of Confucius Institutes since the first one opened in South Korea in 2004 is remarkable — there are more than 500 CIs operating on every continent, in locations ranging from Anchorage to Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. At their peak, CIs were on more than 100 North American college campuses.

What impact do these CIs have?

While the expansion of Confucius Institutes is impressive, it remains unclear what impact they have on promoting China’s image abroad. AidData recently investigated the impact of China’s public diplomacy efforts in East Asia and the Pacific, and the Pew Research Center has periodically checked public opinion on China at various locations across the globe — but there are few consistent and comparable surveys of local-level attitudes toward China over time. This lack of data has made it challenging to assess the extent to which China’s more localized overseas image management strategies have been successful.

Our research in a new AidData working paper addresses this issue by using data from the Global Database on Events, Language and Tone (GDELT), which algorithmically captures the tone of hundreds of thousands of media reports at thousands of locations across the world. In other words, it measures how positive or negative a story about China is. While the database has received some criticism over the accuracy of its algorithms, with careful analysis it can still be used to extract useful information, particularly about media tone.

Using geospatial techniques, our research evaluates how tone about China changes in media reports regarding events near a Confucius Institute before and after the CI opens. We find the opening of a CI subsequently enhances tone in stories about China relevant to that geographical area by about 6 percent — a small, but meaningful improvement.

Two examples illustrate how a seemingly small tone change may make a big difference to the reader. A 2014 Reuters story about protests in Hong Kong, coded by the GDELT algorithm at a score very near the average tone, used relatively neutral language like “leaving the two sides far apart in a dispute over how much political control China should have over Hong Kong.” In contrast, a 2016 story from Pakistan’s Express Tribune, which was scored 6 percent more positively by the GDELT algorithm, uses noticeably more upbeat language including phrases like “projects had taken the two countries’ friendship to a new height.” 

Winning the battle, losing the war?

While our research suggests Confucius Institutes help facilitate an improved portrayal of China abroad, the gains may be overtaken by broader trends. In fact, despite the opening of hundreds of Confucius Institutes from 2005 to 2017, the GDELT data indicates overall global media tone about China has become markedly more negative over that time, with particular downturns from 2012 to 2013 and from 2014 to 2015. CIs might be swimming against the tide.

Indeed, high-profile scuffles in the South China Sea, accusations of debt-trap diplomacy  along China’s Belt and Road countries, and China’s repression of ethnic minorities or Nobel Peace Prize winners (and even their families) may offset any modest gains from CIs and other public diplomacy initiatives.

Despite its best efforts, China may still find molding public perception abroad of the CCP-run state is much more difficult than at home. Xi’s Chinese Dream ideal, for now, may struggle in the glare of a global spotlight. But we can be sure the CCP will continue its attempts to soften its image overseas and make adjustments when necessary.

Samuel Brazys (@sbrazys_ucd) is associate professor at the School of Politics and International Relations, University College Dublin. 

Alexander Dukalskis (@AlexDukalskis) is assistant professor at the School of Politics and International Relations, University College Dublin.

China Infiltrating U.S. Education System in Propaganda Coup

Report: From kindergarten to college, Chinese government programs indoctrinate youth

Chinese language teacher Fu Yongsheng at the Confucius Institute at the University of Lagos

Chinese language teacher Fu Yongsheng at the Confucius Institute at the University of Lagos / Getty Images


The Chinese government has infiltrated nearly every sector of the U.S. education system via a package of programs and monetary schemes that seek to indoctrinate American children and bring the Communist government’s propaganda into the classroom, according to a new report by a Senate investigatory body.

The wide-ranging report by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has found that China has spent nearly $200 million on educational entities known as Confucius Institutes. These programs have been instated in U.S. schools across the country with the mission of indoctrinating students and painting a sympathetic portrait of the Chinese Communist government, according to the report.

The institutes are shrouded in mystery and have been the cause of much consternation on Capitol Hill and elsewhere as information about their reach and power in the United States becomes clearer.

While the programs appear on their surface to be mundane—mainly focusing on language and cultural issues—the Senate committee found that these institutes constitute a threat to the United States. The Chinese government, the committee found, “is attempting to change the impression in the United States and around the world that China is an economic and security threat.”

There are more than 100 Confucius Institutes currently operating in America—the most of any country—and China has plans to open many more, according to the report.

“As China opened over 100 additional Confucius Institutes in the United States over the last 15 years, the Department of Education remained silent,” the Senate committee warns in its report.

While Confucius Institutes have become a mainstay on college campuses across the United States, the Chinese government also has plans to expand into the kindergarten through 12th grade curriculum.

“The Chinese government also funds and provides language instructors for Confucius Classrooms, which offer classes for kindergarten through 12th grade students,” according to the report. “Confucius Classrooms are currently in 519 elementary, middle, and high schools in the United States. Continued expansion of the program is a priority for China.”

Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio), a member of the Senate committee that conducted the investigation, said the bipartisan report shows a “stunning lack of transparency” about how these Chinese institutes function in the United States

“As China has expanded Confucius Institutes here in the U.S., it has systematically shut down key U.S. State Department public diplomacy efforts on Chinese college campuses,” Portman said in a statement. “We learned that schools in the United States—from kindergarten to college—have provided a level of access to the Chinese government that the Chinese government has refused to provide to the United States.”

“Absent full transparency regarding how Confucius Institutes operate and full reciprocity for U.S. cultural outreach efforts on college campuses in China, Confucius Institutes should not continue in the United States,” Portman said.

As the committee investigated these programs, it found that some U.S. schools contractually agree to uphold both Chinese and U.S. laws in order to get money for various programs.

Additionally, “the Chinese teachers sign contracts with the Chinese government pledging they will not damage the national interests of China,” according to the report. “Such limitations attempt to export China’s censorship of political debate and prevent discussion of potentially politically sensitive topics.”

U.S. school officials who spoke to Senate investigators disclosed that Confucius Institutes shun controversial topics, such as China’s poor human rights record and other hot button topics that could be damaging to the country’s reputation.

“Confucius Institutes exist as one part of China’s broader, long-term strategy,” the Senate committee concluded. “Through Confucius Institutes, the Chinese government is attempting to change the impression in the United States and around the world that China is an economic and security threat.”

There are provisions mandating that Chinese law be upheld on U.S. soil and the amount of public disclosure surrounding the institutes is extremely low. If a U.S. school were to spill the beans about these programs, the contracts—and money—would dry up.

“The Subcommittee obtained a contract between Chinese teachers and Hanban that requires Chinese instructors at U.S. schools to “‘conscientiously safeguard national interests.'” The contracts are terminated if the Chinese instructors “‘violate Chinese law’ or ‘engage in activities detrimental to national interests,'” according to the report.

Chinese teachers tied to these programs report directly to government bodies. They also are made aware that any deviation from the program will result in their termination.

“While school officials have the opportunity to interview candidates for these positions, there is little-to-no transparency into how the Chinese government selects the individuals that schools must choose from,” the report found. “Nor did U.S. school officials interviewed by the Subcommittee know if candidates would meet the school’s hiring standards.”

“Confucius Institutes report to the Chinese government’s Ministry of Education Office of Chinese Language Council International, known as ‘Hanban,'” according to the report. “Confucius Institutes are funded, controlled, and mostly staffed by Hanban to present Chinese-government approved programming to students at U.S. schools. Hanban approves each Confucius Institutes’ annual budget and has veto authority over events and speakers.”

Given the massive amount of money being spent by China on these programs, the Senate committee found evidence that U.S. schools are not properly reporting these donations, which amount to foreign gifts.

“Despite that legal requirement, nearly 70 percent of U.S. schools that received more than $250,000 from Hanban [a body that supports the programs] failed to properly report that amount to the Department of Education,” according to the report.

Despite evidence that some of the Chinese teachers are misleading the State Department about the nature of their work in the United States, the Confucius Institutes have remained largely unbothered by the U.S. government.

In 2018, the State Department revoked 32 visas for Confucius-tied teachers who, instead of doing research work as they claimed, were actually teaching at K-12 schools.

“The State Department also found evidence that one Confucius Institute Chinese director improperly coached the teachers to discuss their research during interviews with State Department investigators,” according to the report.

The State Department only conducts two to four field interviews a year.


Confucius Institute

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Confucius Institute
Confucious Institute.png
Founded 2004; 15 years ago
Type Educational organization
Focus Chinese cultureChinese language
Area served
Method Education
Confucius Institute
Traditional Chinese 孔子學院
Simplified Chinese 孔子学院

Confucius Institute of Brittany in Rennes, France

A Confucius Institute at Seneca College in TorontoCanada

Confucius Institute (Chinese孔子学院pinyinKǒngzǐ Xuéyuàn) is a non-profit public educational organization affiliated with the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China,[1] whose stated aim is to promote Chinese language and culture, support local Chinese teaching internationally, and facilitate cultural exchanges.[2][3] The organization also promotes the interests of the Chinese Communist Party in the countries in which it operates.[4]

The Confucius Institute program began in 2004 and is overseen by Hanban (officially the Office of Chinese Language Council International). The institutes operate in co-operation with local affiliate colleges and universities around the world, and financing is shared between Hanban and the host institutions. The related Confucius Classroom program partners with local secondary schools or school districts to provide teachers and instructional materials.[5][6]

China has compared Confucius Institutes to language and culture promotion organizations such as Portugal’s Instituto Camões, Brazil’s Centro Cultural Brasileiro, Britain’s British Council, France’s Alliance Française, Italy’s Società Dante Alighieri, Spain’s Instituto Cervantes and Germany’s Goethe-Institut.[7] However, unlike these organizations, many Confucius Institutes operate directly on university campuses, thus giving rise to unique concerns related to academic freedom and political influence.[1]


The first Confucius Institute (CI) opened on 21 November 2004 in Seoul, South Korea, after establishing a pilot institute in Tashkent, Uzbekistan in June 2004. The CI in South Korea is no longer active. The second Confucius Institute was opened on the campus of the University of Maryland, College Park, also in November 2004.[8] Hundreds more have opened since in dozens of countries around the world, with the highest concentration of Institutes in the United States, Japan, and South Korea.[9] In April 2007, the first research-based Confucius Institute opened in Waseda University in Japan. In partnership with Peking University, the program promotes research activities of graduate students studying Chinese.[10] As of 2014, there were over 480 Confucius Institutes in dozens of countries on six continents.[11][12] The Ministry of Education estimates that 100 million people overseas may be learning Chinese by 2010 and the program is expanding rapidly in order to keep up.[13] Hanban aims to establish 1,000 Confucius Institutes by 2020.[14]


The Confucius Institute is named after the noted Chinese philosopher Confucius (551–479 BC). Throughout the 20th century, Communist Party of China (CPC) leaders criticized and denounced Confucius as the personification of China’s “feudal” traditions, with anti-Confucianism ranging from the 1912 New Culture Movement to the 1973 Criticize Lin, Criticize Confucius campaign during the Cultural Revolution.[15] However, in recent decades, interest in pre-modern Chinese culture has grown in the country, and Confucius in particular has seen a resurgence in popularity.[16] Outside of China, Confucius is a generally recognizable symbol of Chinese culture, removed from the negative associations of other prominent Chinese figures such as chairman Mao Zedong.[17]

“Confucius Institute” is a trademarked brand name, which according to a spokesman for the organisation, “Those who enjoy more brand names will enjoy higher popularity, reputation, more social influence, and will therefore be able to generate more support from local communities.”[18] A 2011 crackdown protected “Confucius Institute” from preregistration infringement in Costa Rica.[19]

China Post article reported in 2014 that “Certainly, China would have made little headway if it had named these Mao Institutes, or even Deng Xiaoping Institutes. But by borrowing the name Confucius, it created a brand that was instantly recognized as a symbol of Chinese culture, radically different from the image of the Communist Party.”[20]

Kerry Brown, Professor of Chinese Politics at the University of Sydney, notes the irony that the CPC now lionizing Confucius had vilified him just four decades previously for his association with patriarchal, hierarchical, and conservative values.[21]


British Foreign Secretary William Hagueand Li Changchun at a signing ceremony in London, 17 April 2012, for the agreement between Confucius Institute of China and Bangor University on the establishment of Confucius Institute at Bangor University, United Kingdom. The agreement was signed by John Hughes, Vice-Chancellor of Bangor University, and Xu Lin, Director of the Confucius Institute.

Confucius Institutes (CIs) promote and teach Chinese culture and language around the world. CIs develop Chinese language courses, train teachers, hold the HSK Examination (Chinese proficiency test), host cultural and artistic presentations, and provide information about contemporary China.[22] The director of the CI program, Xu Lin, stated that CIs were started to cater to the sudden uptick in interest of the Chinese language around the world. They also provide Chinese language teaching staff from Mainland China. As of 2011, there were 200 such teachers working in the United States.[23]

Political goals

Confucius Institute also has non-academic goals. Li Changchun, the 5th-highest-ranking member of the Politburo Standing Committee, was quoted in The Economist saying that the Confucius Institutes were “an important part of China’s overseas propaganda set-up”. The statement has been seized upon by critics as evidence of a politicized mission.[24] Many foreign scholars have characterized the CI program as an exercise in soft power, expanding China’s economic, cultural, and diplomatic reach through the promotion of Chinese language and culture,[25][26] while others have suggested a possible role in intelligence collection.[27][28] The soft power goals also include assuaging concerns of a “China threat” in the context of the country’s increasingly powerful economy and military.[29]

While Chinese authorities have been cautious not to have CIs act as direct promoters of the party’s political viewpoints, a few suggest that the Confucius Institutes function in this way. Officials say that one important goal of the Institutes is to influence other countries’ view of China.[30] Peng Ming-min, a Taiwan independence activist and politician, claims that colleges and universities where a Confucius Institute is established have to sign a contract in which they declare their support for Beijing’s “One China” policy. As a result, both Taiwan and Tibet become taboo at the institutes.[31] However, this claim is in dispute. Michael Nylan, professor of Chinese historyat the University of California at Berkeley, stated that CIs have become less heavy-handed in their demands, and have learnt from “early missteps”, such as insisting that universities adopt a policy that Taiwan is part of China. Nylan’s survey of faculty and administrators at fifteen universities with Confucius Institutes revealed two reports that institutes had exerted pressure to block guest speakers, but both events went ahead anyway.[32]

The CI’s soft power goals are seen as an attempt by the PRC to modernize away from Soviet influenced propaganda of the Maoist era.[33] Other initiatives include Chinese contemporary art exhibitions, television programs, concerts by popular singers, translations of Chinese literature, and the expansion of state-run news channels such as Xinhua News Agency and China Central Television.[34]


Hanban is a non-profit government organization,[35] though it is connected with the Ministry of Education and has close ties to a number of senior Communist Party officials. The Confucius Institute headquarters in Beijing establishes the guidelines which the separate Confucius Institutes worldwide follows. The headquarters is governed by a council with fifteen members, ten of whom are directors of overseas institutes.[36] The Institutes themselves are individually managed under the leadership of their own board of directors, which should include members of the host institution.[37] The current chair of the Confucius Institute Headquarters council is Liu Yandong,[38][39] a Chinese vice premier and member of the Chinese Communist Party Politburo who formerly headed the United Front Work Department. Other leaders of the council are similarly drawn from the Communist Party and central government agencies, such as the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Education, and the State Council Information Office (also known as the Office of Overseas Propaganda).[1][40] The council sets the agenda for the Confucius Institutes and makes changes to the bylaws while other tasks and ongoing management of the Confucius Institute Headquarters are handled by the professional executive leadership headed by the director-general.[41][42]

The Chinese Government shares the burden of funding Confucius Institutes with host universities, and takes a hands-off approach to management.[43] The Institutes function independently within the guidelines established by Hanban and the Confucius Institute Headquarters. Each Institute is responsible for drawing up and managing their own budget, which is subject to approval by the headquarters. The Confucius Institute Headquarters provides various restrictions on how their funds may be used, including earmarking funds for specific purposes.[44] Institutes in the United States are generally provided with $100,000 annually from Hanban, with the local university required to match funding.[45]

In addition to their local partner university, Confucius Institutes operate in co-operation with a Chinese partner university.[46] Many Institutes are governed by a board which is composed of several members from the Chinese partner school and the remaining of the members affiliated with the local partner university.[47] At most Institutes, the director is appointed by the local partner university.[43]

Hiring policy controversy

The Hanban website stated that Chinese language instructors should be “aged between 22 to 60, physical and mental healthy, no record of participation in Falun Gong and other illegal organizations, and no criminal record.”[48] In many universities, the employer is the Chinese government, not the university.[citation needed]

Human rights lawyer Clive Ansley has argued that the part of the hiring policy that discriminates against Falun Gong believers is in contravention of anti-discrimination laws and human rights codes.[49] Marci Hamilton, Paul R. Verkuil Chair in Public Law at Yeshiva University, called this policy “unethical and illegal in the free world.”[50]

In 2013, McMaster University in Canada closed its Confucius Institute due to hiring issues over Falun Gong.[51]


The curriculum of Confucius Institutes revolves around the institute’s role as a language center.[30] Confucius Institutes teach simplified Chinese characters, which are standard in Mainland China, rather than the traditional Chinese characters used in Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Reception and controversies

In the short time-frame of their rapid expansion, the Institutes have been the subject of much controversy. Criticisms of the Institutes have included practical concerns about finance, academic viability, legal issues, and relations with the Chinese partner university, as well as ideological concerns about improper influence over teaching and research, industrial and military espionage,[27][28] surveillance of Chinese abroad, and undermining Taiwanese influence.[52] There has also been organized opposition to the establishment of a Confucius Institute at University of Melbourne,[53] University of Manitoba,[54] Stockholm University,[55][56] University of Chicago[57] and many others. More significantly, some universities that hosted Confucius Institutes decided to terminate their contracts. These include Japan’s Osaka Sangyo University in 2010;[58] Canada’s McMaster University and Université de Sherbrooke,[59][60] and France’s University of Lyon in 2013;[20] the University of ChicagoPennsylvania State University, and the Toronto District School Board in 2014.[61][62][63] and the German Stuttgart Media University and University of Hohenheim in 2015.[64][65]

Controversy regarding Confucius Institutes in the US, Australian, and Canadian press include criticism that unlike other governments’ language and culture promotion organizations, the Confucius Institutes operate within established universities, colleges, and secondary schools around the world, providing funding, teachers and educational materials.[1][27][66] This has raised concerns over their influence on academic freedom, the possibility of industrial espionage,[67] and concerns that the institutes present a selective and politicized view of China as a means of advancing the country’s soft power internationally.[1][66][68]

In December 2014, Stockholm University, the first university in Europe to host a Confucius Institute, announced it was terminating the program. Press coverage of the Braga incident in the Swedish press was said to have influenced the decision. “Generally it is questionable to have, within the framework of the university, institutes that are financed by another country,” said the university’s chancellor.[69]

Underlying such opposition is concern by professors that a Confucius Institute would interfere with academic freedom and be able to pressure the university to censor speech on topics the Communist Party of China objects to.[70] An article in The Chronicle of Higher Education writes that here is little evidence of meddling from China although the same article did go on to say the Institutes were “distinct in the degree to which they were financed and managed by a foreign government.”[45] After interviewing China scholars, journalists and CI directors, a writer for The Diplomat also found little support for the concern that CIs would serve as propaganda vehicles, though some of her sources did note that they would face constraints in their curriculum on matters such as Tibet and human rights.[71] An article in The New York Times quotes Arthur Waldron, a professor of international relations at the University of Pennsylvania, that the key issue is academic independence. “Once you have a Confucius Institute on campus, you have a second source of opinions and authority that is ultimately answerable to the Chinese Communist Party and which is not subject to scholarly review.”[72]

In October 2013, University of Chicago professor Marshall Sahlins published an extensive investigative article criticizing the Confucius Institutes and the universities hosting them.[73] Later, more than 100 faculty members signed a protest against the Confucius Institute at the University of Chicago.[74] In September 2014, the University of Chicago suspended its negotiation for renewal of the agreement with Hanban.[75] Two months later, the Canadian Association of University Teachers urged Canadian universities and colleges to end ties with the Confucius Institute.[76]

In June 2014, the American Association of University Professors issued a statement urging American universities to cease their collaboration with the Confucius Institute unless the universities can have unilateral control of the academia affairs, that the teachers in Confucius Institutes can have the same academic freedom enjoyed by other university faculty members, and that the agreements between universities and Confucius Institutes are available to the community.[77] The AAUP statement was widely noticed by US media and prompted extensive further debate in the US.[78][79][80][81]

Two months later, in August 2014, Xu Lin, Director-General of the Hanban and Chief Executive of the CIs worldwide, became embroiled in an incident in Braga, Portugal, when Xu ordered her staff to rip pages referring to Taiwanese academic institutions from the published program for the European Association for Chinese Studies conference in Braga, claiming the materials were “contrary to Chinese regulations”.[82] The Wall Street Journal described Xu’s attempted censorship as the “bullying approach to academic freedom”.[83]

In September 2014, the University of Chicago closed their CI after pressure from faculty members, blaming Xu’s comments that her threatening letter and phone call forced the university to continue hosting the institute.[61][84] The Business Spectator concludes that the Xu Lin’s hardline behavior highlights one of the biggest problems for Beijing’s charm offensive. “It still relies on officials like Xu, who still think and act like party ideologues who like to assert their authority and bully people into submission.”[85] Less than a week later, Pennsylvania State University also cut ties with the Confucius Institute after coming to the conclusion that “its objectives were not in line with the Institute’s”.[86]

In December of that same year, the United States House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations held a hearing entitled “Is Academic Freedom Threatened by China’s Influence on U.S. Universities?”.[87] Chairman Chris Smith said, “U.S. colleges and universities should not be outsourcing academic control, faculty and student oversight or curriculum to a foreign government”, and called for a GAO study into agreements between American universities and China.[88] On 5 December 2014, PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying denied the House testimony and said “We have assisted with supplying teachers and textbooks at the request of the U.S. side but have never interfered with academic freedom.”[89]

Controversy continued to exist in 2018 as U.S. congress members from Texas wrote a letter to four universities in that state urging them to close their Confucius Institutes. Texas A&M did so shortly after receiving the letter. In their coverage of the closure, Inside Higher Edreported that the concerns about the institutes had shifted “from one about academic freedom and integrity to one about the Chinese government’s overseas influence activities and concerns about espionage on U.S. campuses.”[90] On 19 February 2019, Leiden University in The Netherlands has promised to end agreement with Confucius Institute in August 2019. [91]

See also



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