How far is too far? The Trump impeachment debate begins now.
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Professor Allan Lichtman, distinguished professor of history at American University, was one of the handful of analysts who correctly predicted Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpAssange meets U.S. congressman, vows to prove Russia did not leak him documents A history lesson on the Confederacy for President Trump GOP senator: Trump hasn't 'changed much' since campaign MORE would win the presidential election in 2016. Give Lichtman great credit for an inventing a system for predicting the outcome of presidential elections that has proven correct for 30 years.

Now Professor Licthman is back in the limelight with a new book titled, "The Case for Impeachment," predicting a strong chance that before the Trump administration is finished, the president will be impeached. Lichtman offers a series of arguments that he says make a strong case for impeachment. In this piece, I will focus on one of them — the issue of financial corruption.

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Lichtman has written what may be the most important book of the year. American politics has become so corrupted by money that it is easy to forget where greed ends and impeachable offenses begin. American politicians are so consumed with hype, exaggeration, attacks, counter-attacks, self-promotion and bogus claims of greatness that it can become hard to separate the wheat from the chaff and realize which matters are truly impeachable.

 

Lichtman puts matters into historical perspective. While Trump is the gold standard for politicians bearing false witness, some things he has done are worse than others for purposes of seriously discussing impeachment. When the Founding Fathers gave the world the U.S. Constitution, it was clear they agreed that abusing the presidency for financial gain was one of the most egregious offenses that merited impeachment.

Much discussion today centers around the Emoluments Clause, which there is a reasonable chance that Trump is violating. That clause prohibits foreign governments from enriching American presidents.

The Constitution goes further. The wording of the main clause reads that impeachable offenses include, "treason, bribery and other high crimes and misdemeanors." In other words "bribery" is an impeachable offense, without regard to who is offering the bribe. 

Take Turkey. Previously, when Trump was asked about Turkey in interviews, he admitted he had a "conflict of interest" because of his substantial interests there. He cited his wonderful and spectacular Trump Tower in Turkey — which is actually two towers, he proudly proclaimed.

In the past, Ivanka Trump has tweeted high praise for the controversial president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who, like Vladimir Putin, has put many political opponents in jail. Last Sunday, Turkey passed a referendum that granted Erdogan powers that are virtually dictatorial despite widespread charges of election fraud.

Who was the one leader of a major democracy who called Erdogan to congratulate him on his "victory"? It was President Trump; he made the call while his State Department and leading election observers questioned the legitimacy and integrity of the vote.

Does Trump still have huge business interests in Turkey that accounted for his praise of Erdogan? Almost certainly yes, but Trump has not disclosed the full range of his business interests.

Candidate Trump said repeatedly that China is "raping" America economically — his words, not mine. He is currently executing one of the greatest flip flops and retreats in presidential history, backing off his charge and reversing his policy. Will he now accept what he once called China's economic rape of America? 

Ivanka Trump played a prominent role in the recent visit of the Chinese President Xi Jinping to America, as she played a prominent role in the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to America. Was this because of her expertise on foreign affairs or national security?  Hardly. The Trump family has business interests in China and Japan, which were advanced in the moments she was in meetings with their leaders.

The Trumps are running the White House like the epicenter of a family business, while the president keeps quiet on his tax returns after repeatedly promising during the campaign to release them and his White House visitor logs. All of this after criticizing President Obama for not releasing enough about his past!

The Washington Post, New York Times and other news outlets have published long, detailed stories describing rampant conflicts of interest involving Trump and his administration. 

Isn't it amazing how many close advisors to Trump have had meetings with Russians, including agents of influence and bankers associated with Vladimir Putin? Was there collusion or coordination between Russians and the Trump campaign? Does Trump have business interests or loans tied to Russia or other unfriendly nations that influence his decisions as president?

Trump, who offered phony populism throughout his campaign, has created an administration that is the height of crony capitalism, insider transactions, conflicts of interests and "pay for play".  Compared to Trump, Bill and Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonAssange meets U.S. congressman, vows to prove Russia did not leak him documents High-ranking FBI official leaves Russia probe OPINION | Steve Bannon is Trump's indispensable man — don't sacrifice him to the critics MORE look like St. Francis of Assisi and Mother Theresa.

The Senate Intelligence Committee should subpoena Trump's tax returns to determine whether Trump has business interests with Russia, China or other foreign nations that could influence his decisions as president.

Senate Democrats should demand that, before any tax reform is enacted, there must be full disclosure of Trump's tax returns and business interests to determine whether the president is pushing tax laws that benefit him financially. 

Our Founding Fathers believed in a presidency that should never be used for personal financial gain for the president or his family. I am not today calling for the initiation of impeachment proceedings against Trump, but I am suggesting that Professor Lichtman is right: America should now begin a serious debate about how far is too for the leader of the land of the free and the home of the brave.

 

Brent Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), then-chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Contributors blog and reached at brentbbi@webtv.net.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.