Are Harvard and Georgetown profs recruiting students to make the case for a Trump impeachment?
Harvard University’s Laurence Tribe and Georgetown University’s Joshua Matz have
much in common:
They both despise President Donald Trump, they both teach classes that attack Trump
and they are co-authoring a book, To End a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment.
As is their right. What isn’t right is how they both appear to be handpicking students to
do their research, without the students knowing. What other conclusion can you reach
when you examine the details of how the students are being recruited and the content of
their assigned course work? In effect, both professors are honing legal arguments against
Trump’s travel ban, sanctuary city and other policies as evidence for a House
impeachment and Senate trial of Trump.
First, consider Tribe, well known and long-adored in liberal circles who has been
conducting his own Tweet-war against Trump. A constitutional law professor, Tribe has
asserted that Trump’s actions have raised “profound” questions about the ability of our
constitutional form self-government to survive. He also serves as the “citizen attorney
general” in the Shadow Cabinet, a campaign started by elite progressives to challenge
Trump’s alleged violations of law.
Tribe’s Harvard class this spring is “Constitutional Law 3.0: The Trump Trajectory,”
attendance only by Tribe’s permission and no prior courses required. Lots of room there
for subjective judgment about whether the 12 students to be selected sufficiently share
Tribe’s disdain for Trump.
As the course catalog describes it:
- “No auditors will be allowed.”
- “Exam Type: No Exam.”
- “In addition to attending and participating in every seminar meeting, each student
will be responsible for writing two very short paper (5 double-spaced pages max
for each paper) during the course of the seminar. The paper topics will be
assigned around a week before the papers are due. All papers will be due two days
before the session in which they will be used to facilitate class discussion of the
assigned materials. Students who also opt to write a substantial 1 credit paper in
conjunction with the seminar on the topic to be approved by the instructor will
receive 3 credits in all.”
- “Required texts: None. All assigned materials will be posted online and/or
available in hard copy form at Hauser 418.”
- “Students who also opt to write a substantial 1-credit paper in conjunction with
the seminar on a topic to be approved by the instructor will receive 3 credits in
No exam? No text? No auditors to see what’s going on for real? Three credits for a paper
on a topic of the professor’s choosing? Probably no debate either. No consideration of
opposing views. Just turn in research that could provide fodder for the anti-Trump
Now for Joshua Matz, the co-author of To End a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment.
As if a hint is needed about what his Georgetown law course is about, it’s called
“Constitutional Litigation in the Current Administration.”
His resume provides further clues: An attorney in private practice, he is co-counsel in
lawsuits against Trump regarding his potential conflict of interest as president and a
businessman under the Constitution’s Foreign and Domestic Emoluments clause. He also
is involved on the liberal side in other legal actions. He has co-authored two other books
with Tribe, The Constitutional Inevitability of Same-Sex Marriage and Uncertain Justice:
The Roberts Court and the Constitution.
Here’s how the course guide describes what he’ll be teaching:
“In its first year, the Trump Administration has seen an unprecedented number of legal
challenges to the constitutionality of its actions. That includes battles over travel bans,
sanctuary city policies, orders regarding transgender servicemen, the President’s use of
Twitter, and presidential compliance with Emoluments Clauses. In this seminar, we will
study major challenges to the Trump Administration as a vehicle for exploring the
fundamentals of constitutional litigation.” The “major challenges” are Trump’s travel ban
and sanctuary city executive orders and whether he is complying with the Emoluments
“In the final four weeks, we will cover other discrete constitutional issues or litigation’s
related to this Administration – depending, in part, on what cases have been filed as of
March and April, 2018. It is likely, though not certain, that we will cover the lawsuit
against President Trump for excluding followers from his private Twitter account, as well
as legal challenges to the President’s ‘transgender ban’ for the armed forces.”
See any similarities here to the syndicated TV show, “How to Get away with Murder,” in
which a law professors uses his students to research cases in which she’s involved? How
convenient that Matz has a corral of students ready and willing to produce the case law
and evidence that would help Matz in his lawsuits.
So, the question becomes: Who is funding and backing this seminar? How can
Georgetown and Harvard approve courses that could give a professor such a free hand for
promulgating his views and providing content for a book? It probably shouldn’t be a
surprise. But is it ethical or conform to higher education’s mission to search for truth
instead of partisan propaganda? When do schools go too far in allowing their classrooms
to be used for partisan legal research? How would they respond if a couple of professors
interested in defending Trump asked for the same classroom privileges?
A law school course exploring constitutional and separation of powers questions is
clearly a legitimate exercise. But when they are conducted by such dedicated partisans
who are writing a book with the same slant or engaging in a lawsuit on the same topic, it
is clearly a legitimate question as to its propriety.
How interesting that Democrats rail against a Republican president for his “authoritarian
tendencies.” Yet it was just fine for the previous Democratic president to have similar
tendencies. Talk about hypocrisy.
The progressive Democratic movement now appears to be pushing an impeachment
movement, otherwise known as a witch-hunt, against a Republican president when they
had little inclination to move with such energy and passion against former President
Barak Obama when he was churning out executive orders that reached beyond his
Impeachment Trump for “high crimes and misdemeanors?” Fat chance. But it sure is a
profitable way for some lawyers to make a living building up the false hope of Trump
getting booted out of the White House.