I was not tuning in when Professor Pamela S. Karlan inadvertently appeared to enrage Trump’s defenders at Wednesday’s impeachment hearing with constitutional law experts. I learned that something happened with Barron Trump thanks to a Twitter notification that alerted me to Melania’s tweet: “A minor child deserves privacy and should be kept out of politics. Pamela Karlan, you should be ashamed of your very angry and obviously biased public pandering, and using a child to do it.”
I began to wonder what on earth Prof. Karlan could have said to provoke such an over-the-top response, especially from Melania, who had so far stayed silent about her husband’s looming impeachment. Did Prof. Karlan make fun of Barron? Did she imply something unseemly about Trump’s relationship with his youngest son? As I tried to imagine what offensive horror Prof. Karlan uttered, I found the surprising answer:
“Contrary to what President Trump says, Article II does not give him the power to do anything he wants. The Constitution says there can be no titles of nobility. So, while the president can name his son Barron, he can’t make him a baron.”
If the rule is that impeachment witnesses should avoid any mention of Trump’s minor children (of which he has only one) regardless of context or purpose, then Prof. Karlan is guilty as charged. Rather than split hairs, Prof. Karlan promptly apologized, while being sure to call on Trump to do the same “for the things that he’s done that’s wrong.”
Prof. Karlan’s mention of Barron was nothing more than that, and so Melania’s claim that she was invading Barron’s privacy and shamefully “using a child” for public pandering is absurd. Prof. Karlan was not picking on Barron—she was picking Barron because his name happens to be a homophone of a title of nobility, and Prof. Karlan thought she could more cleverly refute Trump’s dangerously erroneous claim that the Constitution anointed him a king by naming Barron. Prof. Karlan’s statement indeed had a critical tone, but all her criticism was aimed at Trump, not Barron.
Trump’s defenders have avoided any legitimate denial of the facts or cogent argument as to why Trump’s conduct is not impeachable. Instead, they have been resorting to doing things such as paint Prof. Karlan as a monster whose remark somehow proves that Trump’s impeachment is a hoax. For example, Fox News’ Laura Ingraham insisted on Twitter that “Karlan’s cheap shot invoking Baron Trump’s name just lost them any shred of hope that they’re going to win this impeachment battle in the court of public opinion.” (Does Ingraham expect us to take her seriously when she manages to confuse Barron with Baron?) As the truth behind Trump’s unprecedented constitutional violations gets revealed and his presidency’s downward spiral accelerates, it is becoming clear that Trump’s defenders have nothing to offer but shiny objects and faux outrage.