R Street is concerned with policy, not politics. We don’t take sides in elections, and our tax status bars us from doing so. To my knowledge, all current full-time R Street staffers who have worked in politics on campaigns or for high officials have done so for Republicans (although some have worked for Democrats as well). That said, we’re not a group that’s going to go out and support the president without question because he is a Republican. Although I have never surveyed our staff and wouldn’t do so, I know individuals at R Street who voted for Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Gary Johnson and Evan McMullin—basically everyone who ran a national campaign. So I can say that there is no consensus view on the current president.
With proposals to impeach Donald Trump and try him in the Senate now dominating the discussion, however, we felt it necessary to point out that while it might be technically within the parameters of our tax status to take an institutional position on impeachment, we won’t do so. Impeachment is fundamentally a political act, and there are political calculations involved. It’s simply not our game.
We do, however, as an organization encourage all of our staff to express their personal views on pressing matters if they would like. They may identify with R Street, of course, when they express these views, but unless they say something like “the R Street Institute supports,” they are speaking for themselves. My own personal opinion on the impeachment question is that the bar for removing a president who has won an election ought to be awfully high. It’s clear the Constitution allows impeachment for essentially any reason. But while Trump has violated many norms I think are important and pursued many policies with which I disagree, what I currently know about his conduct doesn’t merit his removal from office or even impeachment. Evidence could change my mind about this, of course, and new details seem to surface by the minute. My own view, for now, is that if Democrats want a new president, they should beat Trump at the ballot box.
That said, I know that others at R Street think differently about this issue and the necessary bar for impeachment. This is a reasonable thing to do. And you’ll see them in the media: Paul Rosenzweig worked with Ken Starr on the Clinton impeachment and has been in the media as a commentator on the Trump impeachment; board member Bob Inglis, then a member of the House, helped draft the articles of impeachment against Clinton; and Jim Baker was more recently general counsel of the FBI. In addition, several members of our governance team are experts on the procedures Congress would use in an impeachment. Others at R Street could well end up weighing in on other issues, ranging from the technology involved with alleged foreign interference in electoral processes to the types of criminal penalties Trump and his associates could potentially face.
We’ll give lots of commentary, and it’s quite possible that some people at R Street will come out for or against impeaching the president and/or removing him from office, just as others may personally come out for or against people standing for political office. But we’re not going to take an institutional position.