On Tuesday, the House Democrats announced that they would be bringing two articles of impeachment against President Trump, which will be voted on by the full House of Representatives and passed on to the Senate. The charges against Trump are: 1) obstructing Congress 2) abusing presidential power.
There has been a lot of misinformation presented in the impeachment hearings and by the talking heads on TV.
I highly doubt any of them have done extensive research on what they are talking about.
That is the purpose of this article, to provide the public with some much-needed knowledge on what constitutes an impeachable offense according to the Founders, and to provide a brief history of past impeachments.
The talking heads in the media—including some conservatives—claim that the House impeachment process is a purely political decision. They like to quote former President Gerald Ford who once remarked that “the only honest answer is that an impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history.”
That is not entirely true. Proponents of this view cite Alexander Hamilton who wrote the following in Federalist 65:
“They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated POLITICAL, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.”
The talking heads are taking Hamilton out of context, as Professor Alan Dershowitz explained on Fox News the other night: “Alexander Hamilton is misquoted all the time. He used the word political, but he didn’t say the process should be political. He said the crimes, treason, bribery, high crimes, misdemeanors are political in nature, but the process should be nonpartisan and nobody should be impeached and removed unless there is an overwhelming bipartisan consensus.”
People who say that this is purely a political process diminish the meanings of the four criteria given for impeachment in the constitution: treason, bribery, high crimes and misdemeanors.
The Democrats have not been able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the president is guilty of any of those four criteria.
The definitions of treason and bribery are well known, but what “high crimes and misdemeanors” actually are is not common knowledge.
Dershowitz illuminated what the difference between a high and low crime was by explaining his opposition to both Trump and Bill Clinton’s impeachment: “I opposed Bill Clinton’s impeachment for the same reason that I oppose Donald Trump’s impeachment. There was no widespread consensus. There was no clear high crime. What Bill Clinton committed was a low crime, a crime to protect his personal life.”
The Democrats accuse the president of obstructing Congress. That criteria for impeachment is spelled out nowhere in the constitution. They claim that the president is illegally preventing witnesses and documents from being brought before Congress.
There is a reason for that, and that reason is the Separation of Powers clause in the Constitution. The president is simply asserting his constitutional rights as head of the Executive Branch. There is no obstruction of Congress charge in the Constitution; there is simply the separation of powers. To say Trump is “obstructing Congress” is to completely make up a brand new crime.
There is even some debate as to whether the president could take some legal action on his own to protest the impeachment since none of the charges meet the requirements for impeachment outlined in the Constitution.
For example, if the Senate reduced the number of Senators required to remove a president from 67 to 55, that would clearly be voided by the Supreme Court. The president could in theory challenge his removal from office via the Supreme Court because the articles of impeachment brought by the Democrats don’t align with the text of the Constitution.
The Senate won’t vote to remove Trump from office, but it is an important legal point to discuss nonetheless.
Only two other presidents have been impeached: Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. Richard Nixon would have almost assuredly been impeached, but he saw the writing on the wall and resigned from office before the House could vote for his impeachment.
The House was set to vote on three articles of impeachment against Nixon: 1) Obstruction of justice 2) Misuse of law enforcement and intelligence agencies for political purposes 3) Refusing to comply with the Judiciary Committee’s subpoenas.
No president has ever been completely removed from office. President Andrew Johnson fell just one vote short of being removed from office. President Clinton was narrowly saved from removal by a 50-50 vote on the charge of obstruction of justice. He was acquitted on a 45-55 vote on perjury.
Now, for only the third time in American history, the President of the United States is being impeached, and the effort is being led entirely by the Democrats.
Given the historical record just presented, history should judge them harshly.