Should President Trump be impeached? That question has been percolating among Americans virtually since the day after he was elected. It didn’t matter what he did or what he said, they wanted him out, even before he was inaugurated. Voter fraud, collusion, any “trumped up” charge would do.
According to most polls about 40% of the electorate are in favor of impeachment. As one would expect, the issue is extremely divisive: about 70% of African Americans and Dems are in favor, compared to only 30% of whites. Hispanics and women are virtually split.
Let’s examine the situation. Although I am a Trump supporter I will endeavor to be objective.
First of all, it is important to understand what impeachment is, what are the criteria for it and what the procedure is. I maintain that few of us who are not constitutional lawyers have the foggiest idea of the answers to those questions, which, to me, casts doubt on the validity of those aforementioned polls.
- Basically, impeachment is the process by which certain officeholders can be removed. In this case we are discussing the possible impeachment of the President.
- The constitution lays out the procedure. Firstly, the House of Representatives, brings charges, aka the articles of impeachment. Passage would be by a simple majority of those present and voting. Passage means the President has been impeached, but it does not mean he is removed, not by a long shot. It is merely the first step, much like an indictment in a criminal case.
- The Senate then tries the President. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presides over the trial. Conviction (and removal) requires a 2/3 vote.
- The constitution spells out the grounds for impeachment as “treason, bribery, or other ‘high crimes and misdemeanors.’ ” It does not clarify what exactly constitutes a “high crime and misdemeanor,” but in 1970 then-House Minority Leader, Gerald R. Ford famously opined that an impeachable offense is “whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history.” Some examples would be perjury of oath, abuse of authority, bribery, intimidation, misuse of assets or dereliction of duty.
Only two presidents have ever been impeached, and neither was convicted. Andrew Johnson was impeached in 1868 for violating the Tenure of Office Act. (This law, which was annulled in 1887, restricted the authority of the President to remove certain officeholders without Senate approval.) Remember, Johnson, who was very unpopular, had been elected vice president, not president, and had succeeded to the presidency upon the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Although a simple majority of the Senate (35 – 19) voted for conviction it fell one vote short of the required 2/3 majority, so Johnson was acquitted.
President Clinton was impeached in 1998 on the grounds of perjury and obstruction of justice. He was also acquitted.
The “bar” set by the constitution is very high and deservedly so. Overturning the will of the voters in a legal election should NOT be undertaken lightly.
Furthermore, you will note that the grounds for impeachment DO NOT INCLUDE disliking the President or his policies. I would “bet the farm” that a large majority of those voting in the aforementioned polls do not understand the process or the criteria, and many of them did not even deign to vote in 2016.
Roughly half of the country dislikes Mr. Trump intensely. Fine. In my opinion, much of their animus has been fueled by an extremely biased media and an opposition that 18 months later still cannot believe how they could have possibly lost the 2016 election. But, that doesn’t matter now. There are no “do-overs.” Mr. Trump won fair and square, and the constitution does not consider disliking an officeholder to be grounds for impeachment.
In my opinion, if we had impeached every president who was unlikeable, personally, or a womanizer very few presidents would have been able to serve out their terms. Think back through history, and tell me I am wrong. My message to Trump-haters is get over it and work harder to vote him out of office in 2020.