To impeach, or not to impeach. That is the question. (Apologies to William Shakespeare.)
When the long-awaited Mueller Report was issued in April he declined to answer any questions regarding it. His attitude to any questions regarding said report was that the report “speaks for itself.” Well, his recent speech that he probably hoped would clarify matters did just the opposite. In essence, he said that (a) his committee could not find enough evidence to charge Mr. Trump with a crime, but, on the other hand, (b) it did not find sufficient evidence to exonerate him either, and (c) Congress had the constitutional right (or maybe duty) to pursue the matter further if it chose to do so.
Huh? I thought that our system of jurisprudence operated on the premise that one was innocent until proven guilty. Until and unless that time, one is not guilty, not innocent, but not guilty. So, following that premise why isn’t Mr. Trump considered to be not guilty? I don’t know, except, perhaps, that his haters won’t acknowledge it under any circumstances.
It appears to me that Mueller was saying that Mr. Trump might, in fact, be guilty of some crime, but his committee just couldn’t find sufficient evidence to prove it. Put another way, according to Mueller Mr. Trump was not not guilty. Confused? Well, you’re not the only one.
The “anti-Trumpers” have interpreted Mueller’s puzzling action as license to pursue impeachment. The far left firebrands, such as Jerry Nadler, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, CA Representative Adam Schiff, news commentators such as Don Lemon, Chris Cuomo and Chris Matthews, entertainers, such as Robert De Niro and the “View Ladies,” and virtually all the declared Dem presidential candidates are virtually frothing at the mouth to pursue impeachment. TDS is running amok once again.
The only notable Dems who have thus far retained some degree of restraint and sanity regarding this issue are Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden. Pelosi, being Speaker, is trying to tread a fine line between the firebrands and the moderate Dems. She is shrewd enough to realize that impeachment is a loser, politically. If you doubt me, just research how it backfired on the GOP when they sought to impeach Bill Clinton, who actually had committed a couple of crimes. Biden, the frontrunner, realizes he is likely the one who will have to defend this action in 2020 to moderates and independents.
For the most part, the politicians who have been making the most noise are those who do not have to be concerned about political repercussions. They are either senators who are not up for re-election in 2020, governors who do not have to vote on impeachment, or representatives from “safe” districts. The newly-elected reps from purple districts that Mr. Trump won in 2016 realize that impeachment is not popular in their districts, and they definitely do not want to be forced to vote on it.
So, what is impeachment? When can it be applied? By whom? What is the process? Read on.
Article I, Section 2, Clause 5 of the Constitution grants the House of Representatives the “sole power of impeachment.” Article I, Section 3, Clause 6 grants the Senate the “sole power to try all impeachments.” An official can be impeached for crimes committed either while in office or prior to taking office. The crimes specified are “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” What the Founding Fathers meant by that last one is unclear. It is not defined in the Constitution or anywhere else.
Officials have been impeached for non-criminal as well as criminal offenses. For example, two of the articles of impeachment against President Andrew Johnson were based on “rude speech” that “reflected badly” on the office of the presidency. Conversely, not all crimes are impeachable. For example, former President Richard Nixon’s alleged tax fraud was considered to be “private conduct” and not an impeachable offense. There was, of course, plenty else to impeach him for. Confusing? Well, former President Gerald Ford cleared it right up. In 1970, as House Minority Leader, he famously opined that an impeachable offense was “whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history.” Got it?
When the president is being impeached the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is required to preside. Conviction requires a two-thirds vote of Senators present. How many presidents has the House impeached? Who were they? How many has the Senate found guilty? See answers below.
Basically, the procedure is as follows:
1. The Congress investigates. Generally, any investigations will be commenced by the House Judiciary Committee, but this is not a requirement.
2. The full House must pass, by a simple majority of those present, articles of impeachment. This would be akin to an indictment in criminal cases.
3. The full Senate tries the accused, voting on each article separately. Conviction requires a two-thirds vote of those present and results in removal from office.
Whether or not the House proceeds with the impeachment of Mr. Trump and whether or not the Senate convicts him is anybody’s guess. It does appear, however, as if momentum for it is growing. One can debate whether or not Mr. Trump’s conduct, or rather, alleged misconduct, has risen to the appropriate level. You can reach your own conclusion.
But, I feel strongly that a lengthy impeachment trial on the eve of a presidential election would not be beneficial to the country. Firstly, Congress would be distracted from addressing the serious issues afflicting the country, such as healthcare, infrastructure, border security, student debt, and income inequality, among others. That was what they were elected for and what most voters want, not impeachment.
Secondly, as much as the Trump-haters want to “get” him, history has shown it is a loser, politically. Some of you may recall that following the Clinton impeachment the voters punished the GOP severely during the next election.
Thirdly, if Mr. Trump were to be convicted and removed from office the 2016 election would not be negated. Hillary Clinton would not become president. Mike Pence would, and he would be eligible to serve for two additional terms, whereas Mr. Trump is only eligible for one more.
Fourthly, there is an election in 18 months. If the Dems want to remove Mr. Trump from office, here’s a novel idea – WIN THE ELECTION.
Quiz answers: Two presidents have been impeached – Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. Both were acquitted, although Johnson survived by only one vote. Richard Nixon resigned before he could be impeached.