“The President of the United States would be liable to be impeached, tried, and upon conviction of treason, bribery, or other crimes and misdemeanors…” said Alexander Hamilton, the Federalist, in 1788.
Benjamin Franklin made this point clear to his fellow delegates at America’s Constitutional Convention in 1787, and Hamilton reaffirmed it in The Federalist Papers. Franklin said “It would be the best way to provide in the Constitution for the regular punishment of the Executive when his misconduct should deserve it, and for his honorable acquittal when he should be unjustly accused.”
The framers of the American Constitution knew that power corrupts and they established impeachment as a legal and peaceful means for escaping tyranny without having to resort to revolution or assassination.
Criteria for impeachment and removal were set broadly in the American Constitution recognizing that the presidential misdeeds can take many forms and trusting in the judgement of America’s elected representatives.
In retrospect, impeachment and trial did not unjustly harm Presidents Johnson or Clinton. Nor did they weaken the office of the president. Andrew Johnson emerged from his acquittal a chastened and better president than before. During the remaining months of his term, Johnson ceased his obstinate obstruction of congressional Reconstruction, which enabled Congress to continue the process of integrating free slaves into national life. Bill Clinton’s public approval remained robust through the ordeal of investigation, impeachment, and acquittal.
The resignation of Richard Nixon was a different case. He was faced with the prospects of impeachment and conviction. His resignation removed from Office a president who threatened America’s constitutional order and likely had committed treason and crimes against humanity in Southeast Asia.
As for Mr. Trump, his lack of presidential stature and demeanor might offend, but those are not offenses worthy of impeachment. Differences of policy and values, whether they are rational or not, do not make a case for impeachment, either. However, Trump’s history and the path he’s followed-as candidate, president-elect, and president- clearly shows that he is uniquely vulnerable to impeachment. Mr. Trump is now in his third year of presidency and he has already begun matching the abuses of President Nixon.
Former lawyers in the Obama administration have a working group to monitor violations of the law and the Constitution by Donald Trump. But the fate of President Trump will ultimately rest with the democratic activism of the American people.
Whether or not there was a traitorous collusion with the Russians still seems subject to many question marks. But one thing appears almost certain: Mr. Trump continues to clash with the law, the Constitution, the environment, and the American nation’s traditions and its security. As an observer of American politics, I think the American people would be fully justified to demand his impeachment.
I have read serious articles in the American press noting that Trump continues to commit impeachable offenses at an unprecedented pace. Recently, the New York Times revealed that Deutsche Bank’s internal investigators raised concerns that the portfolios of Trump and his son-in -law Jared Kushner involved money laundering. Trump is suing Deutsche Bank to block it from complying with congressional investigators. Clearly, the notion that the president is entitled to engage in red-flagged dealings with money launderers, and conceal it from Congress and the public, constitutes a wild transgression of transparency norms.
Also recently, the Times reported Trump is preparing pardons for several American war criminals. Trump has long fantasized about war crimes and human-rights violations as part of his idealized military even proposing that the United States seize Iraqi oil as spoils of war. His progressive pardoning of war criminals are steps toward institutionalizing this vision as de facto law.
There are also serious allegations that Mr. Trump is using financial blackmail in support of fallacious legal arguments in order to cover up clear instances of obstruction of justice.
It seems what cynics had waved off as Trump’s cartoonish musings is slowly seeping its way into sanctioned government policy. The Trumpian misconduct appears to be an ongoing process with no clear endpoint. The impeachable offenses just keep coming.