The how and why of impeachment

The Constitution gives Congress the authority to impeach and remove “the President, Vice President, and all civil officers of the United States” upon a determination that such officers have engaged in treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.

The last word in this sentence is very important in today’s political world.

Without doubt, Donald J. Trump and members of his entire crew aboard and piloting his Ship of Vipers have amassed enough misdemeanors just with their refusal to abide by the numerous subpoenas they are ignoring at his order.

The charge of high crimes and misdemeanors covers allegations of misconduct by officials, such as perjury of oath, abuse of authority, bribery, intimidation, misuse of assets, failure to supervise, dereliction of duty, unbecoming conduct, refusal to obey a lawful order, chronic intoxication, and tax evasion. Tax evasion is a key phrase here and the reason Trump is fighting so fiercely to prevent the House or anyone else from accessing his returns.

The Constitution does not define bribery. It is a crime that has long existed in English and American common law. It takes place when a person gives an official money or gifts to influence the official’s behavior in office. For example, if defendant Smith pays federal Judge Jones $10,000 to find Smith not guilty, the crime of bribery has occurred. Seems to fit Trump to a T. Only this time, he withheld money from Ukraine for a political favor against his political opponent, Democrat Joe Biden and son Hunter.

It should be remembered that the impeachment process is a political one, not criminal.

According to the rules of impeachment:

  1. The House Judiciary Committee holds hearings and, if necessary, prepares articles of impeachment. These are the charges against the official.
  2. If a majority of the committee votes to approve the articles, the whole House debates and votes on them.
  3. If a majority of the House votes to impeach the official on any article,  the official must then stand trial in the Senate.
  4.  For the official to be removed from office, two-thirds of the Senate must vote to convict the official. Upon conviction, the official is automatically removed from office and, if the Senate so decides, may be forbidden from holding governmental office again.

Rule 3 doesn’t give Mitch McConnell nor Lindsey Graham nor anyone else the right to block the impeachment.

The oath used today has not changed since 1966 and is prescribed in Title 5, Section 3331 of the United States Code. It reads:

“I, AB, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

In contrast to the presidential oath, where it’s used only by tradition, the phrase “so help me God” has been part of the official oath of office for non-presidential offices since 1862.

Each and every one of them swore to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

When the subject of an oath arose during the Federal Constitutional Convention in 1787, the founders were divided. Should an oath be required in a free country at all? And should state officials swear allegiance to the federal Constitution, or should federal officials swear to uphold state constitutions as well as the U.S. Constitution?

According to the History, Art And Archives web page of the House of Representatives: “Delegate James Wilson of Pennsylvania viewed oaths as ‘left handed security only’ and that ‘a good government did not need them and a bad one could not or ought not to be supported.’ The lexicographer and political writer Noah Webster called oaths ‘instruments of slavery’ and a ‘badge of folly, borrowed from the dark ages of bigotry.’ Both Wilson and Webster argued that people would be naturally inclined to support just governments, so oaths were unnecessary.  Many others thought such concerns were overwrought. In his 1833 Commentaries on the Constitution, Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story wrote that requiring oaths for government officials ‘would seem to be a proposition too clear to render any reasoning necessary in support of it.'”

The web page continues: “The current practice for swearing-in Members is an innovation of Speaker Nicholas Longworth of Ohio, who abandoned the practice of Members taking the oath by state delegations in 1929. Longworth altered the practice because he hoped the mass swearing-in would better ‘comport with the dignity and solemnity’ of the ceremony and, according to some historical accounts, to avoid a potential attempt to challenge the seating of Oscar De Priest of Illinois, the first African- American elected to Congress in the 20th century.

“While subsequent Speakers went back to the original method, in 1937 Speaker William B. Bankhead chose to return to the en masse swearing-in and this has remained the practice. Since the 80th Congress (1947–1949), Members have also been required to sign an oath, which is held by the Clerk of the House.”

During the Constitutional Convention, James Madison of Virginia successfully argued that an election every four years did not provide enough of a check on a president who was incapacitated or abusing the power of the office. He contended that “loss of capacity, or corruption . . . might be fatal to the republic” if the president could not be removed until the next election.

An excellent defense to the oft used mantra “let the voters decide.”

George Mason of Virginia proposed adding “maladministration.” He thought that treason and bribery did not cover all the harm that a president might do.

As we can sadly see, Mason’s fears were well founded.

If the Founding Fathers could see how our entire governmental process has been stolen by the Republican Party, they would likely suffer apoplexy.

Likely if the Democrats were the target of impeachment charges, they would vote party line to quash the impeachment. It’s how every presidential impeachment attempt has ended.

In a perfect, ethical and moral political world one can only dream that the Democratic Party would stand erect and purge their embarrassment.

Obviously, the Trumplican Party will cling to their crooked, vile captain and vote nay. Like Captain Queeg in “The Caine Mutiny,” Donald Trump, Captain of his Ship of Vipers, sits and juggles his marbles — as it were.

3 thoughts on “The how and why of impeachment

  1. Ironically, I wish there were the time to roll this out more slowly and give Americans more time to understand it and get on board. I also don’t see ANY likelihood of this president or any of his cohorts developing a conscience. I’m not convinced that even a determination from the Supreme Court would force him to move. Given that, actual impeachment is impossible. The Senate isn’t going to do anything but say NO.

    Doing nothing is probably worse. Probably.

    We are in a hard, hard place. Trump would NOT be the first American president to refuse to obey a Supreme Court verdict. I do not think anything short of putting him in handcuffs and locking him up will move him … and for all I know, that might not do it either.

    I have a lot of trouble understanding how we got here. How did it get so bad while we believed we were doing good?

    Like

  2. ‘Chronic intoxication’. At least none of the staff writers on The Whelk could ever have that accusation levelled at them. But wait…!

    Like

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