President Trump has barely had time to move into the Oval Office and already there are those who are calling for his ouster. Whether commentaries by guest bloggers in legacy media like Time magazine, or activists given space in The Hill or the predictable animus from California liberal Democrats such as Rep. Maxine Walters, this intemperate talk is disappointing but not surprising.
Even The Washington Post Pulitzer-Prize winning columnist Kathleen Parker whom I used to respect has fallen off the tracks.
I did not vote for President Trump. And, yes, his too frequent bombastic utterances are embarrassing and demonstrate a lack of diplomatic sensitivity and intelligence.
However, Mr. Trump has yet to commit a single act that is impeachable. He’s guilty of boorish behavior, no doubt. But his culpability is limited to indecorous behavior not “Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors” as delineated in Article II, Section of 4 of the Constitution.
The definition of “high crimes and misdemeanors” has been thoroughly researched and debated. The impeachment considerations of Presidents Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton are instructive.
In 1974, the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee drafted the handbook “Constitutional Grounds for Presidential Impeachment” in anticipation of possible deliberations surrounding then President Richard Nixon and allegations of his involvement with the Watergate Scandal.
This is a well-crafted, clear and thoughtful historical analysis of impeachment as it pertains to American presidents, Senate-confirmed appointments and the role of the House of Representatives to invoke articles of impeachment. The handbook is unambiguous in its explanation of what and what does not constitute egregious constitutional violations of Presidents and other high officials.
One consideration revolves around persons who are unqualified for the position to which they are appointed. That question has been raised in the confirmation hearings of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education and Sen. Jeff Sessions for Attorney General.
However, the Senate confirmed both DeVos and Sessions—whether qualified or not—so the upper chamber shares culpability if either cabinet secretary proves to be inadequate. In the case of DeVos, since Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote in confirming her, does that act constitute an impeachable offense by Pence should DeVos fail?
No, the Handbook is clear that the House of Representatives would look at the totality of all alleged offenses—not a single incident.
A number of contemporary observers have compared President Trump with the tumultuous period of President Andrew Jackson and the emergence of Jacksonian Democracy and the era of modern presidents. But such speculation is obviously premature.
Further contemporary consideration of President Trump or any high official should be given to the differences between common law criminality and constitutional impeachment in terms of how our Founding Fathers, Mothers and the House Judiciary understood it. The conclusion is clear—they are not the same.
Thirteen impeachments had occurred in the United States prior to 1974 when the Handbook was penned. They all centered on allegations of “misconduct incompatible” with the office held by the accused. The conduct fell within three areas: exceeding the constitutional limits of the office; behavior grossly incompatible with the office; and using the office for personal gain. (pp. 17-18)
The conclusion is undeniable: no matter how obnoxious we may find some of President Trump’s tweets, public speeches, cabinet appointments or executive acts, not one or the sum of them amounts to grounds for impeachment.
And such talk is not only disgraceful, it’s unpatriotic.