Article 2, section 4 of the U.S. Constitution states, “The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other High crimes and Misdemeanors.”
The President, Vice-President, Cabinet Secretaries, and other executive officers, as well as judges, may be impeached by the House of Representatives and tried in the Senate. Any official convicted by impeachment is immediately removed from office. High crimes and misdemeanors is not specifically defined in the Constitution nor is it elsewhere codified in law. With regard to high crimes and misdemeanors, James Madison said, “…impeachment… was indispensable” to defend the community against “the incapacity, negligence or perfidy of the chief Magistrate.” Trumpet definitely falls in the negligence and perfidy (deceitfulness) camps.
Legal scholars are talking about impeaching Trumpet using the emoluments clause of the Constitution as the legal foundation. They assert that Trumpet’s numerous international business holdings and dealings interact with foreign powers in ways that create unconstitutional conflicts of interest for Trumpet as POTUS.
In January, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), joined several prominent legal scholars to file a lawsuit against Trumpet alleging that he is in violation of the emoluments clause. The complaint is here. Even without this suit and regardless of its outcome, the House Judiciary Committee could investigate this matter on their own and if they find cause to do so, write up articles of impeachment.
The problem with trying to impeach over conflicts/emoluments clause is not that there is no legal foundation because arguably there is. It also appears likely that due to nature and variety of Trumpet’s business interests and the fact that many of his buildings’ tenants are foreign governments and foreign banks, that the facts would support impeachment on the ground of the emoluments clause.
The problem is that his conflicts and where they run afoul of the emoluments clause are not going to be enough to get voters riled-up in 2018 enough to get out and vote to pack the House and Senate with Democrats. Such complicated and boring legal arguments also are not going to be enough to get Republican and Independent constituents to lean on their remaining Republican representatives to demand impeachment.
People and pundits want something “sexier” and more “scandalous” to ogle at and debate. They also need something much more simple and more easily understandable to wrap their heads around and get worked up about. Take the case of the impeachment of President William Jefferson Clinton. He was impeached for perjury and obstructing justice. Perjury is lying under oath. Very simple and clear-cut. Obstructing justice means that justice could not be done since an investigation was impeded because of his perjury. Again very digestible and easy to stir the rancor and incredulity of “the people.”
If impeachment is going to happen then it has to be the issue in the mid-term elections. If impeachment is going to be the issue in the mid-term elections, then legal scholars need to keep their minds on other “high crimes and misdemeanors” and start coming up with a litany of offenses falling generally under abusing the power of his office and his unfitness to serve.
Trumpet has already shown his unfitness to serve in less than three weeks in office by: attempting to ignite diplomatic crisis’; encouraging Russian hackers to commit espionage by hacking Secretary of State Clinton; provoking Iran to resume ballistic missile testing by trying to temporarily ban immigrant to the U.S. from Iran and trashing the nuclear ban treaty with Iran; giving Bannon a permanent seat on the principles committee of the National Security Council; appointing Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education; botching the first military mission of his presidency in Yemen; etc. Unfit. Sad. Impeach. Sad for one but best for all.
This blog will be exploring high crimes and misdemeanors in relation to the above named possible offenses and more in the coming weeks and imploring more well heeled and influential legal scholars to do the same.