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For the record: Standards for impeachment

by Greg Krehbiel on 5 December 2017

A few Democrats are talking openly about impeaching President Trump. It’s mostly coming from unhinged liberals like Maxine Waters, trying to score points with her base, but after the wackos break the ice, others will follow.

You know how these crowd pleasers are. They say something tentatively, then gauge the reaction and decide if they should retreat or double down.

It has been mostly fringe talk, but it’s gaining momentum, which raises the question: On what grounds can a president be impeached?

We all know the curious phrase, “high crimes and misdemeanors,” which seems to mix the serious with the trivial. (Speeding is a misdemeanor.)

Back when Republicans were talking about impeaching Obama, I heard a persuasive case that the phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors” means “whatever reason or pretext they want.”

I endorse that interpretation.

I haven’t studied it. I can’t tell you what the phrase means in English common law, or anything like that, but it fits very well with my basic, core political principle, which is that power should be disbursed broadly — with checks.

If you can get a majority to impeach and then convict the president, he clearly can’t function as president, so … go ahead and impeach him — for combing his hair the wrong way if you like. I don’t care.

Unfortunately, this means that if you get a majority of petty, mean-spirited Congresscritters, they can get rid of your noble, genius reformer who always brushes his teeth and only wants good things for all God’s children. (Not saying that’s what we have.)

But if they impeach the president for combing his hair the wrong way, the people will then have the chance to decide if they want such petty, mean-spirited people representing them. If so — if they can get away with that — then the game is up anyway. Representative government has failed and we’d better grab our shotguns and head for the hills.

In any event, before this stuff goes any further, I want to go on the record saying that “high crimes and misdemeanors” means whatever Congress wants it to mean.

Also — just a side note — I think a lot of Republicans secretly want Trump gone too.

2017-12-05  »  Greg Krehbiel

Talkback x 11

  1. William
    6 December 2017 @ 12:09 am

    QUOTE: You know how these crowd pleasers are. They say something tentatively, then gauge the reaction and decide if they should retreat or double down.

    Isn’t that somewhat what Trump did when the Roy Moore story first broke?

    QUOTE: A few Democrats are talking openly about impeaching President Trump. It’s mostly coming from unhinged liberals like Maxine Waters, trying to score points with her base, but after the wackos break the ice, others will follow.

    No new news…she and a few others have been talking about this in some form since the onset of Trump’s presidency. http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/06/politics/maxine-waters-donald-trump-impeachment/index.html

    QUOTE: I haven’t studied it. I can’t tell you what the phrase means in English common law, or anything like that…I want to go on the record saying that “high crimes and misdemeanors” means whatever Congress wants it to mean.

    The Constitution actually uses the language…treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors. Given there have only been three impeachments in US history, even learned lawyers quibble over the exact definition. At a minimum it’s been applied when a crime or gross ethical/policy violation has been committed. Yet, I think you’re right, it can basically mean whatever the Congress deems it, within reason.

    That said, the successful execution of impeachment proceedings seems to have depended on the party in power. In the two most recent cases, it’s been the opposing party that championed the proceedings. As for now, as long as the current Republicans have control of Congress, there is no way they are going to impeach Trump for anything. He could take a whiz on the Constitution publicly and/or stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot someone and they’d likely find a way to ignore or justify it. Suffice it to say, I think Trump is safe for at least 4 years…possibly 8 years.

  2. Dave Krehbiel Dave Krehbiel
    6 December 2017 @ 8:54 am

    Greg, you wrote, “you didn’t get a majority of petty, mean-spirited Congresscritters, they can get rid of …

    Yes, it requires a majority of the House of Representatives to impeach. However, it takes 75% to convict and remove from office.

    I think the major motivation of Democrats as they are still irritated that Bill Clinton was impeached. And, in my opinion, they are right to be irritated. That was a big fiasco and a waste of time, and set a bad precedent.

    If I were Donald Trump, I would call the question. I would introduce articles of impeachment against myself. I would acknowledge this for what it is, a political stunt, and laugh about it. And I would say, let’s get this nonsense out of the way and get down to the business of creating jobs and fixing our highways and building our military.

    I would denounce impeachment as a political stunt, and state my personal opinion that Bill Clinton should not have been impeached, that it set a bad precedent.

    And if 75% of the Senate want him gone, as you say, he won’t get much done anyway, and may as well go back to running hotels.

  3. Dave Krehbiel Dave Krehbiel
    6 December 2017 @ 8:57 am

    Sorry, I meant to type, “if you can get a majority…

  4. pentamom
    6 December 2017 @ 9:35 am

    Only two presidents impeached.

  5. William
    6 December 2017 @ 11:21 am

    Correct…two impeached (Johnson and Clinton). A couple that had what seemed to be serious attempts…Tyler and Nixon.

  6. smitemouth
    6 December 2017 @ 1:17 pm

    Wrong, it takes 67 votes in the Senate to convict in an impeachment hearing. It takes 218 votes in the House to bring impeachment charges. It takes 21 votes in a 40 person House committee to bring the charges up to a vote in the House.

  7. pentamom
    6 December 2017 @ 4:08 pm

    Nixon resigned before the effort could get rolling, because the leaders of his own party went to him and told him they would support impeachment. Those were the days.

  8. Dave Krehbiel Dave Krehbiel
    6 December 2017 @ 4:49 pm

    @smitemouth: thanks for the correction, and the additional info.

  9. William
    6 December 2017 @ 5:04 pm

    Actually, the process started but wasn’t completed. The House Judiciary Committee, in July 1974, approved three articles of impeachment and sent them to the full House. But Nixon resigned, Aug. 9, 1974, before there was a trial in the House.

  10. smitemouth
    7 December 2017 @ 9:53 am

    There is no trial in the House. The House acts like a Grand Jury. The committee brings forth the impeachment charges, then the House votes on the charges to impeach. If they vote yes, then the so called trial goes to the Senate.

  11. William
    7 December 2017 @ 11:08 am

    Technically correct, sm. I was using “trial” in a general sense as a “review/decision” concerning the charges presented by the House Committee. Yet, my point was the process had initiated before Nixon resigned.

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