The Left’s threats of impeachment of Trump have affected me in a number of ways: annoyance, incredulity, outrage, and weariness. They have been banging that drum since Trump was elected and, for the most part, I’ve ignored the noise. But the drums are beating louder, in spite of the Democrat leadership’s call to simmer down until after the elections.
Leftist Tom Steyer, a California billionaire determined to remove Trump from office (in addition to pursuing other foolish endeavors), has generated enough attention that he recently published an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal. I thought it was a good opportunity to learn his agenda for impeachment. I must say, I was both disquieted and angry.
The most direct way of looking at the Steyer’s reasons for impeaching Trump is to look at the source of his accusations, Free Speech for People. For this discussion, I’ve included each impeachment offense, quoted Steyer’s description of the “bottom line” regarding the charge, and then added my interpretation. (You can see the details of the charges through the link.)
- Obstructing Justice. Steyer’s Bottom Line: “Trump has repeatedly attempted to interfere in the Russia investigation, and admitted as much—that’s a clear case of obstructing justice.” My interpretation: We don’t like Trump repeatedly criticizing the Russian investigation; he should leave Mueller alone.
- Violating the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Steyer’s Bottom Line: “Because Trump never divested from his business interests, he violates the Constitution every time the Trump Organization has business dealings with foreign or American government officials.” My interpretation: We refuse to accept Trump’s turning control of his businesses to his children and his not divesting himself from those businesses (which he is not required to do by law)
- Conspiring with Others to Commit Crimes Against the United States, and Attempting to Conceal Those Violations. Steyer’s Bottom Line: “Trump tried to cover up his campaign’s contacts with a Russian national—which, at the very least, constituted a violation of federal law.” My interpretation: We refuse to accept that Donald Trump Jr. met with a Russian national only to get dirt on the Clinton campaign, even if it wasn’t illegal. He had to be conniving with the Russians.
- Advocating Violence and Undermining Equal Protection Under the Law. Steyer’s Bottom Line: “Trump has demonstrated a pattern of behavior amounting to advocating violence, undercutting equal protection, and, as a result, failing basic Constitutional Duties.” My interpretation: We hate the way Trump addressed the rioting in Charlottesville, clearly supporting neo-Nazis, and we abhor his tweets on immigration that we believe attack Muslims.
- Abusing the Pardon Power. Steyer’s Bottom Line: “Trump’s pardon of Joe Arpaio violates the Fifth Amendment and harms the guarantee of Constitutional Rights.” My interpretation: We despise Joe Arpaio, and someone like him shouldn’t be pardoned.
- Engaging in Conduct that Grossly Endangers the Peace and Security of the United States. Steyer’s Bottom Line: “Trump cannot be permitted to recklessly and needlessly endanger millions of Americans with his unstable behavior.” My interpretation: We despise Trump’s behavior, comments, and tweets, and think he should behave like a normal (by our definition) human being and act presidential.
- Directing Law Enforcement to Investigate and Prosecute Political Adversaries for Improper and Unjustifiable Purposes. Steyer’s Bottom Line: “Trump’s threats against political opponents are threats against American Democracy.” My interpretation: We are offended by the way Trump criticizes anyone he dislikes, including Hillary Clinton, federal law enforcement, and his own Attorney General.
- Undermining the Freedom of the Press. Steyer’s Bottom Line: “Trump’s threats against freedom of the press are also threats against American Democracy.” My interpretation: Trump shouldn’t criticize the press for publishing fake news.
- Cruelly and Unconstitutionally Imprisoning Children and their Families. Steyer’s Bottom Line: “Trump’s policy endangers thousands of immigrant children and families basic Constitutional values.” My interpretation: We shouldn’t have to imprison families, and we wouldn’t if Trump would just open up the borders.
After reading these charges, you might say to yourself that they are ludicrous, unsubstantial and innocuous. That’s what I thought. But then I read a bit more about bringing impeachment charges, and I wasn’t so certain that we all shouldn’t be concerned. One source explained that determining an impeachable offense is not straightforward. It suggested four possible interpretations:
Congressional Interpretation: The first general school of thought is that the standard enunciated by the Constitution is subject entirely to whatever interpretation Congress collectively wishes to make. . . This view has been rejected by most legal scholars because it would have the effect of having the President serve at the pleasure of Congress. However there are some, particularly in Congress, who hold this opinion.
An Indictable Crime: The second view is that the Constitutional standard makes it necessary for a President to have committed an indictable crime to be subject to impeachment and removal from office. This view was adopted by many Republicans during the impeachment investigation of President Richard M. Nixon. The proponents of this view point to the tone of the language of Article II § 4 itself, which seems to be speaking in criminal law terms.
Misdemeanor: The proponents of this view focus on the word ‘misdemeanor’ which did not have a specific criminal connotation to it at the time the Constitution was ratified. Initially the standard was to be ‘malpractice or neglect of duty.’ This was removed and replaced with ‘treason, bribery or corruption.’ The word ‘corruption’ was then eliminated. On the floor during debate the suggestion was made to add the term ‘maladministration.’ This was rejected as being too vague and the phrase ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ was adopted in its place. There are many legal scholars who believe this lesser standard is the correct one, however.
Relating to the President’s Official Duties: The fourth view is that an indictable crime is not required, but that the impeachable act or acts done by the President must in some way relate to his official duties. The bad act may or may not be a crime but it would be more serious than simply ‘maladministration.’ This view is buttressed in part by an analysis of the entire phrase ‘high crimes or misdemeanors’ which seems to be a term of art speaking to a political connection for the bad act or acts. In order to impeach it would not be necessary for the act to be a crime, but not all crimes would be impeachable offenses.
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I know that the odds of impeachment charges being filed and passed in the House aren’t very good; the Senate’s removing Trump is even more unlikely. I find Tom Steyer’s arguments unconvincing for the first three descriptions of impeachable offenses, but the last description, “Relating to the President’s Official Duties,” does make me wonder. Holding on to the House and Senate as a result of the midterms is paramount.
I don’t think we need to panic about the potential of a successful impeachment, but I also think we shouldn’t be unconcerned. The current discord and outrage will intensify to new levels. Trump’s agenda and accomplishments will likely be completely ignored.
On the other hand, we can just sit back in our lounge chairs and watch the show unfold, since we are unlikely to hear Republicans protesting.
And you think the last two years have been chaotic.