Impeaching a president, high school civics for politicians

Published 5:00 am Monday, October 21, 2019

Dr. Harold Pease

Contributing Columnist

Constitutional instructions for impeaching a president of the United States are very specific. Actually, reading the Constitution should easily put to rest the proposed impeachment of President Donald J. Trump. His enemies obviously have not done so.

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Impeachment means tried by the U.S. Senate for treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors whether found guilty and removed or acquitted and remain in office. It begins in the House of Representatives who formulate the alleged charges then passes to the Senate for trial.

In the case of Trump the Democrats called for his impeachment before he took the oath of office, before he made a single decision as president, or nominated a single cabinet member. Enemies began immediately searching for a crime. All other impeachment proceedings began first with a specific crime—Trump’s was being elected.

The “crime” for Andrew Johnson was his violation of the Tenure of Office Act which Congress had just passed requiring him to first get their permission before removing a cabinet member. To test the constitutionality of what is now common practice, Johnson fired Edward Stanton as Secretary of War. Johnson was accused by the House but spared conviction in the Senate. So, the impeached (tried) president remained in office.

Richard Nixon was never impeached because, although accused by the House, he was never tried by the Senate. He resigned the presidency before the charges of the House could be hand delivered to the Senate for trial. The “crime” hinged on his alleged cover up of the break-in of the Democratic Party national headquarters at Watergate. These would have included obstructing justice, abuse of power and contempt of Congress. But he was never tried, thus not impeached.

For Bill Clinton the “crime” was “high crimes and misdemeanors.” The specific charges were lying under oath (perjury), abuse of power, and obstruction of justice; charges that stemmed from a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against Clinton by Paula Jones. The senate did not come to the necessary 2/3 majority, so he was acquitted (Art I, Sec. 3, Cla. 6). Tried (impeached), like Johnson, but not removed from office.

Who formulates impeachment charges? The Constitution reads: “The House of Representatives … shall have the sole Power of Impeachment,” (Art. I, Sec. 2, Cla. 5). The people placed him in power and their representatives—the House—alone initiates and formulates the charges for his possible removal. But formulating the charges does require a favorable vote of the full House.

Who tries the charges? “The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath…” [to support the Constitution and tell the truth].

Who presides at the trial? “When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice [presently John Roberts} shall preside.” (Ibid. Sec. 3, Cla. 6).

But a president can be removed for only four reasons. “The President… shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors.” (Art. II Section 4). Can we remove a president we simply do not like? Only in the next election.

What are the charges against Trump? His enemies first tried treason, “he’s a Russian spy.” That failed! What about bribery? That’s hard when he gives to charity his monthly salary. Then collusion and obstruction of justice under “high crimes,” those failed too. How about adultery with Stormy Daniels and others? But that was before his election and John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton did adultery as presidents in office, Clinton even with an intern in the Oval Office, and that was not enough to call for his office. Adultery effectively erased less serious charges essentially removing from the Constitution misdemeanors as impeachable offenses.

Enemies then tried the 25th Amendment, containing a provision that allows for the forceful removal of a sitting president who cannot physically continue to serve. They tried, he’s crazy therefor unfit for office, Rod Rosenstein offering to wear a wire to entrap the president. They could not find a cabinet member to so state. About 15 different accusations, all backfired—even the The Mueller Report. For three years our hostile establishment and Democratic news outlets never let up. Within weeks, the Russian Hoax was replaced with the “Ukrainian Hoax” but the promised Quick Pro Quo could not be found. Still no impeachable offenses.

If the intelligence community went rogue with a coup to undo the 2016 presidential election, which we have documented in previous columns, it is Trump’s absolute duty to take this story to its original source, in the Ukraine in 2016, for complete exposure so it never happens again for any president of either party. The Constitution requires it. “He shall take Care that the laws be faithfully executed” (Art.II, Sec. 4). As does his oath of office: ”I do solemnly swear…that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” (Art. II, Sec. 1, Cla. 8).

So impeachment does not necessarily mean removal from office as Johnson and Clinton finished their terms. Nor will it for Trump. He will be acquitted for the same reason as Clinton—partisan politics—and likely will be reelected as no crime has been established.

Dr. Harold Pease is a syndicated columnist. He taught history and political science from this perspective for more than 30 years at Taft College. To read more, visit