Nearly from President Trump’s election there has been a move to impeach and remove him from office. His ongoing lies, abuses of power, and disregard for the rule of law has only provided fuel for this growing fire. As I write this we read daily about various investigations of him, those around him, and the things they’ve done.
Pair this with the fact that most voters in 2016 voted for Hilary Clinton and others and it’s not hard to understand this. But for the first two years of his presidency Mr. Trump didn’t need to worry about this since his party controlled both houses of Congress. Simply put, the Democrats could complain all they wanted but they were powerless to do anything about it.
That changed in November when the Democrats won a majority of members of the House of Representatives though Republicans claim a slim majority in the Senate.
So here’s the problem: removing a president from office requires a two part process and states that a president can only be removed for “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” He (or she) can be impeached (by a simple majority in the House) and removed from office (by a 2/3 vote of the Senate). You can read this in Article II, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution. Our founders purposely made this hard to do.
In our history, two presidents have been impeached but neither was removed from office: Andrew Johnson (1808-1875) and Bill Clinton (b.1946). I believe neither of them should have been impeached.
President Johnson came to office in what could be argued was our lowest point as a nation. He took the oath of office a few hours after the death of Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), a few days after the end of the Civil War. Shortly after this, President Johnson began to feud with the Cabinet he inherited. He wanted to implement President Lincoln’s plan to generously welcome back the Southern States. But many Republicans, including Secretary of State Edwin Stanton (1819-1869) advocated a much harsher Reconstruction. Recognizing this conflict, Republicans in Congress passed the Tenure of Office Act over the president’s veto. It prohibited him from firing a member of his cabinet without Senate approval; it’s been a tradition before and since that the president needs the Senate’s advice and consent to name a member of his cabinet but that they serve at his pleasure and can be removed at any time, for any reason (or no reason). With his belief that the Tenure of Office Act was unconstitutional, President Johnson attempted to fire Secretary Stanton. By a vote of 126 to 47 he was impeached. But when it moved to the Senate he was kept in office when the vote of 35 to 19 wasn’t enough to remove him from office (it’s worth noting that 35 voted to remove him, but 36 were needed).
President Clinton came into office in 1989, after 12 years of Republican presidents. People who didn’t like him referred to him as “Slick Willie” and criticized his wife for keeping her maiden name. In 1992 we learned that Bill and Hillary had lost a great deal of money investing in a real estate deal called Whitewater and an investigation was initiated. Eventually a woman named Paula Jones accused him of sexual harassment. President Clinton has always denied her claims, and during an appearance before a grand jury he was asked if he ever had sexual relations with a White House intern named Monica Lewinsky. He had a legal, but inappropriate relationship with Ms. Lewinsky. But he denied the affair, and lying to a grand jury is a crime. The House impeached him by a vote of 228-226. But, like President Johnson, the Senate refused to remove him from office, voting 55-45 to keep him in office.
I argue that neither should have been impeached because neither of their offenses constituted an abuse of power. Much of the rhetoric surrounding the American Revolution found its voice in the tyranny of King George III (1738-1820) and I believe our Constitution provides the opportunity to remove a President if he abuses his power. President Johnson challenged an unconstitutional law and President Clinton lied to prevent embarrassment.
Two years into the Trump presidency we have reason to believe he has abused his power but we don’t have proof. There are some things he may have done that were wrong but not an abuse of power: he may have lied about the value of his properties to enable him to borrow money (for example). This is clearly a crime but it’s not an abuse of power. He can be held to answer for this when he leaves office, but I don’t this should cause his removal from office.
On the other hand we see allegations that he may have broken the law to abuse his power. Investigations in place look to the possibility that the president conspired with the Russians: in return for them to post fake social media that put Hilary Clinton in a bad light (in the hopes that voters would believe this and vote for Mr. Trump), President Trump would ensure a more cozy relationship with the United States.
But we don’t have all the facts yet. If our suspicions come to light, from the Mueller report or some other source, Speaker Pelosi and I will change our minds on impeachment. Only then will we support impeachment and removal from office.