Article Two 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 impeachment inquiry by the U.S. House of Representatives against President Trump stems from Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukraine’s newly elected president. In it, Trump asks for “a favor,” which involved investigating Democrat Joe Biden and a theory — debunked by U.S. intelligence — that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in America’s 2016 election. In return, it was made clear to Ukraine’s president by others that he would get a coveted Oval Office visit. And at the same time and with no plausible explanation, Trump was holding up $400 million in military aid the East European ally relies on to counter Russian aggression at its border.
The Ukraine investigation of the Bidens did not occur and the $400 million in aid was subsequently given to Ukraine — but only after reports started to surface about the arrangement.
The evidence laid out by career U.S. foreign policy officials is clear and overwhelming. What emerged is an all too believable picture of a foreign policy process hijacked by the president’s willingness to use the powers of his office to benefit his domestic political interests.
Republicans, for their part, didn’t challenge the facts. Instead, they pushed conspiracy theories to muddy the waters and confuse voters as to what really happened.
But do Trump’s actions meet the test of high crimes and misdemeanors?
A recent president to be impeached was Bill Clinton. He was impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice related to the Monica Lewinsky affair. Richard Nixon was charged, but not impeached after the Watergate cover-up. He was charged with obstruction of justice, abuse of power and defying subpoenas during the impeachment investigation. The House Judiciary Committee stated that “high crimes and misdemeanors” goes beyond crimes to include “behaving in a manner grossly incompatible with the proper function of the office and employing the power of the office for an improper purpose or personal gain.”
Going back to the Constitutional Convention of 1787, the Founding Fathers decided the phrase “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” provided “flexibility and guidance” in deciding on impeachable offenses.
Alexander Hamilton stated in the Federalist Papers, “impeachment is directed at political offenses that proceed from … the abuse or violation of some public trust.” Echoing Hamilton, Justice Joseph Story in 1833 stated, “impeachable conduct is often purely political, and that no previous statute is necessary to authorize an impeachment for any official misconduct.”
Therefore, it appears the term “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” refers to officials in high office who commit offenses that violate their oaths of office and can consist of abuse of power.
Would an impeachment vote hurt Democrats and help Trump in 2020? Who knows? What members of Congress should be focused on right now, what the Constitution demands, is to get at the truth and, if need be, hold the president accountable.
Federal elections law prohibits any person — including presidents — from soliciting, accepting, or receiving anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a US election.
We’ll leave it up to the readers to decide if they believe President Trump should be impeached.