Every day there’s more discussion about the impeachment and subsequent conviction of Donald Trump. The process of reversing an election of a president would be a monumental endeavor because the Constitution is vague and provides little guidance in this regard.
No president in history has ever been removed from office. Two presidents, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, were impeached. The House of Representatives brought charges against both men with a simple majority, but the Senate could not muster a 2/3 majority to convict,
Impeachment offenses are “treason, bribery and other high crimes and misdemeanors.” The House is the only body that can impeach the president. It’s an extraordinarily difficult process that requires the accusers to bring charges that fit the constitutional definition of impeachable offenses. Those who drafted the Constitution left the definition of these offenses vague.
What constitutes an impeachable offense? Some say it is whatever a majority of the House considers it to be at a given moment in history. Most scholars reject this interpretation because it would seem like the president serves at the pleasure of Congress.
Nevertheless the Democrats will have the ability to create a list of offenses and impeach the president in 2019 with a simple majority. The charges may not fit the “high crimes” standard in the eyes of many members, especially Republicans.
A second standard for impeachment could be proof of indictable crimes. The House would need to document exactly what these crimes are and that an average American would also be prosecuted for them.
A third standard could be related to the president’s official duties, but a crime must have been committed. In this regard Congress might pass a law that defined a specific action by the president that is impeachable and use it retroactively. Many scholars think this would be tantamount to Congress unilaterally amending the Constitution.
The fourth standard is the language used in the Constitution. The president’s offenses must be treason, bribery or high crimes and misdemeanors. The debate about whether certain actions of the president rise to this level would be epic.
What are the odds that articles of impeachment could be passed by the House, and the Senate could convict the president?
There is a high probability that Democrats will attempt to impeach Trump with their majority in the House. This will depend upon the strength of the specific charges and whether representatives are prepared to participate in a constitutional crisis of great proportions while so much else is happening domestically and throughout the world.
The easiest route would be if Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s witch-hunt discovers crimes by Trump that rise to an impeachment standard. The average American and even our lawmakers have no idea what Mueller is about to disclose. One would think that if Mueller could indict the president in some sort of conspiracy to interfere with the 2016 election, we would already have heard about it.
It’s more likely that Democrats will make a list of Trump actions and decisions and claim that it, in the aggregate, is an impeachable offense.
The list could include any actions by the president that illegally disregard current law. This might involve immigration, treaties and administration turnover, lying to the public or any behavior deemed un-presidential by Trump’s opponents. And there is the possibility the Mueller investigation could substantiate serious obstruction of justice charges against the president. Once again these seem far-fetched.
It’s worth considering whether Trump might resign for personal or political reasons. If Trump acted like most normal people and was not so unpredictable or spiteful, it would be entirely plausible that he resign now as the opposition takes control of the House. He’s going to be dogged by investigations of his time as president and his years past.
If fellow Republicans are no longer are willing to ignore Trump’s dangerous and erratic behavior, they may demand his resignation. Without support from his party, Trump would be unable to govern the country.
All this impeachment talk is probably not going to evolve into anything substantive. The politicians in Washington know that a constitutional crisis would be disastrous for our economy and our reputation globally. Nevertheless the most aggressive members of the Democratic Party are willing to do anything to denigrate the president to increase their chances in the 2020 presidential election.
The more likely scenario is one in which Trump gives up and returns to his ivy tower in New York City.