Impeachable Offenses 3/1/19

By Richard E. Bleil, Ph.D.

According to the U.S. Constitution, “The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States shall be removed from office for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

The constitution also says that the power of impeachment lies in the hands of the Senate and requires 2/3 majority to move forward. It further restricts the Presidential Power of Pardons in cases of impeachment. What it does not do, however, is define the term “impeachment”.

A lot of people have wanted a lot of presidents to be impeached, but far too often, the call is simply because of dislike either for the president or the policies of the president. The dictionaries I’ve checked sets a pretty low bar for impeachment, defining it as , in essence, misconduct in office.

Even with this low bar, however, only three US Presidents have ever faced impeachment proceedings.

  • In 1868, a Republican congress successfully impeached Democratic President Andrew Jackson for his policies on reconstruction of the former Confederate states.

  • In 1974, a Democratic congress passed a resolution to bring three articles of impeachment against Republican President Richard M. Nixon including obstruction of justice over the break-in of the Democratic National Committee Headquarters in the Watergate Hotel by the Republican Party.

  • In 1998-1999, a Republican congress successfully impeached Democratic President Bill Clinton on his affair while in office, but failed to impeach on two other articles of perjury and abuse of power.

The bar for removal of a president is higher than impeachment is higher. While three presidents faced impeachment, no sitting president has ever been removed from office as a result of these actions. Ironically, the only president to leave office because of the prospect of impeachment proceedings, Richard Nixon, was also the only president who was not impeached simply because he resigned before the proceedings could begin.

The investigation of the Clinton impeachment began with some very serious charges in the Whitewater affair. This began with an investigation of President Clinton and his wife into their investment into the failed Whitewater Development Corporation. The claim was that the Clintons, while Bill was governor of Arkansas, had illegally pressured a businessman to make a significant federally backed loan. After being already cleared of this charge, the Republican representatives hired Ken Starr to continue the investigation, which lasted an additional four years, cost approximately $30 million (the equivalent of about $35 million today), and had no convictions save the impeachment of the president that amounted to little more than an embarrassment.

It’s a different story with the Mueller investigation. Appointed by the Republican party to investigate a Republican president, after about a year and a half and costing a little more than $15 million, it has resulted in scores of indictments with multiple guilty pleas, plea bargains and convictions within the US and Russian operatives. These indictments included people as close to the president as advisers, attorneys, and even close friends, with the investigation reaching into family members as well. With echos of Watergate, the investigation included hacking of the emails of Democratic political rival Hilliary Clinton.

There is a distinct difference between an accusation, investigation or indictment and a conviction, but I do have a problem with hypocrisy. A president that complains about the length and cost of an investigation that has cost half as much as the Clinton investigation, and for half the time with far more success looks suspicious, and in the office of the President of the United states appearance matters. Voters who see a difference between stealing physical files in Watergate versus electronic files are being willfully ignorant. A party that pushed for impeachment of a morally questionable act but protecting a president from charges that could equate to high treason is untrustworthy.

Yes, I said “high treason.” Accusations of collusion with agents from Russia to influence the election is high treason. What’s more, accusations that the president knew of the Clinton email hack as a candidate means that his claims that he did not is obstruction of justice. Accusations that he knew of bribery payments when he says he did not is perjury. Accusations of his businesses benefiting from his presidency is an emolument.

Like I said, the jury is still out, but the charges must be resolved one way or the other. I may not be a fan of the president, but I also have the wisdom to realize that I am not privy to the details of the investigation so I will not claim his guilt or innocence. But as an American, I am highly concerned about the focuses of the investigation, and moreso because of the credibility of the claims. If he is guilty, he needs to be brought to justice. If he is innocent, he needs to have his name cleared. Either way, as an American, I have the right to know.

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