Kendall is the Editor and a Staff Writer at TFP.
On May 17th, Democratic Rep. Al Green of Texas called for the impeachment of President Donald Trump, saying "This is about my position. This is about what I believe. And this is where I stand. I will not be moved. The President must be impeached.” The call follows the firing of FBI Director James Comey and the news that, in February, Trump asked former Director Comey to drop the investigation of his former national security advisor, Michael Flynn. Many are calling this obstruction of justice. Now, we as a country need to prepare for the impeachment process. Here are the basics:
A president can be removed from office before their term is over if they are found to have committed “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors,” according to the Constitution. Alexander Hamilton in Federalist 65 elaborated: “[They are] offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated POLITICAL, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.”
The House of Representatives will vote on articles of impeachment (each article lays out a charge against the president). If one article or more gets a majority vote, the president is impeached. After the House vote, the proceedings move to the Senate, and the trial is overseen by the chief justice of the Supreme Court. A ⅔ vote in the Senate is required to remove a president from office. If they are removed, the vice president takes their place as president.
The only two presidents in history to be impeached were Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. Both were acquitted, so a president has never actually been removed from office through this process. Richard Nixon, however, was facing almost-certain impeachment and removal from office when he preemptively resigned.
Many have been calling Trump’s actions Nixonian, and there are shocking parallels between the two presidents. In 1972, five men were caught breaking into and placing listening devices in the Democratic National Committee's office in Washington D.C. It was quickly found that the men had close ties to President Nixon. Soon after, it was discovered that Nixon asked the CIA to disrupt the FBI's investigation into the break-in. These discoveries lead to the uncovering of unimaginable crimes committed by the president and his administration, much of them targeting his political opponents. As Vox writer Dylan Matthews says in this article about the Watergate scandal, “It's not really the break-in itself that ended Nixon's presidency so much as the fact that the ensuing investigation revealed a tangled web of wrongdoing of almost unfathomable scale and complexity, implicating the highest levels of the White House, up to and including the president.”
Donald Trump is being faced with an outpouring of information similar to that which followed Nixon’s Watergate scandal. News broke recently that Donald Trump had asked two top intelligence community figures to deny any evidence of his collusion with Russia during the 2016 election. This follows a tumultuous week in which it was revealed that Trump gave highly classified information to Russian officials in a recent meeting, and that former national security advisor Michael Flynn reportedly lied to investigators about his trips to Russia. These are only the beginning in a long list of allegations against the president and his entire administration.
Despite the evidence against the president, this impeachment process is sure the be a daunting one. Republicans currently control the House and Senate, and it is hard to imagine a scenario in which they opt to condemn their own party while Trump retains support among GOP voters. Getting rid of him could essentially mean tearing their own party apart. At this point, we can only hope that House and Senate voters will do the right thing and rise up to protect the integrity of the country over their party rather than choose party over country, a choice our first president explicitly warned against.
"The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.