The our-constitutional-system-demands-it case for impeachment

As mentioned, I’m already pretty sympathetic to this view, but to have Lawfare’s Susan Hennessey, and Quinta Jurecic make this case, further strengthens my opinion on the matter:

Here is the other bottom line: The Mueller Report describes a president who, on numerous occasions, engaged in conduct calculated to hinder a federal investigation. It finds ample evidence that at least a portion of that conduct met all of the statutory elements of criminal obstruction of justice. In some of the instances in which all of the statutory elements of obstruction are met, the report finds no persuasive constitutional or factual defenses. And yet, it declines to render a judgment on whether the president has committed a crime…

On the Democratic side, there is a clear reticence in the  leadership to initiate impeachment proceedings that might politically backfire…

The problem with this approach is that, under the current system, the options for checking a president who abuses his power to the degree that Trump has are functionally impeachment proceedings or nothing [bold are mine; italics in original]

Currently, there are bad incentives on both sides of the aisle. Republicans don’t want to touch the matter because the president is a member of their party. His agenda aligns with theirs on many issues, and they fear angering his base in a way that might imperil their own reelection. Democrats, on the other hand, are worried that initiating impeachment proceedings will offer the president a rallying point for his base, and allow Republicans to paint them as fanatics out to get Trump at all costs. Besides, the thinking goes, Democratic base voters want to discuss policy issues that impact their lives, not perseverate on the many president’s sins.

The problem is that impeachment isn’t a purely political matter—though certainly it is political in part. It’s a constitutional expression of the separation of powers, of Congress’s ability to check a chief executive overrunning the bounds of his power. It’s also, under the OLC memo, the only release valve in the constitutional structure for the urgent and mounting pressure of an executive who may have committed serious wrongdoing. To say that the appropriate course is to simply wait for the next presidential election in 18 months, is to offer a judgment that—even in light of his conduct as described by Mueller—Trump is not truly unfit for the office. It is to say he is no different from, say, Vice President Mike Pence, who would take his place, or any other Republican for that matter. It is to say that what matters is winning elections, even if it risks further institutional harms…

Though hard questions remain about whether President Trump should be impeached and whether the evidence would be sufficient for the Senate to convict him, these are not questions that need to be answered at this stage. Congress’s responsibility at this point is to begin an impeachment inquiry as a means of finding an answer to them. And Mueller has provided more than enough information to justify initiating an inquiry: the report sets out evidence of possible criminal wrongdoing by the president during his time in office related to abuse of power, which is at the dead center of the “high crimes and misdemeanors” impeachment is designed to check…

In the face of this evidence, for Congress to not even consider impeachment as a matter of serious inquiry is to declare that the legislature is not interested in its carrying out its institutional obligations as a coordinate branch of government.



About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

2 Responses to The our-constitutional-system-demands-it case for impeachment

  1. R. Jenrette says:

    I think the case for impeachment will get more public support after the people hear testimony from important witnesses. Most people are not going to read that whole report. Hearing Mueller and maybe others from his office and hearing Barr again to compare could alert the public to how important the investigation is to our national security.
    If it’s true that the public is largely uninterested in the report, then hearing the voices giving testimony may give citizens a prod and an education.
    This idea that anything goes in the campaigns to win power is OK has got to go for us to have a thriving democracy. All the consistent lies about Russian contacts were committed because the liars were sure they were committing crimes and those crimes could not be revealed or the election would be lost. They didn’t care where their “dirt” came from as long as it was helping them.

  2. Jim Danielson+ says:

    Republicans are already painting Democrats as fanatics, they are going to do so even more as the election draws near. Republicans are going to say anything, make up any lie to stay in power and get more. Have Democrats not learned anything from Republican’s past and present behavior?

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