Who knew, as Donald Trump begins the last year of his first term as president, he would be facing impeachment proceedings?
Well nobody knew, but if you’re even the most casual observer of the Trump presidency, his surprising election in 2016 and the current political climate, you have to know the Democrats have wanted this to happen since the day he took the oath of office.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi knew the contents of the Mueller report, although damning, did not have the shock value to carry an impeachment action.
She knew she had hit pay dirt, however, when the little matter of a phone call to the Ukrainian president and the urging of him, by Trump, to look into the business dealings in that country of one Hunter Biden, son of the Democratic frontrunner and former VP, Joe Biden, came to light.
And here we are. Articles of impeachment are freshly minted by the Democratic-majority House of Representatives, with votes according to party lines.
As I write this, Speaker Pelosi is holding them, whatever that means, before sending them to the Senate, where a trial will take place and Trump is almost certain to be acquitted by that body with a Republican majority.
Putting politics aside, the impeachment process is an interesting one for students of the U.S. Constitution. Given the gravity of the situation, there is scant mention of how a president is to be impeached and subsequently removed.
Article 3, Section 4 states that a president “shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
Article 1, Section 2 gives the House of Representatives “sole power of impeachment” and Article 1, Section 3 gives the U.S. Senate authority to oversee the trial portion of the impeachment process, and to decide whether the president is to be removed from office based on the impeachment article(s) passed by the House. It takes a two-thirds majority vote to do so.
That is all the Constitution tells us. Perhaps that was by design, so it would, in fact, be a rare occurrence.
Trump will now be known as the third U.S. president to be impeached, following Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998. Neither Johnson nor Clinton were removed from office following a Senate trial.
Richard Nixon would almost certainly have been impeached and removed from office in 1974 had he not resigned. He knew what was coming, having lived through the humiliating Watergate hearings, and he got out while the getting was good.
I don’t know what it means, but I think it’s interesting that it took 130 years from the time Andrew Johnson was impeached for it to happen again. Now it’s happened twice in my lifetime.
With a vague term like “high crimes and misdemeanors,” which does not carry with it the evidentiary requirements of a typical criminal proceeding, the Republicans were able to get Clinton when he covered up his relationship with Monica Lewinsky and perjured himself.
Let’s face it, they reasoned, the guy lied under oath and surely that’s enough to get him out of there.
Similarly, the Dems got the goods on Trump with the implicating phone call. He used the sacred power of the highest office in the land, they say, for his own political gain.
Put differently, both bodies, at those points in time, acting as a de facto grand jury, had enough to bring the charges in good conscience (sort of) against the sitting president.
But just as the Senate Democrats in the Clinton case saved his hide (because what did the Lewinsky affair and perjury have to do with his ability to be president?), it’s a safe bet the Republicans will do the same for Trump (because what president doesn’t act in his own interest and what’s wrong with that?).
Because here’s the thing, and I know you’ll be shocked: It’s all about politics.
The Democrats know very well there will be no Senate conviction. Their ploy, in my opinion, is to shame Trump so that swing voters who put him in the White House in 2016 will be so appalled they won’t let it happen this time.
(Clinton was impeached in his second term, so did not face re-election, but after the Whitewater investigation turned up nothing and Hillary stood by her man, Republicans wanted one last shot at him, if for nothing more than to tarnish his legacy, which didn’t work).
Based on recent history, Trump will turn it all back on his accusers, allowing as to how they tried to cripple him and keep him from doing his job, and wasted a lot of time and money in doing so.
How can you not re-elect me, he’ll say in not so many words, when you have Bozos like this wanting to run the country?
Less than one year from now, we’ll know if the strategy of the Democrats worked, or if Trump had the last laugh (on Twitter, no doubt).
Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.