Impeachment Was Created To Stop A President Like Trump

Trump has declared himself above the law and actively sought foreign interference in America's democratic process. This is what the Founders feared.
President Donald Trump delivers a statement on Jerusalem in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump delivers a statement on Jerusalem in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

“Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence… the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government.” – President George Washington in his 1796 Farewell Address

The Founding Fathers did not declare independence from a monarch and fight a revolutionary war to create a country that would eventually elect a president who would seek to declare himself king and sell out to the highest foreign bidder. The Founders particularly feared a future president bending to foreign influence for personal gain. This is precisely why the impeachment clause was created, and why it’s being used against President Trump.

Today, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced that House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) will proceed with drafting articles of impeachment for President Trump. Pelosi said that Trump abused his power by pressuring Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 election by withholding aid and a White House meeting. In her remarks today, Pelosi continued:

“Our democracy is what is at stake. The president leaves us no choice but to act because he is trying to corrupt, once again, the election for his own benefit. The president has engaged in abuse of power undermining our national security and jeopardizing the integrity of our elections. His actions are in defiance of the vision of our founders and the oath of office that he takes to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

That story was told over the course of weeks of public impeachment hearings, and in the House Impeachment report released this week. The report established a pattern, from welcoming Russia’s election interference in 2016 to trying to extort it from Ukraine ahead of 2020. As we see outlined in the report, and in the hearing this week, this is exactly the conduct the Founding Fathers feared.

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The debates among the Founders about the importance of protecting America’s election integrity and preventing a president from becoming a foreign asset are no secret. They thought deeply about this risk, and it’s why they crafted the impeachment and emoluments clause (which Trump likely violates by profiting from the presidency). This was the common theme among three of the law professors who testified in the House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment hearing. They all agreed that the impeachment clause was crafted for a President that has done exactly what President Trump has done.

I covered this in my recent analysis for The Independent:

Professor Feldman summarized his thoughts on Trump’s conduct succinctly in his opening statement. After stating that the Founding Fathers feared a president who might abuse his power for personal gain, Feldman continued: “On the basis of the testimony and evidence before the House, President Trump has committed impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors by corruptly abusing the office of the presidency.”

Professor Gerhardt’s testimony made the key point that Trump’s obstruction of Congress is impeachable and that an act does not have to be a federal crime to be impeachable. Gerhardt stated: “If what we’re talking about is not impeachable, then nothing is impeachable. This is precisely the misconduct that the framers created a constitution, including impeachment, to protect against.”

Karlan, Feldman, and Gerhardt all agreed that what Trump did was impeachable bribery. Karlan made sure to make a distinction between bribery in the impeachment clause and the bribery statute that wasn’t created until decades later. All three also agreed that it doesn’t matter that Trump eventually released the military aid. They argued that if the president even attempts to abuse his office, that is an impeachable offense.

While Democrats and their witnesses cited the Founding Fathers who feared foreign influence, Republicans took a different route. In July, President Trump presented a distorted version of the conservative unitary executive theory when he said: “Then I have an Article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president.” Attorney General William Barr is also a believer of this theory. Of course, the Constitution does not allow Trump to do whatever he wants. While you’ve heard Republicans quoting Hamilton throughout this impeachment process, you won’t hear them quote Federalist 65 which contradicts Trump and Barr’s interpretation of his theory.

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As Professor Bradley Hays wrote in The Washington Post, Hamilton actually intended the unitary executive to increase accountability by centralizing the power of the executive. Hays also notes that Hamilton explicitly states that the unitary executive does not place the President above the law:

In Federalist 65, he clearly states that a president impeached for misconduct is also “liable to prosecution and punishment in the ordinary course of law.” In other words, the presidency was not designed to be free from prosecutorial inquiry.

There has been a lot of cherry-picking of what the Founding Fathers believed from Republicans. Make no mistake, Donald Trump is exactly the corrupt President they crafted the Constitution to protect Americans from.

News // Constitution / Donald Trump / Founding Fathers / Impeachment / Ukraine