DemDaily: Impeaching The President
May 23, 2019
With now at least ten federal criminal investigations, eight state and socal investigations, & 11 Congressional investigations underway into President Donald Trump's associates, campaign, inauguration, presidency, and businesses, the calls for impeachment of the President are escalating -- as are Trump's tirades.Trump stormed out of a meeting on a bipartisan infrastructure bill with Democrats at the White House yesterday, saying he won't work on the bill until Democrats end their "phony investigations."
The tantrum followed earlier comments by Speaker Nancy Pelosi that accused the President of a "cover up." The President and the White House have refused to comply with numerous subpoenas from Congress requesting information and testimony.
If Trump won't work on any bipartisan legislation unless his demands are met, then it means a halt to months of negotiations between Congress and the White House on infrastructure, the budget, the Mexico-Canada trade deal and the much needed disaster relief package, among bills.
It also adds another violation of the Constitution to the President's growing list, as refusing to work with Congress would be a fundamental prima facie violation of the rule of law.
"The President, Vice President, and all civil Officers of the United States shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors." -- Article II of the United States Constitution, Section 4
The House of Representatives has the sole power to impeach a president, but removal from office is contingent upon trial and conviction by the United States Senate.
Think of Impeachment by the House, which requires a majority vote (51%), as an indictment in regular court proceedings. If the motion, or indictment, passes, then it goes to the second stage of a trial before a judge and jury, which is the Senate's role, and requires a 2/3 vote of those present to convict and remove the president from office.When an impeachment process involves a US President, the Chief Justice of the United States is required to preside during the Senate trial (usually the VP's job).
Only two US Presidents have been impeached: Andrew Johnson, in 1868, for violation of the Tenure in Office Act, and Bill Clinton, 1998, for perjury and obstruction of justice. In both cases the Senate failed to convict. No US President has been removed from office by impeachment and conviction.
In her weekly press conference today Pelosi lamblasted the President's actions, saying "I pray for the President of the United States. I wish that his family or his Administration, or his staff would have an intervention for the good of the country."
Pelosi has come under fire herself for pushing back on the heightened calls for impeachment until the current investigations are completed and can provide evidence of "something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan."
Her methodical approach also takes into account concerns over a potential backlash from a weary and overwhelmed public who, according to recent polling, oppose initiating impeachment proceedings by 65%.
The ensuring "divisive" drama would also distract from the real issues facing the country and consume the nation going into 2019 elections and 2020 presidential. Then there is, of course, the unlikelihood of pushing a conviction through the GOP-controlled Senate.
But as the evidence, suphoenas and allegations continue to mount against Trump and his administration, so does the outrage. In addition to the growing chorus of impeachment calls from now 39 members of Congress, including one Republican, outside voices are getting louder.Billionaire Tom Steyer, who launched NeedtoImpeach last year, came out with another television ad last week featuring members of the public angry over Trump's actions and the lack of action by Congress.
In a recent interview with WGBH, Steyer said, "We are pushing as hard as we can to get the information to the American people ... because that's who deserves to actually make (this) decision and control what happens in the country."
Pelosi's reference to an "intervention" touches on another option for ousting the president -- removal by the Cabinet.
Originally intended for transfer of power to address illness in office, the 25th Amendment to the Constitution allows for a sitting vice president and a majority of the executive branch's cabinet to, upon agreement, transfer power out of the hands of a sitting president.
"Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President." --25th Amendment, Article 4
A coup by the Vice President and the Cabinet is highly unlikely, leaving the battle over the President's constitutional powers and unprecedented challenges to Congress' authority up to the courts.
This week a Manhattan federal judge ruled that Deutsche Bank, Trump's longtime lender, must comply with congressional subpoenas seeking the President's financial records.
Similary, a federal judge in Washington ruled against Trump's efforts to block another congressional subpoena requiring his accounting firm to hand over his tax returns.
In the interim, however, the GOP-controlled Senate is continuing to approve more conservative appointments to the court.
One way or another, time is running out.
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Sources: CNN, The Intelligencer, New York Times