Impeachment: these truths should be self-evident by Marjorie Arons-Barron

Watching the impeachment trial, waiting for the Senate decision on relevant witnesses versus brazen cover-up,  I keep thinking about three ridiculous arguments made by President Trump’s defenders and echoed incessantly on Fox and its spillover social media and blogosphere.  I have received considerable input on these legal considerations from my husband, Jim Barron, an attorney who years ago taught political science.

  1. Trump was improperly impeached because Congress needs to have a clear violation of criminal law, preferably one enumerated in the Federal Criminal Code,  in order to have an impeachable offense. This was at the heart of Alan Dershowitz’s head-scratching contorted defense two nights ago.

This is clearly wrong. To that claim, I suggest senators  and media observers reflect upon the example used by late constitutional law scholar  Charles Black, Jr., in his Impeachment: A Handbook:

Suppose a president were to move to Saudi Arabia so he could have four wives, and suppose he were to propose to conduct the office of the presidency by mail and wireless from there. This would not be a crime, provided his passport were in order. Is it possible that such gross and wanton neglect of duty could not be grounds for impeachment and removal?

This example shows the absurdity of the GOP and Dershowitz’s outlier assertion.

  1. To convict the president for allegedly impeachable offenses would unlawfully disenfranchise the millions of voters who voted for Donald Trump. It would overturn the election results of 2016.

No, it would not.  Aside from the  fact that the impeachment process is specifically provided for in the US Constitution, the votes of those who voted the Trump-Pence ticket would continue to be respected.  Hillary Clinton would not suddenly take over the levers of government. Mike Pence, an even more reliably right-wing ideologue than Trump, would become President. The votes of a majority of 2016 electoral college electors would be sustained.  The voters’ selection would stand.

  1. Convicting Trump for impeachable offenses would unfairly interfere with the 2020 Presidential race by depriving millions of voters –  nearly half the electorate- who zealously love Trump and his presidency from voting for their hero.

False. President Donald Trump could be impeached, removed from office and still run again for President in 2020.

The Constitution is quite clear about what the Senate can do when presented with a House-approved impeachment. Article I, Section 3, Clause 7 provides:

Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States.”

The wording of the House’s articles of impeachment could influence the Senate decision. In 1974, the House Judiciary Committee specified only that Nixon “warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office.” In 1998, the impeachment articles  called for Clinton to be precluded from running for future office. The 2019 articles follow the Clinton language, but it’s not binding on Senators who have the discretion to vote only for removal from this office now.

So, even if the Senate convicts Trump and removes him from office — admittedly an unlikely proposition– Trump could be free to run again this year, and he could proceed with his re-election full throttle as if nothing happened.  If President Mike Pence agreed to roll over, Trump could easily be nominated again and, depending on the Democrats’ ticket, could even win a second term.