Top 3 Offenses for Which Trump Could Be Impeached
Just over 6 months into his Presidency, Donald Trump has come to be defined not by policy accomplishments or global leadership but rather by scandal and suspicion. Between his constant tweets, his love of authoritarian leaders, and his demands for loyalty, many Americans are left wondering how this administration might end?
Allan Lichtman, a history professor at American University has correctly predicted every Presidential election since 1984. Last September Lichtman spoke to the Washington Post, he said in part “And I’m quite certain Trump will give someone grounds for impeachment, either by doing something that endangers national security or because it helps his pocketbook.”
What is Impeachment?
Impeachment is the process by which public officials can be removed from office. Impeachment is not limited to the President. The U.S. Constitution says, “the president, vice president and all civil officers of the United States” can be removed from office via impeachment.
Impeachment takes place in the House of Representatives and the Senate and resembles a court trial. The House of Representatives is the only body endowed with the power of impeachment. Once impeached in the House of Representatives, the Senate is the only body with the power to convict and remove a federal official.
Causes for impeachment are outlined in Article II Section 4 of the US Constitution, it states officials can be impeached and removed from office if convicted of “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”
In 1972 President Richard Nixon had impeachment proceedings started against him in the House of Representatives for his role in the Watergate Scandal. President Nixon resigned from office before the vote to impeach him was completed.
In 1998 President Bill Clinton was impeached in the House but was not removed from office. In Presidential politics, the saying goes “it’s not the crime it’s the cover-up”. That was certainly the case with both Nixon and Clinton.
3 Offenses for Which Donald Trump Could Be Impeached
This leads to considerations of our current Commander in Chief. With all of President Trump’s missteps, impeachment does not seem a far-fetched notion.
If the standard “it’s not the crime it’s the cover-up” is applied, several potential causes for impeachment become possible.
1. Obstruction of Justice
Merriam-Webster defines obstruction of justice as “the crime or act of willfully interfering with the process of justice and law especially by influencing, threatening, harming, or impeding a witness, potential witness, juror, or judicial or legal officer or by furnishing false information in or otherwise impeding an investigation or legal process”
President Trump has confirmed on Twitter that he is indeed, as reports have stated, under investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller for obstruction of justice for his firing of former FBI Director James Comey. If it is found that President obstructed justice by firing James Comey in an attempt to thwart the FBI investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, an explanation the President has himself put forward, he could be subject to impeachment.
I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 16, 2017
President Trump has been accused of obstructing justice in his efforts to influence James Comey who was then the FBI Director, to drop the investigation into Michael Flynn. The alleged conversation took place in the Oval Office following a meeting. According to Comey, the President asked everyone else to leave the room and then spoke only to Comey saying he “hoped” Comey could see to let the Flynn investigation go. This conversation could also be considered obstruction of justice and could be cause for impeachment.
2. Colluding with the Russians
Aside from allegations related to obstruction of justice, largely stemming from his firing of FBI Director James Comey, there is another possible avenue for impeachment. If Special Counsel Robert Mueller concludes that the President himself was either involved in or informed of collusion between his campaign and the Russian intelligence apparatus, impeachment could be possible.
If it is proven that the President himself either participated in or was aware of his campaign’s collusion with the Russian effort to infiltrate the United States Presidential election in 2016 he could certainly face impeachment proceedings. What is less clear is if collusion were to be proven and if that collusion extends all the way to the President himself could the President be criminally charged beyond impeachment.
3. Violations of Campaign Finance Reform Laws
Campaigns in the United States are required to conform to all campaign finance laws. When it comes to such laws it is most often considered to regard things like corporate donations or lobbying donations to a political campaign. The laws, however address many issues including forbidding campaign contributions from foreign individuals and entities.
With recent bombshells revealed in the New York Times that show a direct link between offers of damaging information about Hillary Clinton by a Kremlin tied lawyer and Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort, it seems clear that Trump could have violated campaign finance laws. Campaign finance laws forbid foreign persons from contributing to US political campaigns, while there is not current evidence that money was given to the Trump campaign, those same finance laws also forbid “in kind” contributions, contributions of something of value that is not money. Opposition research is certainly something of value. If those actions can be tied in any way to the President himself he might be found guilty of violating campaign finance laws and could therefore be subject to impeachment.
How Likely is Impeachment?
Barring a huge revelation, which is certainly not outside the realm of possibility, it may be unlikely that the President would be impeached. In order to be impeached his own party would have to turn against him en masse. Even with all the scandal surrounding the White House, fellow Republican lawmakers have been unwilling to categorically denounce the President.
It begs the question, what type of conduct from the President might cause Republicans to join Democrats in calling for impeachment. Special Counsel Robert Mueller has assembled a dream team of lawyers and their investigation into Russian meddling and obstruction of justice is growing. In today’s political climate nothing is impossible, the investigation has the potential to find conduct that might sway Republicans to support impeachment.
If President Trump’s administration survives to see the 2018 midterm elections, the political map could be quite different then it is today. If the Democrats are able to retake either the House or Senate or both in those elections, the possibility of impeachment increases.