The question at the end of the
….’Being extremely bad at the job of president of the United States should be enough to get you fired’….
As we fumble thru Donald Trump’s Presidency ?
The question of how long we have to endure it constantly comes up….
The Constitution’s framers considered a few variants of the impeachment power. An early proposal would have restricted it to acts of “treason and bribery” only. That was rejected for being too narrow. A subsequent proposal would have expanded it to acts of “maladministration” as well. That was rejected for being too broad. “High crimes and misdemeanors” was the compromise, but it was never clearly defined.
What is clear is that high crimes and misdemeanors described far more than mere legal infractions. In The Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton wrote that questions of impeachment will “proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated POLITICAL, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.”
Asked, for instance, about a president who removed executive officials without good reason, James Madison replied that “the wanton removal of meritorious officers would subject him to impeachment and removal.” Capricious firings are not a crime, but they were, according to the founders, an impeachable offense.
“The grounds for impeachment can be extremely broad and need not involve a crime,” says political scientist Allan Lichtman, author of The Case for Impeachment. “That’s why they put impeachment not in the courts but in a political body. They could have put it in the Supreme Court, but they put it in the Senate.”
As Harvard law professor Cass Sunstein puts it in Impeachment: A Citizen’s Guide, “while the voices in the ratification debates were not entirely consistent and often less than precise, they can be fairly summarized in this way: If a president were to engage in some egregious violation of the public trust while in office, he could be impeached, convicted, and removed from office.”
In the course of reporting this piece, I spoke to a slew of legal scholars and impeachment specialists. Here is my conclusion: There is no actual definition of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” There is wide agreement that it describes more than violations of the criminal code, but very little agreement beyond that. When is the “misconduct of public men” impeachable? When does a tweetstorm rise to the level of “egregious violation of the public trust”?…