Much of the public is eager for the impeachment of President Trump. A poll last week found that 40 percent of Americans already “support” impeaching him, and the same survey — by highly regarded Public Policy Polling — found that another 12 percent are “not sure.”
From the outset of his presidency, Trump has been violating the U.S. Constitution in a way that we have not seen before and should not tolerate. It’s time for members of Congress to get the impeachment process underway.
The Constitution states that to start impeachment proceedings, a document or “resolution calling for a committee investigation of charges against the officer in question” must be introduced in the House of Representatives. Such a move would have been appropriate from the moment that Trump became president.
As documented in depth on the ImpeachDonaldTrumpNow.orgwebsite — where more than 600,000 people have already signed a petition for impeachment — the president continues to violate two “emoluments” clauses in the Constitution. One prohibits any gifts or benefits from foreign governments, and the other prohibits the same from the U.S. government or any U.S. state.
To uphold the bedrock principle that no one should be above the supreme law of the land, a resolute member of the House must now take the lead in introducing a resolution to get impeachment rolling. That process is necessarily difficult — and essential.
Former White House counsel John Dean, who served President Nixon from 1970 to 1973, told The Atlantic magazine: “I don’t think Richard Nixon even comes close to the level of corruption we already know about Trump.”
Since that interview with Dean three weeks ago, we’ve been learning more about Trump’s unconstitutional corruption as president. The case that Trump is in flagrant violation of the Constitution gained added strength over the weekend when The Associated Press reported: “New documents confirm that President Donald Trump retains a direct tie to his business interests through a revocable trust now being overseen by one of his adult sons and a longtime executive of the Trump Organization.”
What’s more, AP reported, “Trump is the sole beneficiary of the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust, which is tied to his Social Security number as the taxpayer identification number, according to documents published onlineby the investigative nonprofit ProPublica. And Trump can revoke the trust, which was amended three days before his inauguration, at any time.”
Members of Congress should initiate an impeachment process because of two clear provisions in the Constitution.
The Foreign Emoluments Clause says: “[N]o Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States], shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”
And the Constitution’s Domestic Emoluments Clause (also known as the Presidential Compensation Clause), which cannot be waived by Congress, says: “The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be encreased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.”
In addition, a House committee’s impeachment probe should also investigate whether President Trump is violating the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act of 2012 (STOCK Act). One of the few federal ethics statutes that specifically include the president, the STOCK Act — among other provisions — prohibits the president from (1) using nonpublic information for private profit, and from (2) intentionally influencing an employment decision or practice of a private entity solely on the basis of partisan political affiliation.
A crucial test for democracy is whether people in high places can violate the law with impunity. For democracy in the United States, the biggest danger is unchecked presidential ability to violate the Constitution.
In a speech on the House floor last Thursday that spelled out some of Trump’s extreme conflicts-of-interest, Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) closed with a cogent reference to the fact that Congress can “even explore the power of impeachment.”
Let the exploration begin.
This column originally appeared in The Hill.