FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

What is an “Impeachable Offense?”

Photo Source Mike Maguire | CC BY 2.0

In a Labor Day tweet, President Donald Trump took Attorney General Jeff Sessions to task over the indictments of two Republican congressmen — one for insider trading, the other for misusing campaign funds.  “Two long running, Obama era, investigations of two very popular Republican Congressmen were brought to a well publicized charge, just ahead of the Mid-Terms, by the Jeff Sessions Justice Department. Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time. Good job Jeff …”

CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin responded on the network’s “New Day” program: “This tweet alone may be an impeachable offense,” because it is “so contrary to the traditions of the Department of Justice.”

Can a presidential tweet — and especially this tweet in particular — be an impeachable offense?

Short answer: Yes.

Longer answer: The US Constitution envisions impeachment for two specific offenses (treason and bribery) and for other not specifically defined offenses (“other high Crimes and Misdemeanors”).

That second category does carry historical meaning, but the meaning is broad and, more importantly, determined politically and in the moment. Which means that pretty much anything can be an impeachable offense.

A “high crime” is not a crime of some particular severity. Rather, it is a crime committed by someone serving in a “high” government position that carries  obligations above and beyond those binding a private citizen. The president of the United States is obviously such a person.

The first conviction handed down by the US Senate pursuant to impeachment in the House was of a federal judge for the “high crime” of chronic intoxication. Not a crime at all for you or for me, but antithetical to a judge’s obligation to not go mentally self-impaired in the performance of his duties.

President Andrew Johnson was impeached for, though not convicted of, “high crimes” including making speeches which “attempt[ed] to bring into disgrace, ridicule, hatred, contempt and reproach, the Congress of the United States.”

It’s not a stretch to put Trump’s tweet in the same category as those offenses. He’s a high official, publicly and corruptly calling on a government agency which he’s obligated to oversee honest operation of to give members of his party free passes on their own “high crimes” because there’s an election coming soon.

Republicans in Congress complained bitterly when former FBI director James Comey and the Obama Justice Department gave Hillary Clinton exactly such a free pass on her grossly negligent handling of classified information in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. Will congressional Republicans apply the same implied standard to Trump?

Yes, whether or not Congress deems Trump’s tweet a “high crime” is indeed a  political question.  It’s all about the votes — at the Capitol and, come November, at America’s polling places.

 

More articles by:

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

November 13, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
The Midterm Results are Challenging Racism in America in Unexpected Ways
Victor Grossman
Germany on a Political Seesaw
Cillian Doyle
Fictitious Assets, Hidden Losses and the Collapse of MDM Bank
Lauren Smith
Amnesia and Impunity Reign: Wall Street Celebrates Halliburton’s 100th Anniversary
Joe Emersberger
Moreno’s Neoliberal Restoration Proceeds in Ecuador
Carol Dansereau
Climate and the Infernal Blue Wave: Straight Talk About Saving Humanity
Dave Lindorff
Hey Right Wingers! Signatures Change over Time
Dan Corjescu
Poetry and Barbarism: Adorno’s Challenge
Patrick Bond
Mining Conflicts Multiply, as Critics of ‘Extractivism’ Gather in Johannesburg
Ed Meek
The Kavanaugh Hearings: Text and Subtext
Binoy Kampmark
Concepts of Nonsense: Australian Soft Power
November 12, 2018
Kerron Ó Luain
Poppy Fascism and the English Education System
Conn Hallinan
Nuclear Treaties: Unwrapping Armageddon
Robert Hunziker
Tropical Trump Declares War on Amazonia
John W. Whitehead
Badge of Shame: the Government’s War on Military Veterans
Will Griffin
Military “Service” Serves the Ruling Class
John Eskow
Harold Pinter’s America: Hard Truths and Easy Targets
Rob Okun
Activists Looking Beyond Midterm Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Mid-Term Divisions: The Trump Take
Dean Baker
Short-Term Health Insurance Plans Destroy Insurance Pools
George Wuerthner
Saving the Buffalohorn/Porcupine: the Lamar Valley of the Gallatin Range
Patrick Howlett-Martin
A Note on the Paris Peace Forum
Joseph G. Ramsey
Does America Have a “Gun Problem”…Or a White Supremacy Capitalist Empire Problem?
Weekend Edition
November 09, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Louis Proyect
Why Democrats Are So Okay With Losing
Andrew Levine
What Now?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Chuck and Nancy’s House of Cards
Brian Cloughley
The Malevolent Hypocrisy of Selective Sanctions
Marc Levy
Welcome, Class of ‘70
David Archuleta Jr.
Facebook Allows Governments to Decide What to Censor
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Zika Scare: a Political and Commercial Maneuver of the Chemical Poisons Industry
Nick Pemberton
When It Comes To Stone Throwing, Democrats Live In A Glass House
Ron Jacobs
Impeach!
Lawrence Davidson
A Tale of Two Massacres
José Tirado
A World Off Balance
Jonah Raskin
Something Has Gone Very Wrong: An Interview With Ecuadoran Author Gabriela Alemán
J.P. Linstroth
Myths on Race and Invasion of the ‘Caravan Horde’
Dean Baker
Good News, the Stock Market is Plunging: Thoughts on Wealth
David Rosen
It’s Time to Decriminalize Sex Work
Dan Glazebrook
US Calls for a Yemen Ceasefire is a Cynical Piece of Political Theatre
Jérôme Duval
Forced Marriage Between Argentina and the IMF Turns into a Fiasco
Jill Richardson
Getting Past Gingrich
Dave Lindorff
Not a Blue Wave, But Perhaps a Foreshock
Martha Rosenberg
Dangerous, Expensive Drugs Aggressively Pushed? You Have These Medical Conflicts of Interest to Thank
Will Solomon
Not Much of a Wave
Nicolas J S Davies
Why Yemeni War Deaths are Five Times Higher Than You’ve Been Led to Believe
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail