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Source: Professor David A. Schultz, Hamline University (Expertise: US Presidents and the laws governing US Presidency)
By: Kira Narine, Staff Writer Faculty Row
Faculty Row’s staff was curious about the recent developments and escalation of issues surrounding President Trump. So we decided to pose questions to Faculty Row's foremost presidential expert, Professor David Schultz, of Hamline University.
PART I: TAKE OUR TWO QUESTION POLL (Anonymously)
Do you believe President Trump will be impeached? (Yes/NO)
Use the following link to vote:
PART II: Insight from Professor David A. Schultz
Chances of a Trump Impeachment?
Schultz feels there is a 1 in 10 chance Trump will be impeached as of now, but the chances could increase if Trump continues to make major mistakes in office and is viewed as a liability to the Republicans in the 2018 elections.
What is the process for impeachment?
Article II, section four of the Constitution outlines the process for impeaching and removing a president from office. It declares that the president, vice-president, and other civil officers of the United States can be removed from office by “impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” Removal of the president is a two-stage process. First a major of the House of Representatives must agree on one or more articles of impeachment. If that happens, the House then appoints a committee to lead the prosecution of the articles. The Senate then must hear the articles of impeachment in a trial-like proceeding over which the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presides. It takes a two-thirds vote of the Senate to convict and if that happens, the president is removed from office. Think of House impeachment as similar to indicting one for a crime of which then the Senate is a trial to determine guilt.
How long would impeachment process take?
The process to impeach and convict probably would take several months, at least this is the case based on the only two presidents who were actually impeached.
What are the possible grounds to impeach Trump?
What would Trump have to do to constitute an impeachable offense? Article II, section four lists three possibilities. Treason is the first, and the Constitution defines that to be engaging war against the United States or giving our enemies Aid and Comfort. Treason is a high bar to meet, really historically requiring something where it involves military action or issues that directly address national security. It is possible that his campaign’s or staff’s collusion with the Russian government is treason but we do not know that yet. That is why there was the FBI investigation and therefore efforts to impede it might be efforts to obstruct justice.
The second possibility is bribery. Bribery would be accepting payments in return for the performance or conveyance of government services or favors. Given Trump’s extensive business holdings and refusal to divest himself of them, there is a possibility that the conflicts of interest that he personally has could rise to a constitutional level problem that would merit an impeachable offense. For example, allegations of Russian business connections and how they might be impacting Trump’s foreign policy decisions might be a form of bribery.
Finally, there is the phrase high crimes and misdemeanors? What does that mean? In adopting this phrase the constitutional framers employed language that had existed in England since 1386 when the Parliament used the term to refer to a variety of actions including the misappropriation of funds or dereliction in the performance of official duties. Mal-administration comes to mind as a close meaning, although when that word was proposed at the Constitutional Convention by George Mason, James Madison objected to it and substituted high crimes and misdemeanors in its place. Mal-administration is not simple policy disagreement or even sloppy administration, it needs to rise to perhaps a constitutional level, perhaps even including something approaching gross negligence and dereliction of duty.
An alternative meaning for the phrase was offered in 1970 when the House of Representatives tried to impeach Supreme Court Justice William Douglas. The Congressman Gerald Ford said an impeachable offense was “whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history.” In truth, Ford is correct–impeachment is a matter of political judgment where Congress ultimately decides the fitness of a person to serve in office, such as president.
Trump and Comey:
The House could reasonably conclude that the Comey firing was obstruction of justice as a grounds for impeachment. They could also conclude that if Trump tries to hinder a congressional investigation of his Russian connects, that it too is an impeachable offense in that in interferes with the constitutional powers of Congress. But there are other grounds for impeachment. So far the Trump presidency has been marked by either non- or mal-administration. It has largely been ineffective in getting much done, and it is mired in a host of controversies that have rendered his administration unfit to govern. He is putting US governance in danger, suggesting that it would not be wrong for Congress to decide that his very impotence and incompetence merits impeachment.
Which event(s) specifically got the ball rolling on a potential Trump impeachment? And what percentage would you assign to each subsequent event that is leading toward a potential presidential impeachment?
Up until the Comey firing I saw little chance that Trump would be impeached. But Comey’s firing raises questions about obstruction of justice, a federal felony, and whether the dismissal of the FBI director was done to impede a federal criminal investigation. Add to that now issues about Trump potentially compromising US intelligence by making disclosures to the Russians and one wonders where Trump’s loyalties are, or whether he can be trusted to be president of the United States. With each incident like this Trump only hurts him, the government, and the Republican party more, leaving open the possibility that impeachment may be the only way for the Republicans to save themselves from a disaster in the 2018 elections.
“The Coming Impeachment of Donald Trump” - Schultz’s most recent piece on Trump and James Comey:
If in fact President Trump removed FBI director James Comey to impede his ability to investigate possible Russian interference in US elections, then Donald Trump should be impeached. He should be impeached because this is obstruction of justice, a crime meriting presidential removal from office according to the Constitution. But even beyond the Comey dismissal, there are many reasons that could justify impeaching Trump. The issue is not if he should be impeached but when, and the when depends on the point when Congressional Republicans think Trump is such an anchor for their party that he impedes their political agenda, party, and electoral prospects in 2018.
Continue reading this content on Schultz's blog about Trump and James Comey:
David A. Schultz's BIO:
David Schultz is a Hamline University Professor of Political Science and a University of Minnesota professor of law. A three-time Fulbright scholar who has taught extensively in Europe, Schultz is the author of 30 books and 100+ articles on various aspects of American politics, election law, and the media and politics. Schultz has been interviewed and quoted in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, the Economist, National Public Radio. Here’s a link to Professor Schultz’s books on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/David-A.-Schultz/e/B001ITRGIG
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David A. Schultz
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