Bob Schwartz

Tag: impeachment

Barbara Jordan: Impeachment Is Not About Removal from Office

It is wrong, I suggest, it is a misreading of the Constitution for any member here to assert that for a member to vote for an article of impeachment means that that member must be convinced that the President should be removed from office. The Constitution doesn’t say that. The powers relating to impeachment are an essential check in the hands of the body of the Legislature against and upon the encroachments of the Executive….

James Madison again at the Constitutional Convention: “A President is impeachable if he attempts to subvert the Constitution.” The Constitution charges the President with the task of taking care that the laws be faithfully executed, and yet the President has counseled his aides to commit perjury, willfully disregard the secrecy of grand jury proceedings, conceal surreptitious entry, attempt to compromise a federal judge, while publicly displaying his cooperation with the processes of criminal justice. “A President is impeachable if he attempts to subvert the Constitution.”…

If the impeachment provision in the Constitution of the United States will not reach the offenses charged here, then perhaps that 18th-century Constitution should be abandoned to a 20th-century paper shredder!

Barbara Jordan, Statement on the Articles of Impeachment, 25 July 1974, House Judiciary Committee

Politician, legislator, educator, groundbreaker. Most especially orator. Former Congressman Barbara Jordan (1936-1996) was an American hero. And objectively one of the greatest American public figures of all time.

Objectively? How do we know this?

When you review American Rhetoric’s list of Top 100 Speeches you find Barbara Jordan at Number 5 (1976 Democratic National Convention Keynote Address) and Number 13 (Statement on the Articles of Impeachment, 25 July 1974, House Judiciary Committee). Her 1976 DNC speech is ranked below only MLK’s I Have A Dream, JFK’s Inaugural Address, and two speeches by FDR (First Inaugural Address and Pearl Habor Address to the Nation).

The reason her impeachment speech achieved its status is not only because of her unmatched talents as wordsmith and orator. It is because, as she often did, she went to the heart of the matter, which in the case of impeachment is not removal from office, but subverting the Constitution.

Mr. Chairman, I join my colleague Mr. Rangel in thanking you for giving the junior members of this committee the glorious opportunity of sharing the pain of this inquiry. Mr. Chairman, you are a strong man, and it has not been easy but we have tried as best we can to give you as much assistance as possible.

Earlier today, we heard the beginning of the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States: “We, the people.” It’s a very eloquent beginning. But when that document was completed on the seventeenth of September in 1787, I was not included in that “We, the people.” I felt somehow for many years that George Washington and Alexander Hamilton just left me out by mistake. But through the process of amendment, interpretation, and court decision, I have finally been included in “We, the people.”

Today I am an inquisitor. An hyperbole would not be fictional and would not overstate the solemnness that I feel right now. My faith in the Constitution is whole; it is complete; it is total. And I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction, of the Constitution.

“Who can so properly be the inquisitors for the nation as the representatives of the nation themselves?” “The subjects of its jurisdiction are those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men.”1 And that’s what we’re talking about. In other words, [the jurisdiction comes] from the abuse or violation of some public trust.

It is wrong, I suggest, it is a misreading of the Constitution for any member here to assert that for a member to vote for an article of impeachment means that that member must be convinced that the President should be removed from office. The Constitution doesn’t say that. The powers relating to impeachment are an essential check in the hands of the body of the Legislature against and upon the encroachments of the Executive. The division between the two branches of the Legislature, the House and the Senate, assigning to the one the right to accuse and to the other the right to judge, the Framers of this Constitution were very astute. They did not make the accusers and the judgers — and the judges the same person.

We know the nature of impeachment. We’ve been talking about it awhile now. It is chiefly designed for the President and his high ministers to somehow be called into account. It is designed to “bridle” the Executive if he engages in excesses. “It is designed as a method of national inquest into the conduct of public men.”² The Framers confided in the Congress the power if need be, to remove the President in order to strike a delicate balance between a President swollen with power and grown tyrannical, and preservation of the independence of the Executive.

The nature of impeachment: a narrowly channeled exception to the separation-of-powers maxim.  The Federal Convention of 1787 said that. It limited impeachment to high crimes and misdemeanors and discounted and opposed the term “maladministration.” “It is to be used only for great misdemeanors,” so it was said in the North Carolina ratification convention. And in the Virginia ratification convention: “We do not trust our liberty to a particular branch. We need one branch to check the other.”

“No one need be afraid” — the North Carolina ratification convention — “No one need be afraid that officers who commit oppression will pass with immunity.” “Prosecutions of impeachments will seldom fail to agitate the passions of the whole community,” said Hamilton in the Federalist Papers, number 65. “We divide into parties more or less friendly or inimical to the accused.”³ I do not mean political parties in that sense.

The drawing of political lines goes to the motivation behind impeachment; but impeachment must proceed within the confines of the constitutional term “high crime[s] and misdemeanors.” Of the impeachment process, it was Woodrow Wilson who said that “Nothing short of the grossest offenses against the plain law of the land will suffice to give them speed and effectiveness. Indignation so great as to overgrow party interest may secure a conviction; but nothing else can.”

Common sense would be revolted if we engaged upon this process for petty reasons. Congress has a lot to do: Appropriations, Tax Reform, Health Insurance, Campaign Finance Reform, Housing, Environmental Protection, Energy Sufficiency, Mass Transportation. Pettiness cannot be allowed to stand in the face of such overwhelming problems. So today we are not being petty. We are trying to be big, because the task we have before us is a big one.

This morning, in a discussion of the evidence, we were told that the evidence which purports to support the allegations of misuse of the CIA by the President is thin. We’re told that that evidence is insufficient. What that recital of the evidence this morning did not include is what the President did know on June the 23rd, 1972.

The President did know that it was Republican money, that it was money from the Committee for the Re-Election of the President, which was found in the possession of one of the burglars arrested on June the 17th. What the President did know on the 23rd of June was the prior activities of E. Howard Hunt, which included his participation in the break-in of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist, which included Howard Hunt’s participation in the Dita Beard ITT affair, which included Howard Hunt’s fabrication of cables designed to discredit the Kennedy Administration.

We were further cautioned today that perhaps these proceedings ought to be delayed because certainly there would be new evidence forthcoming from the President of the United States. There has not even been an obfuscated indication that this committee would receive any additional materials from the President. The committee subpoena is outstanding, and if the President wants to supply that material, the committee sits here. The fact is that on yesterday, the American people waited with great anxiety for eight hours, not knowing whether their President would obey an order of the Supreme Court of the United States.

At this point, I would like to juxtapose a few of the impeachment criteria with some of the actions the President has engaged in. Impeachment criteria: James Madison, from the Virginia ratification convention. “If the President be connected in any suspicious manner with any person and there be grounds to believe that he will shelter him, he may be impeached.”

We have heard time and time again that the evidence reflects the payment to defendants money. The President had knowledge that these funds were being paid and these were funds collected for the 1972 presidential campaign. We know that the President met with Mr. Henry Petersen 27 times to discuss matters related to Watergate, and immediately thereafter met with the very persons who were implicated in the information Mr. Petersen was receiving. The words are: “If the President is connected in any suspicious manner with any person and there be grounds to believe that he will shelter that person, he may be impeached.”

Justice Story: “Impeachment” is attended — “is intended for occasional and extraordinary cases where a superior power acting for the whole people is put into operation to protect their rights and rescue their liberties from violations.” We know about the Huston plan. We know about the break-in of the psychiatrist’s office. We know that there was absolute complete direction on September 3rd when the President indicated that a surreptitious entry had been made in Dr. Fielding’s office, after having met with Mr. Ehrlichman and Mr. Young. “Protect their rights.” “Rescue their liberties from violation.”

The Carolina ratification convention impeachment criteria: those are impeachable “who behave amiss or betray their public trust.”4 Beginning shortly after the Watergate break-in and continuing to the present time, the President has engaged in a series of public statements and actions designed to thwart the lawful investigation by government prosecutors. Moreover, the President has made public announcements and assertions bearing on the Watergate case, which the evidence will show he knew to be false. These assertions, false assertions, impeachable, those who misbehave. Those who “behave amiss or betray the public trust.”

James Madison again at the Constitutional Convention: “A President is impeachable if he attempts to subvert the Constitution.” The Constitution charges the President with the task of taking care that the laws be faithfully executed, and yet the President has counseled his aides to commit perjury, willfully disregard the secrecy of grand jury proceedings, conceal surreptitious entry, attempt to compromise a federal judge, while publicly displaying his cooperation with the processes of criminal justice. “A President is impeachable if he attempts to subvert the Constitution.”

If the impeachment provision in the Constitution of the United States will not reach the offenses charged here, then perhaps that 18th-century Constitution should be abandoned to a 20th-century paper shredder!

Has the President committed offenses, and planned, and directed, and acquiesced in a course of conduct which the Constitution will not tolerate? That’s the question. We know that. We know the question. We should now forthwith proceed to answer the question. It is reason, and not passion, which must guide our deliberations, guide our debate, and guide our decision.

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The Difficult Realities of Impeaching Trump

Yesterday was an encouraging day for those who hope to see the uncovering and dismantling of the corrupt and un-American Trump enterprise. Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort was convicted; Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen pled guilty and directly implicated Trump in his criminality. Even the likelihood that Manafort and others who haven’t turned on Trump will be pardoned doesn’t take away from the day’s significance.

This has raised hopes that Trump will be impeached if the Democrats are successful in the midterm elections. Which means—not wanting to burst the rare bright balloon of yesterday’s news—it is time for a reality check.

Let us say that the Democrats win a majority in both houses of Congress.

The impeachment process begins in the House, with hearings and a simple majority passing articles of impeachment. In a Democratic House, that should be no problem.

The trial for removal of a president then takes place in the Senate. If the Democrats do win a majority in the Senate, it will be a small majority at best. Let us say that they have a 53-47 majority. Conviction for impeachment requires a two-thirds majority, which is 67 votes. So 14 Republicans would have to vote to remove the president.

You may think that what we will have learned by then about Trump’s corrupt presidential conduct and fitness for office will finally move Republican Senators to agree to his removal. (As a matter of fact, if you privately asked Republican Senators today whether they would rather have Mike Pence in the White House immediately, the answer would be a unanimous yes.) But not a single thing we have seen indicates that any sitting Republican Senator—that is, those who are not leaving office—is willing to stand up to Trump. Why would we think that we can find 14 or so Republican Senators with the courage to remove him from office, no matter how egregious the evidence?

Okay, enough reality. I would like to be totally wrong about this. Let’s enjoy this moment of hope for American restoration.

It took Nixon 1,734 days. It took Trump only 109.

It took Nixon 1,734 days. It took Trump only 109.

Richard Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre took place on October 20 1973. Besieged by investigations into Watergate, on that night he fired independent special prosecutor Archibald Cox, which resulted in Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus resigning. That was 1,734 days after Nixon took office.

Today Donald Trump fired Attorney General James Comey, who was leading one of the investigations into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. It is 109 days after Trump took office.

It still took nearly a year, but Nixon resigned on August 8, 1974, in the face of certain Senate conviction of impeachment articles passed by the House. The articles begin:

ARTICLE 1

In his conduct of the office of President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon, in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has prevented, obstructed, and impeded the administration of justice. (emphasis added)

We don’t know that the Republican-led House will have the courage to hold impeachment hearings, let alone pass articles of impeachment. Unlike the Nixon situation, where Republicans cooperated in a bipartisan upholding of core American and constitutional principles, it is hard to tell exactly what some Republicans believe or will do in these circumstances.

The only thing certain is that with this firing of the FBI Director, we are in dark territory. Will it get even darker? Will we see the light? And will no Congress rid us of this turbulent president?

See The Case for Impeachment by Allan J. Lichtman

Impeaching Donald Trump As Nominee

The majority of the Republican Party has finally decided to take on the very loud, engaged and energetic Trump minority. To do it, they’ve devised the strategic approach of all those who are behind the curve and in the hole: they are gambling. Here is the strategy you may not hear about from many of the talking heads.

The Republicans aren’t sure they can stop Trump from getting the numbers he needs to secure the nomination by the time of the convention. They hope so. But whether he does have the numbers or whether it is instead a brokered convention doesn’t matter.

The point of the current movement is only partly to deny Trump the numbers. It is partly—mostly—to build a case to deny him the nomination, whether he has the numbers or not. Just walking into the convention and offering opinions about how bad Trump is and how bad he is for the party and the country won’t do.

Instead, they are going to essentially put him on trial. They are going to impeach him as a nominee. At that point, they will have evidence from Republican leaders of all kinds, from experts of all kinds, from friendly foreign leaders of all kinds, etc. Mostly, they will have Trump’s own words and behaviors. When it is all over, when all the evidence is in, a majority of the party will agree to convict and to disqualify him from any possibility of nomination.

A minority of the party will protest. The result will be that Trump, after threatening to sue (which is what he does), will walk, take his supporters with him, and run as an independent candidate.

This is where the gamble comes in.

The Republicans have to be confident that they have somebody to run who can beat Trump and the Democratic nominee (likely to be Hillary Clinton) in a three-way race. If they lose that gamble, both alternative outcomes are disastrous for them.

If you think things are strange so far, just wait until you see the impeachment trial of Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention.

August 17, 1998: Clinton Admits to Misleading People

Bill Clinton

Exactly seventeen years ago, on August 17, 1998, Bill Clinton admitted that, under oath, he had not told the truth about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky.

Why mention this now, other than the anniversary? To understand that, you might check out the most famous quote from American philosopher George Santayana—one of the most often repeated quotes in modern times.

On that day in August, President Clinton gave a brief television address to admit: “While my answers were legally accurate, I did not volunteer information….I know that my public comments and my silence about this matter gave a false impression. I misled people.”

Clinton was subsequently impeached by the House of Representatives on charges including perjury and obstruction of justice, but retained his office when the Senate failed to convict by a two-thirds majority.

Note in passing that his lead counsel in the impeachment trial was Cheryl Mills, who went on to become Hillary Clinton’s Chief of Staff at the Department of State. And that another Bill Clinton lawyer in the proceedings was David Kendall, who is currently one of Hillary Clinton’s lead attorneys in the matter of her e-mail server. For what it’s worth.

Here is an excerpt from Bill Clinton’s address to the nation:

This afternoon in this room, from this chair, I testified before the Office of Independent Counsel and the grand jury.

I answered their questions truthfully, including questions about my private life, questions no American citizen would ever want to answer.

Still, I must take complete responsibility for all my actions, both public and private. And that is why I am speaking to you tonight.

As you know, in a deposition in January, I was asked questions about my relationship with Monica Lewinsky. While my answers were legally accurate, I did not volunteer information.

Indeed, I did have a relationship with Miss Lewinsky that was not appropriate. In fact, it was wrong. It constituted a critical lapse in judgment and a personal failure on my part for which I am solely and completely responsible.

But I told the grand jury today and I say to you now that at no time did I ask anyone to lie, to hide or destroy evidence or to take any other unlawful action.

I know that my public comments and my silence about this matter gave a false impression. I misled people, including even my wife. I deeply regret that.

The Government Shutdown and Masturbating Fetuses

Rep. Michael Burgess
In the contentious Saturday night House debate on the Continuing Resolution to fund the federal government—a resolution that guts Obamacare and will almost certainly lead to a partial government shutdown—Republican Rep. Michael Burgess of Texas revealed a little known fact about the Affordable Care Act: it was “never intended to be law,” even though it obviously is. How so?

And here’s the real crux, Mr. Speaker. Here’s what’s really wrong and why Washington is in such a lather right now: The Affordable Care Act was never intended to become law. It was a vehicle to get the Senators home on Christmas Eve before the snowstorm. It was never intended to be law. The law that was passed by the Senate was a rough draft. It’s equivalent to saying the dog ate my homework so I turned in the rough draft; and, unfortunately, the rough draft got signed into law the following March, and that’s why there’s so much difficulty with this.
Congressional Record, September 28, 2013

Who is Rep. Burgess and why is he saying these things? He is a medical doctor, an ob/gyn, and has become one of the Republican Congressional experts on health care. Research shows that he has some other interesting views. This from U.S. News on June 18 of this year:

Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, said Monday he is opposed to abortion because fetuses masturbate in the womb, and so can feel both pleasure and pain.

“Watch a sonogram of a 15-week baby, and they have movements that are purposeful,” said Burgess, citing his experience as an OB/GYN, during a House Rules Committee hearing on a GOP bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks. “They stroke their face. If they’re a male baby, they may have their hand between their legs. If they feel pleasure, why is it so hard to think that they could feel pain?”

His comments were first reported by women’s health site RH Reality Check.

But Burgess’s argument isn’t based in science, doctors say. “We certainly can see a movement of a fetus during that time, but in terms of any knowledge about pleasure or pain – there are no data to assess,” says Jeanne Conry, president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a professional association for OB/GYNs. “We don’t know enough about the biology and the science.”

One more medical opinion from Rep./Dr. Burgess on the country’s sickness: President Obama must be impeached. Burgess said to a Tea Party questioner in 2011: “It needs to happen, and I agree with you it would tie things up. No question about that.”