In Part 1 I reflected on the Preamble to the Constitution and tried to tease out the meaning of the phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors”. I concluded that the Founders not only had felonies in mind, but also disreputable behavior in office. Alexander Hamilton, for one, considered this issue, and I rather like what he wrote. He said that high crimes and misdemeanors are “…those offences which 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.”
In Part 2, I want to consider whether the impeachment clause applies to Donald Trump. There have been calls for his impeachment of and removal from office almost from the day he was sworn in. Some of these calls have been frivolous, but after a bit more than a year into his Presidency, it seems to me that a serious consideration is called for.
Hamilton believed that a President could legitimately be removed from office for a violation or abuse of office of the Presidency. The question we have to ask is whether Trump has violated or abused his office. Has he committed a felony, or has his behavior in office been so egregious as to bring dishonor and disrepute on the office or the nation itself? The Mueller investigation will disclose whether he has committed a felony. But let us consider egregious behavior. Perhaps the most serious such behavior would be violations of his oath of office.
Has he violated his oath? To echo another of our founding documents, let these facts be submitted to a candid world:
- He has repeatedly lied, distorted, and disregarded the truth, not only to the people, but also to allies and friendly nations. On occasion he has even bragged about doing this. As a result, his word cannot be trust at home or abroad.
- He has failed to address a direct assault by an advisory of the nation upon our democratic process, our unity as a people, and the infrastructure that supports our very existence as a people, and thus he has placed the people in grave danger.
- He has failed to address the destruction of territories and cities within the nation by natural disasters and ridiculed officials of those areas when they have asked for and even begged for help. Even as I write this, large numbers of our citizens are suffering from this failure, months after hurricanes destroyed their homes, their power grid, and their economy.
- He has, by his reckless rhetoric, enflamed violence and hatred among the people and encouraged the degradation of civil disagreement into angry disputation. As a result, civil order has been disrupted and violent elements within the nation have caused deaths among the people and the destruction of property.
- He has, through his rhetoric and actions shown contempt for significant segments of our people.
- He has disparaged the findings of science, specifically calling into question the nearly unanimous findings of climate scientists, thus endangering the nation’s, and, indeed, the entire world’s, economy, its ability to feed itself, and its health, safety, and sustainability.
- He has alienated allies and friends, refusing to cooperate with other nations, thus isolating the United States with utter disregard for the impact of such isolation on the people.
- He has shown contempt for our government, in some instances through failure to appoint sufficient administrators to carry out the legitimate functions of government and in other instances through the appointment of unqualified and inept officials.
- He has publicly ridiculed high-ranking leaders of the FBI, the CIA, and the Justice Department. He has also ignored and disregarded his own intelligence services, preferring to accept the word of an advisory of the United States. In so doing he has weakened our ability to enforce Federal law and respond to attacks from that very advisory, thus compromising the nation’s integrity.
Let me repeat the purpose of our government as stated in the Preamble:
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
Donald Trump has weakened our union, disrupted domestic tranquility, failed to defend the nation, and threatened the general welfare. As a result of these failures, the liberty of the people is weakened. He has violated his oath of office, abused the trust of the people, and failed to execute the office of the Presidency with honor and honesty. In short, he has committed high crimes and misdemeanors. It is, then, highly appropriate for him and his entire administration to be impeached and removed from office.