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Aug 25, 2018 31 tweets 6 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
This is a GREAT piece. Wonderful perspective on the Founding Father's views on Impeachment. Well worth your time! #SaturdayMorning
2/"WASHINGTON — There are more serious crimes than violating campaign finance laws. Some offenders face jail time, while others catch a break. But the campaign finance violation President Trump’s former lawyer accused him of on Tuesday — arranging to pay hush money to influence
3/"an election — may nonetheless be precisely the sort of offense that the drafters of the Constitution meant to cover in granting Congress the power to impeach and remove a president. “At the constitutional convention, the framers repeatedly expressed anxiety about the president
4/"seeking to obtain office through corrupt means,” said Joshua Matz, an author of “To End a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment.” “In fact,” he said, “that was one of the principal reasons they included an impeachment power in the first place.” Mr. Trump is unlikely to face
5/" criminal prosecution while he is in office, as the Justice Department’s longstanding policy and something approaching a scholarly consensus say that the Constitution does not permit criminal proceedings against a sitting president. And political realities will probably
6/"protect him from impeachment proceedings, at least as long as Republicans control the House of Representatives. But legal scholars said that committing crimes aimed at undermining the integrity of an election could well satisfy the constitutional standard for impeachment,
7/"which is set out in Article II, Section 4: “The president, vice president and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” When the framers met in
8/"Philadelphia in 1787, they singled out one offense in particular as worthy of impeachment: a candidate’s interference with the Electoral College. “If the president bribes members of the Electoral College in order to obtain office, it was clear from the debates that that was
9/"thought to be an impeachable offense,” said Cass R. Sunstein, a law professor at Harvard and the author of “Impeachment: A Citizen’s Guide.” “That’s an exception to the general proposition that it has to be abuse of the authority you have by virtue of being president,” he said
10/" “It was an effort to protect the sanctity — and I think sanctity is the right word — of the process by which someone becomes president.” George Mason, a leading voice at the convention on the question of impeachment, said it was imperative for Congress to have the means to
11/"remove a president who had gained his office by undermining democracy and the rule of law. “Shall the man who has practiced corruption, and by that means procured his appointment in the first instance, be suffered to escape punishment by repeating his guilt?” he asked. Of
12/"course, bribery is not the same thing as depriving voters of information by paying hush money. But both interfere with the democratic process, said Laurence H. Tribe, a law professor at Harvard, the other author of “To End a Presidency” and a frequent critic of Mr. Trump.
13/"“The felonies of which Cohen, in statements that were self-incriminating and thus particularly trustworthy, accused his former client, the president, didn’t literally involve bribery,” he said, referring to Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former lawyer, “but certainly involved
14/"criminal conduct designed to reduce the risk that disclosure of his extramarital affairs and dalliances on the eve of the election would cost him the votes he ended up needing in places like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.” Most scholars agree that the impeachment
15/"clause covers abuse of official power by a sitting president but not wholly private conduct committed before assuming office. Earlier impeachment proceedings are instructive. When the House Judiciary Committee adopted articles of impeachment in 1974 against President Richard
16/"M. Nixon, it accused him of obstructing justice while in office by interfering with the F.B.I.’s investigation into the Watergate burglary. Mr. Nixon resigned rather than face what seemed like inevitable impeachment. President Bill Clinton was impeached by the House in 1998
17/"for obstruction of justice while in office in connection with a civil suit in a sexual harassment case and a grand jury investigation into his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, a White House intern. Legal experts have questioned whether the charges — which involved private
18/"rather than official conduct, some of it before Mr. Clinton became president, and no obvious abuse of presidential power — satisfied constitutional standards. Mr. Clinton was acquitted by the Senate, where removal requires a two-thirds majority.
Misconduct before assuming
19/"office is not typically a fit subject for impeachment, legal scholars said. But there is one important exception. “The main and possibly only form of pre-Inauguration Day conduct that would properly qualify as an impeachable offense is conduct relating directly to the
20/"acquisition of the presidential office,” Mr. Matz said. Richard L. Hasen, an expert in election law who teaches at the University of California, Irvine, said the crime that Mr. Cohen described Tuesday in court was a serious one. Mr. Cohen said he had arranged to make large,
21/" secret payments to a pornographic film actress whose stage name was Stormy Daniels and to a former Playboy model, Karen McDougal, to buy their silence. He indicated that Mr. Trump had instructed him to make the payments, and that he had acted to influence the election.
22/"“It’s a felony,” Mr. Hasen said. “It’s serious enough that prosecutors would consider jail time for it. If someone is a first-time offender, prosecutorial discretion could lead to no jail time or little jail time.” But for purposes of impeachment, though, it is the nature of
23/"the conduct that matters. “Not every impeachable offense is a crime, and not every crime is an impeachable offense,” Mr. Matz said. “Impeachment is not about punishing the president. That’s what criminal liability is for. It’s about getting him out of office so he can’t use
24/" its powers in a harmful manner going forward.” Mr. Matz added that the crime Mr. Trump is accused of may not cross a constitutional line. “If Cohen is correct and the president conspired with him or aided and abetted him in violating a campaign finance law to benefit Trump
25/"during the election,” Mr. Matz said, “that would be an extraordinarily troubling concern that obviously merits comprehensive congressional investigation and political accountability. It is less apparent whether standing alone it qualifies as a high crime or misdemeanor.”
26/"There is, in any event, a gap between constitutional theory and political reality. That was reflected in Gerald R. Ford’s famous statement about what conduct should subject an official to impeachment. “An impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of
27/"Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history,” he said in 1970, discussing an attempt to impeach a Supreme Court justice, William O. Douglas, when Mr. Ford was the House minority leader. But Professor Sunstein said that substituting politics for the
28/"commands of the founding document would be a violation of lawmakers’ constitutional oaths. “The Constitution does not allow the House to impeach the president for reasons that fall short of a high crime or misdemeanor,” he said. “And to refuse to impeach the president —
29/"and here I disagree with many people — when the president has committed a high crime or misdemeanor, that’s also unconstitutional.” Professor Tribe took the opposite view. “The bare conclusion that a president has committed legally impeachable offenses does not mean that the
30/"House has a constitutional duty to impeach or that the Senate has a constitutional duty to convict,” he said. “The survival of our democracy depends on the sound exercise of judgment as to when such awesome powers ought to be deployed.” “That said,” Professor Tribe continued,
31/"“for Congress not to initiate a comprehensive inquiry into the 2016 election and the means by which Trump secured an Electoral College victory would be a grave dereliction of duty.”~Adam Liptak, NYT, 8/22/18

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