Tag Archives: Andrew Johnson

Impeachment remains huge obstacle

I am believing now that Donald J. Trump isn’t likely to be kicked out of office before his term expires.

The nation’s founders set a high bar for removal of a president.

The U.S. House of Representatives can bring articles of impeachment. It can essentially indict a president on a complaint that he has committed “high crimes and misdemeanors.” It takes a simple majority of House members to impeach a president.

It’s happened twice. President Andrew Johnson got impeached in 1868. Then in 1998, the House impeached President Bill Clinton. The House impeached Johnson on 11 counts, the principal count being a violation of the Tenure of Office Act after he had fired Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. The House impeached Clinton on a charge that he perjured himself in testimony before a federal grand jury.

Both men were spared being kicked out. Johnson made it by a single vote in the U.S. Senate. Clinton survived much more easily in his Senate trial.

The Constitution lays out a two-thirds rule for conviction and removal from office of the president.

What makes a Trump removal so difficult lies in the numbers. Republicans control the Senate by a single seat. If they lose the Senate majority after the midterm election, it is projected that several GOP senators would need to join Democrats who likely would vote to convict the president on whatever charge is brought before the body.

I’m not certain that an impeachable offense will emerge from the investigation being conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller. If one does emerge, though, it remains a tremendously tenuous view that there would be enough political support in the Senate to actually convict the president — no matter how egregious the charge that might come forth.

Impeachment is a political process, even though members of the House and Senate state piously that they are conducting a quasi-judicial process. It really relies on the partisan leaning of both legislative bodies.

I want to offer this look at what might lie ahead for the president and for Congress.

First things first. We have an election to complete that will determine the partisan makeup of the legislative chambers that will decide what to do about this president.

Hey, you know he could just quit once he realizes his agenda — whatever it is — is going nowhere.

Impeachment isn’t such a long shot after all

Let’s play out a possible scenario that could emerge from the 2018 midterm election.

Democrats think they have a shot at winning back the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives. They also believe their chances of winning a Senate majority are even greater.

I’m going to pose a question that well might provoke some angry response: Is it possible that we can learn just how much Democrats hate Donald J. Trump if they manage to achieve a majority in the House and Senate? Is impeachment a foregone conclusion if both congressional chambers flip next year?

Special counsel Robert Mueller is hard at work collecting information — perhaps even evidence — concerning whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russians who hacked into our electoral system. If they produce actual evidence and release it to the public, say, in the first quarter of 2018, then the impeachment talk is going to ratchet up to a very loud level. Then again, there might be perjury accusations coming forward, which also is serious enough to impeach a president; just ask Bill Clinton about that one.

The election will occur in November of next year.

Suppose the special counsel produces evidence of collusion. Suppose, too, that Democrats seize control of Congress.

I’ll now offer a brief explanation of presidential impeachment, which is a two-act drama.

It takes only a simple majority of House members to impeach a president. What might the “high crimes and misdemeanors” include? If there’s collusion, I believe that constitutes an impeachable offense.

If the House impeaches the president, it then merely files a formal complaint, an accusation. Then the House hands off to the Senate, which conducts a trial.

To convict a president, though, the bar is set much higher. Two-thirds of the Senate, 67 senators, must vote to convict. President Andrew Johnson came within a single vote of being tossed out of office; President Bill Clinton faced three counts in his Senate trial, and he was acquitted on all three by comfortable margins.

I wouldn’t dare to predict how a Trump trial would conclude. I am not even going to predict that Congress’s controlling majority is going to flip next year.

If it does, however, my sense is that impeachment becomes many times more possible than it is at this moment with Republicans in charge of Capitol Hill.

Democrats to grass roots: Cool it with the ‘I-word’ talk

The “I-word” might be gaining some traction among rank-and-file Americans who profess worry — even fear — of Donald J. Trump.

Democratic Party officials are issuing a wise word of caution. Avoid the rush toward an impeachment of the president of the United States.

I happen to agree with the Democratic Party elders/wise folks.

Impeachment is a serious matter. It’s only occurred twice in the 228-year history of the Republic. The 17th president, Andrew Johnson, came within a single vote in the Senate of being tossed out; the 42nd president, Bill Clinton, was acquitted by healthier margins on all three counts heard during his Senate trial. A third president, Richard Nixon, was on the verge of being impeached before he resigned in disgrace in 1974.

Trump has stirred plenty of enmity during his single month in office. To suggest that he ought to be impeached is at best far too premature an act to even consider; at worst, well, it might be a fool’s errand.

As Politico reports: “’We need to assemble all of the facts, and right now there are a lot of questions about the president’s personal, financial and political ties with the Russian government before the election, but also whether there were any assurances made,’ said California Rep. Eric Swalwell, a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. ‘Before you can use the ‘I’ word, you really need to collect all the facts.’

“’The ‘I’ word we should be focused on,’ added Pennsylvania Rep. Brendan Boyle, ‘is ‘investigations.'”

I happen to share the concerns of many of my fellow Americans about the questions that are looming large over the Trump administration. So soon after the president’s inauguration, Americans would be wise to give the guy some time to clear out some of the wreckage he has brought upon himself and his administration.

I want to offer a slightly conciliatory word here. Trump became president with zero experience in government. He hadn’t spent a single moment of his life in public service until he placed his hand on the Bible and took the oath of office of the presidency.

It might be too much to ask that a zillionaire businessman/TV celebrity could know all the nuance and complexity of forming a government as massive as the one he now commands.

He has made some remarkable missteps in just a few weeks on the job. He has said some amazingly stupid things and made some ridiculous gestures. Are any of them impeachable? No.

But he’s got this personal enrichment matter he must clear up. That “emoluments clause” that bars presidents from profiting from relationships with foreign governments is pretty clear. The president hasn’t done nearly enough to clear himself of that mess.

He had better get busy.

The fired-up grass roots Americans who are hell bent on impeaching the president had best listen to the political elders who know about these matters.

Their advice? Cool it.

Lawless? Unconstitutional? Why no impeachment?


The Republican field of candidates — even when it comprised 17 members — has been using some highly charged language to describe the twice-elected administration of President Barack Obama.

They call his actions “lawless.” They say his executive orders are “unconstitutional.”

Thus, they are accusing the president of two things: of breaking the law and of failing to uphold the oath he took twice when he was sworn in by the chief justice of the Supreme Court.

That makes me ask out loud, right here: Why haven’t the Republicans in the House of Representatives impeached the president?

If you really and truly think he’s broken the law or signed unconstitutional executive orders, then you have political recourse. Isn’t that correct?

It’s impeachment.

Two U.S. presidents have been impeached over the course of the nation’s history.

President Andrew Johnson fired his secretary of war without notifying the Senate and got impeached; he came within a single vote of conviction during a Senate trial. President Bill Clinton got impeached for lying to a grand jury about a tawdry relationship he had with a White House intern; the Senate acquitted him on three counts. A third president, Richard Nixon came within a whisker of being impeached because he blocked an investigation into the Watergate scandal; the House Judiciary Committee approved articles of impeachment, but the president quit his office.

These days, candidates for president keep tossing out verbiage that would suggest — if you are to believe it — that the current president has committed a whole array of impeachable offenses. Indeed, when you accuse a president of doing something “unconstitutional,” that by itself implies malfeasance.

Me? I don’t believe it.

I get that it’s campaign rhetoric. Therefore, perhaps they don’t really mean what they’re saying out there — on the stump or on those debate stages.

So, how about saying what you mean, fellas?