Tag Archives: Founding Fathers

Founders had it right when they set POTUS removal bar so high

The nation’s founding fathers did a masterful job of laying out a two-step process for removing a president of the United States from office.

Impeachment is the easy part. It requires a simple majority in the House of Representatives to effectively indict the president for crimes against the nation. The current House appears poised to impeach Donald Trump on at least two counts involving abuse of power and violating his oath of office.

Conviction in the Senate is the hard part. The founders decided that two-thirds of the Senate need to convict a president who stands trial in the upper legislative chamber. The current Senate appears set to keep Trump in office. Why? Because two-thirds of its members won’t vote to convict Trump of the charges that the House will bring to them. And why is that? Because Republicans occupy 53 of the 100 seats; a conviction would require a flip of about 20 GOP seats to convict Trump. It won’t happen.

But here’s another scenario that appears quite possible if not likely.

Most of the senators might actually vote to convict Trump. There might be, say, 51 or 52 Senate votes to remove Trump from office. That’s not nearly enough to force him out of the White House. It is, though, enough of a stain on Trump’s term as president to persuade votes in November 2020 to cast him aside.

There actually might be enough voters in key states who would say, in effect: I cannot support a president who has been found guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors by most of the members of the U.S. Senate. 

Now, Trump likely will be able to say he avoided conviction in the Senate. A majority vote to convict him — even one that fails to clear the high bar the founders set — does not allow him to declare himself “acquitted.”

The drama well could produce a nail-biter and set up the most astonishing presidential campaign theme in our nation’s history.

What if Senate provides a majority to convict Trump?

Let’s ponder for a moment the raw politics of impeaching the president of the United States.

It appears to be a near certainty that the House of Representatives is going to impeach Donald J. Trump on grounds that he violated his oath of office by seeking foreign government assistance for personal political gain.

I stood with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s initial reluctance to impeach Trump. Then came that phone call with the Ukrainian president that revealed a clear violation of the presidential oath. It has gotten even worse for Trump since then. Pelosi changed her mind, launching an impeachment inquiry.

I now endorse the inquiry. I also believe Trump has committed impeachable offenses.

But what will happen when Trump gets impeached, where Democrats hold a significant majority in the House? It goes to trial in the Senate, where Republicans command a narrow 53-47 majority. The House needs a simple majority to impeach; the Senate needs a two-thirds super majority to convict the president.

Do I believe the Senate will kick the president out of office? No.

However, consider this: Three GOP senators are bowing out after 2020. They won’t seek re-election. They are Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Mike Enzi of Utah and Pat Roberts of Kansas. What happens to these men’s conscience when they are freed from the pressure of seeking re-election in states that voted for Trump in 2016? Is it possible they could decide that Trump has committed an impeachable offense? These men flip and we have a 50-50 split in the Senate. But wait a second!

There are other senators who are expressing grave concern about Trump’s conduct. Enzi’s junior partner in Utah, Mitt Romney, is one. How about Susan Collins of Maine, who has spoken critically of the president from time to time? Might there be one or maybe two GOP senators willing to vote to convict, knowing that their votes won’t result in Trump’s removal?

Yes, there is a chance — although it’s still small, but it could be growing — that a majority of senators vote to convict the president of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” but he remains in office by virtue of the high bar the founders set when they wrote the U.S. Constitution.

Furthermore, what about the House vote? A significant number of Republican House members have decided to step aside after 2020. They, too, might be motivated to vote their conscience rather than worry about retribution from a president who is known to retaliate against those who cross him.

The number of Republicans set to leave both congressional chambers very well might provide Democrats some measure of cover as they prepare to impeach Donald Trump.

If he is impeached, he will go down in history as an impeached president. If he clears the Senate trial, there might be a qualifier if more senators vote to convict him than acquit him. And how in the world is Donald Trump going to spin such an event?

Hey, strange things can — and do — happen atop Capitol Hill.

Mr. POTUS, there’s nothing ‘phony’ about the Emoluments Clause

Pay attention to me, please, Mr. President.

Your White House rant today about the “phony Emoluments Clause” compels to defend what the nation’s founders had in mind when they wrote that item into the U.S. Constitution.

They intended to prohibit the president from profiting during his time in office. Your initial decision to host the G7 summit of industrialized nations at your glitzy Trump Doral National Country Club was in direct violation of the Emoluments Clause.

You see, you cannot award yourself a government contract, which is what you sought to do. You cannot direct government business onto your privately owned, for-profit property, where foreign governments are going to pour millions of dollars into your pocket.

Good grief, Mr. President! There can be no clearer violation of the Emoluments Clause than that.

And yet your blaming of the media and Democrats and your insistence that President Obama somehow profited from a book deal while he was in office steers the discussion away from your own responsibility to do right by the office you occupy. While I’m at it, I need to wonder out loud whether you’ll ever get over your “hate affair” with your immediate predecessor.

And just to be clear, Barack Obama signed his book deal after he left office. It’s a non-starter, Mr. President.

We have a big country out there, Mr. President. It is endowed richly with many fine resorts to play host to the G7 summit. None of them has a single thing to do with your business interests.

Why in the name of presidential due diligence can’t you get your “fine-tuned” White House staff to find a spot that would serve as a fitting venue for this event next year? Moreover, why can’t you just do the right thing without making a mess out of it?

The Emoluments Clause isn’t “phony,” Mr. President. It is real and it is a legitimate hedge against presidential corruption … which I am certain is why you’re in such trouble at this moment.

‘Good government’ is about to take some time off

I consider myself to be a “good government progressive.”

Government should do the most good possible but it takes individuals on both sides of the political aisle to make it work as I believe our nation’s founders intended.

So … having laid that out, I fear we are about to enter an era of “no government” action aimed at helping Americans.

Impeachment now is clouding it all in Washington, D.C. Donald Trump is enraged at Democrats who want to impeach him for violating his oath of office. He says a phone conversation he had with the Ukrainian president was “perfect,” even though he asked his counterpart for foreign government assistance in getting re-elected and in digging up dirt on a potential 2020 opponent, Joe Biden.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has launched an “impeachment inquiry.” Trump is spending his days now firing off Twitter tirades and tantrums at his foes.

What does all this do for the cause of good government? It throws it into the crapper.

Democrats are enraged at Trump, too. The president, who doesn’t work well with Democrats under the best of circumstances, isn’t likely to work with them on anything now that House Democrats appear intent on seeking his ouster from office.

So, we’re going to pay our lawmakers a six-figure salary ostensibly to enact legislation, cast votes and send bills to the Oval Office for the president’s signature.

Except that none of that is likely to happen as House Democrats and Donald Trump play political chicken with each other.

Therefore, good government will vanish for the foreseeable future.

Trump orders businesses to do what?

I am running out of ways to express my astonishment at Donald Trump’s categorical ignorance of the limits of the office he occupies.

The president of the United States has gotten so damn angry with U.S. businesses that he has actually ordered them to stop doing business with the People’s Republic of China.

Trump has this teeny-tiny problem staring him in his orange-hued face, however. It’s that thing called the U.S. Constitution. I’m pretty sure the nation’s governing document doesn’t give the president the authority to issue such an order.

The president’s power is limited for a reason. The founders who wrote the Constitution did not want the nation’s chief executive to wield dictatorial authority. They were smart in that way, you know. They were the direct descendants of those who fled tyranny in Europe. Indeed, the founders were so angry with England’s King George III that they decided to revolt against him and to form a nation and a government that did not place such ham-handed power in a single individual.

So what’s the deal with the 45th president? He already has declared a trade war with China. He has imposed tariffs that will harm U.S. consumers. China is responding with tariffs of its own on U.S. products. The result of this chaos has sent investors into frenzied, frantic panic.

Now the Goofball in Chief is “ordering” business moguls to stop trading with China?

Astounding.

Chief Justice Roberts merely shows his independence

Political conservatives are angry with one of their own.

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts has turned on them, they say, because he is siding with liberals on the court … on occasion.

Interesting.

The chief justice, to my way of thinking, merely is showing what happens when these men and women get lifetime appointments to the federal bench. They toss aside their partisan labels and start deciding cases on matters relating to the law.

That’s not good enough for many conservatives who believe Roberts should remain the conservative they knew he was when President Bush appointed him to the high court in 2005.

Roberts this week joined the court liberals by turning aside the Trump administration’s insistence on including a “citizenship question” when taking the 2020 census.

The previous day, according to Politico: “Roberts was the sole GOP appointee to side with the liberal wing in a case many legal conservatives were hoping would deal a major blow to the much loathed administrative state by overturning decades of precedent allowing federal agencies wide leeway to interpret their own regulations.”

Roberts earlier was the swing vote on the court that helped save the Affordable Care Act, which the right wing in Congress — and the president — detest merely because it was proposed by a Democratic president and enacted by congressional Democrats.. He also sided with the court progressives in declaring gay marriage to be legal in all 50 states.

Conservatives are angry. Some activists want him impeached. Why? Because he isn’t true to their cause.

This is utter nonsense! The founders established an ostensibly independent judiciary understanding that judges who take the federal bench well could upset the proverbial “conventional wisdom.”

Roberts has not flown off the rails in the 14 years since he joined the Supreme Court. So, he sides with liberals from time to time. The chief justice is entitled under the provisions set forth in the U.S. Constitution to interpret the law and to rule according to his understanding of what the law tells him.

Will there be rulings from Roberts that disappoint me? Sure. Am I going to yammer for Chief Justice Roberts’ impeachment?

No. Never.

Get a grip, righties.

Speaker demonstrates the ‘co-equal branch’ clause

Hello, Mr. President.

I know you thought you could just crash the House Party by declaring your intention to deliver the State of the Union speech next week in front of a joint congressional session.

Except for this little item: The speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, has exercised precisely the clause in the U.S. Constitution that sets forth “co-equal” governmental power. She won’t allow the House to vote on a resolution that would invite you to speak to a joint session.

So, the way I see it, you’re outta luck, sir.

The speaker will let you make your SOTU speech on one condition, that you allow the government to reopen. I believe she feels more deeply about the families affected by the partial government shutdown than you do, Mr. President. She wants their pay restored. She doesn’t want them working for free, as you have ordered many thousands of them to do.

Hey, not everyone in America is as filthy rich as you are, Mr. President. They cannot afford to miss paychecks. They have mortgages to pay, credit cards to pay; they have to pay for school tuition, groceries, child care. You know, those things many of us face on a regular basis.

I hate to tell you this — no, actually I love saying it — but the speaker knows a lot more about the limits of executive power than you do. She is exercising the power she has as a legislative leader.

If you intend to give your SOTU speech on Jan. 29 and the government is still partially shuttered, you’ll have to do so elsewhere. How about sitting behind your desk in the Oval Office?

The founders had it right when they created these co-equal branches of government. Their intent was to protect us from dictatorial executives.

They made a good call, don’t you think, Mr. President?

First Amendment: Why protect the ‘free press’?

Jonathan Capehart writes a column for the Washington Post, which means he’s a dedicated journalist. He also makes a compelling point: It is that the U.S. Constitution protects only one profession from government oppression, intimidation or coercion. It’s a “free press,” Capehart noted today.

Why is that?

Well, it’s because the founders knew something that has been lost on one of their political descendants, the 45th president of the United States. They knew that a free press was an essential element of ensuring that those who run a democratic republic must be held accountable for their actions.

Yet the current president refers to the press as purveyors of “fake news,” and calls them the “enemy of the people.”

How utterly and categorically disgraceful. Donald J. Trump’s abject ignorance of government and the role that a “free press” plays in ensuring that government does the right thing is breathtaking in its scope.

Yet he continues his rampage. He continues to spread lies about the media. He bellows his demagogic rhetoric to the cheers, hoots and hollering in front of crowds that comprise those who make up his political base.

The president needs to understand — even though I know that he won’t — that the founders had it right when they guaranteed a “free press” in the very First Amendment to our Constitution.

Yes, the amendment also covers the right to worship as we please and to protest government policies, to assemble peaceably and to speak freely without fear of retribution.

I need to re-state it once again: the media are the only private industry covered in any of the 27 amendments to the Constitution. Why do you suppose that’s the case? Because the founders knew at the very beginning that the press must remain free of government interference or intimidation.

Listen up, Mr. President.

Politics is part of the judiciary

It’s important to disabuse ourselves of a myth regarding the selection of federal judges.

That myth suggests that the federal judiciary — at every level — is somehow insulated from politics. It isn’t. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll acknowledge that politics has played a huge role in the selecting of these men and women.

The nation is about to witness the nomination and pending confirmation fight over the next justice to the U.S. Supreme Court. Justice Anthony Kennedy has announced his retirement after 30 years on the nation’s highest court.

The fight already has begun. Democratic senators are pledging to wage all-out political war against a Republican president who’ll nominate Kennedy’s successor.

Let us not be coy, either, about the benchmarks that Donald John Trump is going to lay out in front of the person he nominates. That individual will have to oppose a woman’s right to choose an abortion; he or she will have to stand with the president on many other issues, such as immigration and civil rights, campaign finance and environmental protection.

Will the president ask this individual in so many words how he or she would decide an issue that comes before the court? I would hope not, although given Trump’s ignorance of government and decorum, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least that he would pose the question.

These nominations are driven by politics seemingly as much as they are driven by judicial philosophy, credentials and legal standing.

The founders created a system that grants lifetime appointments for federal judges with the notion that they would immune from political pressure. They were only partly correct. The immunity kicks in after they are confirmed. The confirmation battles become all about the politics of the moment, of the individuals being considered and of the president who nominates them.

So, the fight begins. It’s a political battle of the first order. Just as it’s always been.

Mr. POTUS, we must ‘have judges’

Donald J. Trump wants to change U.S. immigration policy by diminishing the role of — get a load of this — the federal judiciary.

Trump wants to toss all illegal immigrants out of the country without the benefit of having their cases heard by judges.

The president of the United States today yet again took dead aim at our immigration policy. He called it the worst policy “in the history of the world.” He then said something quite remarkable in a brief give-and-take with reporters gathered at the White House.

Trump noted that when immigrants cross our border, “they have judges.” Yes, judges. These are the men and women who take an oath to administer the law in accordance with the U.S. Constitution, to ensure that federal law doesn’t violate the Constitution.

Federal immigration law — indeed, the 14th Amendment to the Constitution — grants “any person” the right to “due process” and “equal protection” under the law. It doesn’t limit those guarantees to U.S. citizens, let alone to those who come here legally from another nation.

The president’s desire to toss out the Constitution, to ignore existing federal statutes crosses the line into a desire to create an autocracy. He wants to throw into the crapper a fundamental tenet that the nation’s founders insisted on when they created this government. That tenet established a judicial system that is ostensibly free of political pressure and coercion.

Yes, we need more federal judges — not fewer of them — to deal specifically with this issue of immigration. Yet the president now disparages the role these judges play? He disrespects their vital contribution to the administering of justice?

Reprehensible.