Breaking news … a lot of Democrats (and some Republicans) do not like President Donald Trump and would like to see him gone. Well not-so-breaking news, unless your CNN. However, their efforts, while I am sure are heartfelt, have to date shown a disturbing lack of understanding of Article I and II of the Constitution, when discussing impeachment, and the 25th Amendment when pontificating about removal of the President.
Article 1, Section 2 clearly gives the Power of Impeachment to the House of Representatives and Section 3 the Senate “shall have the sole Power to try all impeachments”. In other words, the House acts as a grand jury to determine if there is enough evidence to go to trial and the Senate is the court and will determine guilt and if they determine that the official is guilty, what punishment is suitable, not to exceed removal from Office.
In our country’s history, we have only gone down this path twice—President Andrew Johnson in 1868 and President Bill Clinton in 1998. In both instances the Senate voted to acquit both men of all charges. The impeachment effort was clearly politically motivated and two-thirds of the Senate did not agree that either President committed a “high crime or misdemeanor” as mandated for grounds of impeachment in the Constitution.
So how does this relate to the current situation? Acutally, they’re eerily similar.
While there is great opposition to the President in many aspects ranging from policy to his overall demeanor none of this is a violation of the Constitution. Granted there may be evidence in the future that will demand that this extraordinary step be seriously considered, for the moment it appears to be political grandstanding at its worst. The Republicans are not to be held harmless in this discussion as there were a number during the Obama Presidency that were clamoring for impeachment, with the same motivation: politics.
It is very interesting to note that one of the Republican’s favorite foils, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, has handed this situation quite well in a very statesman like manner to her credit. She has kept herself and the caucus leadership out of the fray. Behind closed doors, I am sure that she is not entirely unhappy to have these members become outliers on this issue, but is also aware of the political backlash that would be in store for the next Democratic President. But now is the time to reign in this fringe element, they have made their point and until there is hard evidence, and again there might be in the future, this discussion is counterproductive to their legislative agenda, it has caused them to lose sight of the ball which was in part the reason Trump defeated Hillary Clinton.
With the impeachment issue the point has been made and the rules are quite clear, however pushing for removal via the 25th amendment is beyond comprehension. The 25th amendment was in part authored by Indiana Sen. Birch Bayh after the Kennedy assassination to address instance when the President was incapacitated. Think President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s heart attacks, and how it has played out several times since.
The intent of the amendment was in fact to provide for instances when the President had a medical emergency, (aside from Harrison Ford in Air Force One), not a tool to remove the sitting President because you don’t like them. But aside from all that what has to happen for the 25th amendment to be invoked, well it starts with the Vice President. The initial deciding group is the Vice President and a majority of either the Cabinet or some other body that Congress may designate, (which, by the way, has never happened).
Let’s stop right there.
Does anyone think that Vice President Pence would take such an action? Even if he did, the President has four days to dispute this action and declare himself able. In that case, it would take two thirds vote by both the House and Senate agreeing the President is unable to serve. Those advocating for this course seem not just petty but completely unaware of what the amendments intent is and what the actual language stipulates.
The Democrats have made there point, and it was a point worth making, but enough already. It is time to act like statesmen and move forward. The party’s leaders are getting ready to unveil their new agenda calling it “The Better Deal“. It may have some very good ideas, but unless they are willing set aside the idea of impeachment until (and if) there is a real issue for removal, these ideas very well maybe fall upon tired ears of many Americans, especially in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, etc. where they need to be listening better.
Unfortunately for the Democrats on this issue, the Constitution has not changed and the electoral college still matters.