In their new bestseller “Impeachable Offenses: The case for removing Barack Obama from office,” authors Aaron Klein and Brenda J. Elliott “recommend that Congress immediately convene [impeachment] hearings.” Of course, talk of impeachment of Barack Obama is nothing new; such speculation has been running around for several years at least, but Klein and Elliot’s book has certainly renewed such discussion. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla, stated recently that the president is getting “perilously close” to qualifying for impeachment. Author Jerome Corsi has suggested that, based on previous statements about Presidential war powers, Senator Obama would today impeach President Obama. Would he? Will anyone else?
First, a short review of the Constitution: Article One vests the House of Representatives with the sole power of impeachment and the Senate with the sole power to try impeachments. If the proceedings go to a trial, and the President is “in the dock,” the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presides (Article I, Section 3, Clause 6). Conviction requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate.
Officials at all levels of government can and have been impeached. At the federal level, Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution limits impeachment to “The President, Vice President, and all civil officers of the United States” who may be impeached and removed only for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.“ In Federalist 66, Hamilton reasoned that impeachment was a way to check a President who encroached on the powers of Congress; and in Federalist 77 he pointed out that impeachment would be the appropriate remedy for “abuse of the executive authority.”
What constitutes “high crimes or misdemeanors?” According to Wikipedia: “The charge of high crimes and misdemeanors covers allegations of misconduct peculiar to officials, such as perjury of oath, abuse of authority, bribery, intimidation, misuse of assets, failure to supervise, dereliction of duty, conduct unbecoming, and refusal to obey a lawful order. Offenses by officials also include ordinary crimes, but perhaps with different standards of proof and punishment than for nonofficials, on the grounds that more is expected of officials by their oaths of office.” In 1970, then-House Minority Leader Gerald R. Ford defined the criterion for impeachment thusly: “An impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history.”
What’s the “track record” on impeachment? In our 225 years under this Constitution, the House of Representatives has begun impeachment proceedings only 64 times, but the House actually passed Articles of Impeachment in only 19 of those proceedings. Two presidents have been impeached (Andrew Johnson, in 1868 for violating the newly-created Tenure of Office Act; and Bill Clinton, 130 years later on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice); both were acquitted. Many people believe Richard Nixon was impeached; but Nixon actually resigned the Presidency after impeachment articles had passed the House Judiciary Committee but before the full House began debating them.
U.S. Senator William Blount was impeached in 1797. The Senate declined not to conduct an impeachment trial but expelled Blount nevertheless.
One Supreme Court Justice has been impeached (Samuel Chase in 1804 – acquitted), and fourteen other federal judges; seven of these were convicted by the Senate and removed from office, including Florida’s Alcee Hastings, who was convicted of taking bribes totaling more than $150,000. Noting that the Senate’s conviction did not bar Hastings from holding future office, the good people of Florida’s 23rd District sent the de-robed judge to Washington as their representative. Wow!
So what does the case against the current President include? Well, where to begin…
A recent poll conducted by Wenzel Strategies reported that half of Americans, including over a quarter of Democrats, say that each of the “big three” scandals, (Benghazi, IRS and Justice Department) would individually be grounds to impeach. Someone had the temerity to post a petition on the Whitehouse “We the People” website that the President be impeached (the Whitehouse politely thanked them for participating in their government but said, No!).
Mid-way through his first term (2010) a document came around the email circuit that contained two articles of impeachment and seven counts – and that was before all the latest scandals.
The National Black Republican Association reportedly planned to run an ad in the 3 September edition of the Washington Times detailing why President Barack Obama should be impeached. I don’t get the paper itself, but if you go to the Washington Times website you will find a .pdf version of the ad. It lists ten Articles of impeachment, each thoroughly explained.
In 1868, Andrew Johnson was impeached primarily for replacing Edwin Stanton with Major General Lorenzo Thoma as Secretary of War in violation of the Tenure of Office Act (the Act had basically been designed to protect Stanton’s job). This innocuous administrative act would seem to pale in comparison with the accusations against our current president. Will Barack Obama become our third sitting President to be impeached? I wouldn’t bet against it.