The #NeverTrump opposition has been pushing an Impeach Trump narrative for quite some time. Tom Steyer, a far-left Billionaire activist with a history of losing-causes, has been placing ads to encourage people to sign on to Impeach Trump since October 20th.
Why You Care
In our hyper-partisan environment, the prospect of impeaching President Trump will be exciting and invigorating to some, and threatening or moronic to others. This is a water-cooler topic!
- Only two Presidents have been impeached: Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson.
- Richard Nixon was not impeached.
- No President has ever been convicted.
- Only one Supreme Court justice has been impeached; he too was acquitted, and later commemorated by being on the $10,000 “bank note.” ($10,000-dollar bill.)
Can It Be Done
The big question is, or should be, can signing a petition result in impeaching a President?
The short answer is, no. Impeachment is not subject to popularity contests, and this effort won’t succeed. RealityDispatch will show you why.
Impeachment is basically the bringing of charges by the legislature of a public official. It isn’t the same as convicting (finding guilty); that’s a second step, just as it is in criminal court.
The House of Representatives has the sole power to impeach, bringing charges against an officer suspected of “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors” as per Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution. Neither the Senate nor the courts can impeach.
The Senate has the sole power to “try” (be the judge and jury) against the impeached. Both the House and Senate must be involved to remove someone from office by impeachment.
A single Representative could start Impeachment proceedings, up until 1813. Since then, the Judiciary Committee has handled it, which provides a balance against personal vendettas.
There have been 19 Federal impeachments in the history of the U.S. Government, listed below. Two against Presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. No President has been found guilty.
One additional President had Articles of Impeachment brought against him; President Richard Nixon. Nixon resigned on August 8, 1974, before the Impeachment vote, and thus was not actually impeached.
The 19 impeachments:
|John Pickering||District Court Judge||3/2/1803||Guilty|
|Samuel Chase||Supreme Court Asst Judge||3/12/1804||Acquitted|
|James H. Peck||District Court Judge||4/24/1830||Acquitted|
|West H. Humphreys||District Court Judge||5/6/1862||Guilty|
|Mark H. Delahay||District Court Judge||2/28/1873||
Resigned prior to trial
|William W. Belknap||U.S. Secretary of War||3/2/1876||Acquitted|
|Charles Swayne||District Court Judge||12/13/1904||Acquitted|
|Robert W. Archbald||Commerce Court Associate Judge||07/11/1912||Guilty|
|George W. English||District Court Judge||04/01/1926||
Resigned prior to trial
|Harold Louderback||District Court Judge||02/24/1933||Acquitted|
|Halsted L. Ritter||District Court Judge||03/02/1936||Guilty|
|Harry E. Claiborne||District Court Judge||07/22/1986||Guilty|
|Alcee L. Hastings||District Court Judge||08/03/1988||Guilty|
|Walter L. Nixon||District Court Judge||05/10/1989||Guilty|
|William J. Clinton||President||12/19/1998||Acquitted|
|Samuel B. Kent||District Court Judge||06/19/2009||
Resigned prior to completion of trial
|G. Thomas Porteous, Jr.||District Court Judge||03/11/2010||Guilty|
Two Presidents have been impeached:
Bill Clinton was Impeached December 19, 1998, on charges of lying under oath to a federal grand jury and obstruction of justice.
Andrew Johnson was Impeached February 24, 1868, on charges of violating the Tenure of Office Act by removing Secretary of War Edwin Stanton from office. (Edwin Stanton was also impeached, and was acquitted.)
Demands for impeachment are common but generally not fruitful. Congressman Dennis Kucinich did try to impeach President George W. Bush, but the Judiciary Committee did not act on it. There were discussions of impeaching President Barak Obama also.
No President has been found guilty or has resigned as a result of impeachment. Only Judges have been found guilty; the charged Senator and charged Secretary of War also were acquitted.
Samuel Chase’s impeachment is believed to have been purely political, and set up the independent Judiciary. President Jefferson was not a fan of the power of the Judiciary. The verdict suggests that Impeachment does not confer guilt or even bad intentions; it just sometimes implies resisting the current trend.
Samuel Chase is the only U.S. Supreme Court justice to have been impeached.
Samuel Chase is commemorated on the $10,000 U.S. Bank Note
President Nixon probably would have been impeached, had he not resigned first. Nixon was the only President to ever resign from office. Impeachment proceedings had begun, but because he resigned before the articles of impeachment were approved, he could not actually be impeached.
Tom Steyer’s claims are:
- Trump’s team and family members continually lie about their dealings with Russia.
- Trump has discussed pardoning his “aides, family members, and even himself.”
- Trump threatens our national security by refusing to stand up to Russia and engaging in brinkmanship with North Korea.
Not even one of these is a crime. Tom also posted a letter, which states:
Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, a co-author of the Federalist Papers — and an immigrant himself — argued that “high crimes and misdemeanors” could be defined as “abuse or violation of some public trust.” This president has clearly already exceeded these standards. Congress has impeached past presidents for far less.
Bill Clinton was actually impeached on charges of lying under oath to a federal grand jury and obstruction of justice. It’s not less, it’s not more… it was simply illegal. (He was acquitted though.)
- Brought us to the brink of nuclear war
- Obstructed justice
- Taken money from foreign governments
- Is a dangerous president
They don’t provide any evidence for any of this, and the only one that would be illegal would be obstruction of justice.
Common Cause (a left-wing extremist site) states that the problem is that Trump has business holdings. That’s the basis of their claim.
Obstruction of Justice Claims
Accusers lobby two claims of Obstruction of Justice:
- Trump fired Comey for investigating him
- Trump fired Comey for investigating Flynn.
Former FBI Director James Comey was certainly controversial for his impact on the Presidential election:
- He stated that Hillary Clinton would not be charged in email-gate, circa July 2016.
- On October 28th, 2016, he sent a letter to congressional leaders stating that, due to new evidence, he’s reopening the investigation.
- Clinton’s poll numbers immediately plummeted.
- She lost on November 8th, 2016.
But then Comey started investigating President Trump on ties to Russia, based partly on the discredited Steele Dossier. No evidence has been found supporting the charges, but “Democrats expressed concern over the effect Comey’s firing could have on an investigation into Russia’s interference in the election that he oversaw.”
Now that Comey was investigating Trump, Democrats changed their tunes. For example… Kurt Eichenwald declared “Comey is unfit for public service“, but subsequently tweeted “If Trump White House actually expected anyone 2 believe Comey firing had nothing to do with Russia – even if it didn’t! – they’re deluded”
This article enumerates some Democrats who called for the firing of James Comey… and then called for President Trump’s head when he finally did it.
USA Today, as usual (and laudable), covered opinions on both sides: That the Russia Investigation (again, since discredited based on the Clinton-funded Steele Dossier) should continue, and that Hillary Clinton would also have fired James Comey.
What Is Obstruction (of Justice)
The Cornell Law School defines Obstruction of justice as, summarized,
“whoever . . . . corruptly or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication, influences, obstructs, or impedes, or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede, the due administration of justice, shall be (guilty of an offense).” Persons are charged under this statute based on allegations that a defendant intended to interfere with an official proceeding, by doing things such as destroying evidence, or interfering with the duties of jurors or court officers.
The key point in the debate is the “corruptly or by… force”, as Trump did fire Comey. However, in this case there are clearly several mitigating factors:
- The President firing the FBI Director isn’t unusual; Bill Clinton did it in 1993.
- Comey told Trump, and has verified this in Congressional testimony, that Trump was not under investigation. Therefore Trump firing him could not be obstruction, in that Trump was unaware of an investigation.
(Trump reportedly did ask for Comey to “lift the cloud” of inquiry, but given that he was assured there was no investigation, this would merely have been a public confirming statement.)
- Trump reportedly did ask Comey to close the investigation into Michael T. Flynn. However, there was no follow-up from Trump. Flynn was eventually fired by Trump for possible collusion with Russia, and is now under investigation since Paul Manafort was indicted. Which would at least suggest that any attempted obstruction failed.
Who is Tom Steyer
Tom Steyer is a billionaire hedge-fund manager, who rang Farallon Capital for 26 years. He spent $90 million to defeat Trump and support Climate Change activists in 2016. He is a longtime Democrat who actually worked on Walter Mondale’s campaign. His list of supported but lost causes is impressive.
He is reportedly positioning to take on California Senator Barbara Feinstein, who is now 84 years old and possibly no longer the ideal representative of the ascendant Millennials.
Why Is He Doing It?
Conventional wisdom is that Tom Steyer will run for California Senate, against Diane Feinstein. California is further left than most of the U.S., and his quixotic effort to impeach Trump may play well to the base.