The political maneuvering in Washington DC over the impeachment inquiry of President Trump is more than a sham – it’s a shame.  Speaker Pelosi walked up to a microphone and announced the “impeachment inquiry” rather than bringing the matter to the House floor for a vote. This is a dangerous attempt to shred the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of due process for each and every citizen of our country, including our President. The behind-closed-doors“hearings” and the refusal of public access to the testimony transcripts render this entire proceeding a mockery of “justice for all”.

Webster’s Dictionary describes impeachment as the act of charging a government official with wrongdoing.  The U.S. Constitution establishes the process for impeaching elected officials from the President on down.  Article II, Section 4 sets forth “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors” as the grounds for impeachment.

To begin the process, the House Rules or Judiciary Committee opens an investigation of an official accused of wrongdoing.  Their findings are presented to the entire House which then votes on the formal allegations.   If the House, by a simple majority vote passes the Articles of Impeachment, then the defendant has been “impeached”.   But this doesn’t remove that person from office.

The next step is for the results of the House investigation and vote to be given to the Senate which holds a trial of the accused, presided over by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.  In the Senate hearings, there may be examinations and cross-examinations as the Defendant is allowed to mount a defense with his attorneys.   A conviction in the Senate requires two-thirds or “supermajority” vote of those present at the time the vote is taken to convict.  Upon conviction, the defendant is removed from office and may be barred from running for office again.  No president has been removed from office as a result of being impeached.

    Since 1789, the House initiated impeachment proceedings 62 times against Presidents, Supreme Court Justices and other judges.  It has impeached 19 of those accused, including two Presidents–Andrew Johnson in 1868, for wrongfully removing a Cabinet member, and Bill Clinton for lying under oath and Obstruction of Justice. Richard Nixon resigned the office before impeachment proceedings began.  Warren Harding died of a heart attack before it was discovered that some of his Cabinet had taken bribes for assigning illegal oil leases, including Teapot Dome, Wyoming.

The “teeth” to the impeachment process isn’t the process itself: it is the political will of the people.  The law has to have been broken, yes, but equally important, the President has to have lost the confidence of the majority of the citizens of the country.  The current secret proceedings in Congress seem to focus entirely on creating a media firestorm that will undermine the public’s support of the President. For the Democratic majority in Congress to use the impeachment process for political advantage is governance at its worst.

Originally published in the Faribault Daily News October 2019