Over the course of his presidency, Donald Trump has shown himself to have a lack of self-control, as well as a lack of control over his cabinet. We’ve seen this in his puerile tweets and public statements attacking foreign leaders, the press, the FBI, and a slew of other organizations and individuals. His lack of self-control is also displayed in his obsequious attention to TV news, and his lack of understanding of government, as seen among his staffing decisions. His presidency is severely impairing our country’s reputation worldwide.
This behavior is clearly not acceptable for the leader of the free world, thus raising the question: Should Donald J. Trump be impeached?
The answer to this simple yet profound question is far from straightforward. Impeachment is a difficult process. First of all, only two presidents have been impeached at this point in the history of the United States—Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson. While both of these presidents were successfully impeached in the House of Representatives, neither impeachment succeeded in the Senate. In addition to these two cases, there was a close call with Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal, but he avoided hearings by resigning from office. It is clear that impeachment only occurs in rare occassions, and always generates political tension and controversy. It is not to be taken lightly, and the ramifications of going down this road are wide-ranging and unpredictable.
In addition, the process itself is far from routine. The formal steps are written in the Constitution, but how and when such laws are relevant and enforced is highly political. Impeachment generally begins with a proposal of articles of impeachment by members of the House of Representatives. If one of the articles gets a majority of votes, the president’s impeachment hearing begins. Next, proceedings move to the Senate, where they are overseen by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. If two-thirds of this legislative body find the president guilty, then he is convicted and removed from office, with the vice president taking his place.
Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution states that “The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” This wording is especially important, as a president can not be randomly subjected to impeachment. However, the “high crimes and misdemeanors” segment has been the subject of some controversy over its meaning and applicability, and currently means that the impeachment process is often motivated by political will.
The second means to achieve impeachment is outlined in Section 4 of the Twenty-fifth Amendment. It essentially states that in the event of the president being unfit for office that he or she could be removed if “the Vice President and a majority of the cabinet informs the Congress that he is ‘unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office’ and (should the president contest his own removal) a two-thirds vote by Congress confirms the cabinet’s judgment.”
However, neither option is currently likely. The Republican Party’s representatives and officials in the Executive and Legislative branches of government have all turned a blind eye to Trump’s antics, choosing not to react or respond to his frequent shenanigans. However, one way in which Donald Trump could be subjected to impeachment is if he was found to be directly aware of the Russian “hacking” of the 2016 election.
Many members of Trump’s presidential campaign and his administration have had obvious ties to Russia. For example, Michael Flynn was paid by RT, a Russian network that is thinly veiled propaganda, and by the Turkish government to represent their interests during the presidential campaign. The list keeps growing as information is revealed, and now includes figures such as Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, Jeff Sessions, Roger Stone, and Donald Trump Jr. This short list doesn’t even include the people that have business ties to Russia, the most notable of which would be Rex Tillerson and his connection to Exxon-Mobil’s ongoing stakes in the Russian economy.
Donald Trump Jr.’s previously undisclosed meetings and probable collusion with Russian operatives also points to the fact that people in the Trump campaign were actively seeking the support of the Russian government. Although we only know of a few of these meetings, they signal the larger trend of foreign interference that we saw during the election. Whether due to ignorance or malice, the Trump campaign’s disregard for the law made it incredibly easy for powers such as Russia to influence the election. Because of this, Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, and Michael Flynn are all on the path to serious legal trouble, and at some point, it is inevitable that Donald Trump himself will be connected in some way to these wrongdoings.
If Trump had known about the Russian meetings or Russia’s clear objective to sway the election in his favor during the election, that’s one thing. However, when he fired the former FBI Director James Comey, he did so largely to clear “the cloud” that he perceived Comey to represent; he wanted the Russian investigation by the FBI to go away. This may amount to obstruction of justice, an impeachable offense, and if new evidence emerges that solidifies this claim, our legislators will face immense pressure to act upon these wrongdoings.
The fact that we are even discussing matters such as impeachment and the Twenty-fifth Amendment is troubling. The fact that Trump hasn’t been impeached yet does not mean it’s not still a possibility. Given the unstable nature of the president, his administration’s lack of political experience, and constant emerging scandals, impeachment could very likely become a reality.