Note: this op-ed was originally published in the New York Daily News, and was written by Checks & Balances member Jonathan Adler.
Trump is the one who is upsetting our democracy and constitutional order
Impeaching a president is no small matter, and should not be undertaken lightly. Political disagreement alone is never justification enough to invoke this power. By the same token, political agreement is insufficient justification to overlook the commission of impeachable offenses. A president who uses his power to subvert the workings of our constitutional structure has forfeited any claim to the office, whether or not that president pursues policies or appoints judges we might otherwise support.
If it was correct for Congress to impeach a president for lying under oath in an effort to subvert a legal proceeding — as I believe it was — impeaching President Trump should be a no-brainer.
The current push for impeachment was triggered by revelations that the president sought to induce Ukrainian government officials to announce an investigation into a political rival by withholding congressionally authorized funds. These actions, which are virtually indisputable, represent a profound betrayal of the president’s oath and solemn obligations to our country and Constitution, but they are hardly the only impeachable actions Trump has committed.
On repeated occasions, the president sought to obstruct a lawful inquiry into Russian efforts to interfere with our elections, according to the Mueller Report, including by directing subordinates to create false records that could be used to mislead investigators and dangling pardons before colleagues facing criminal prosecution.
He has also encouraged foreign governments to seek to influence U.S. elections (in his favor, of course) and obstructed legitimate congressional investigations into matters large and small, ranging from the Ukraine matter to his compliance with the Constitution’s foreign emoluments clause. He has further given every indication that he sees nothing wrong with his conduct — it is “perfect,” after all — and is likely to continue.
These actions constitute a pattern of conduct that are fundamentally incompatible with his oath of office, which obligates him to “faithfully execute” his responsibilities and “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution,” and represent precisely the sorts of conduct that induced the Founders to include impeachment in the Constitution.
At the Constitutional Convention, it was decided that Congress must have the power to impeach and remove a president who abused his power, such as by subverting foreign policy for personal benefit, betraying his constitutional oath or receiving foreign emoluments. They expressly rejected the argument that only legally defined crimes were grounds for impeachment and that periodic elections were sufficient to discipline presidential misbehavior.
James Madison argued impeachment was necessary in case a president were to “pervert his administration into a scheme of peculation [aka embezzlement or misappropriation] or oppression” or “betray his trust to foreign leaders.” Gouverneur Morris of Pennsylvania and Edmund Randolph of Virginia advocated impeachment as a protection against corruption and undue foreign influence.