Note: this piece was originally published in The Hill, and was written by Checks & Balances member Stuart Gerson.
Although the president was acquitted in his impeachment trial by Senate Republicans, the arguments made on his behalf hardly acquit him with respect to the rule of law, constitutional history, or plain common sense. As some senators described it, acquittal of impeachment charges and innocence are not necessarily congruent when it comes to judgment.
Considering prudential factors, they understandably concluded that although abuse of power and obstruction were proven beyond question, the lack of bipartisanship in the proceeding, a looming election, and other factors meant removing the president at this time would not serve the national interest. Others voted for acquittal to save their political hides from potential primary opponents, while others succumbed to fallacious legal arguments. Thus, final judgment will come in November and thereafter.
In the face of widespread criticism, impeachment defense attorney Alan Dershowitz attempted to minimize what he argued, claiming that he did not say “that if a president believes that his reelection was in the national interest, he can do anything.” In fact, he came quite close to saying it, and a White House counsel later argued precisely that.
Centuries of English and American legal history and the very words of the Framers make it plain that the “high crimes and misdemeanors” include abuses of office and violations of the constitutional oath to “take care” that our laws are faithfully executed. In other words, this is what the president was charged with. Acting for personal interest rather than national interest while subverting congressional appropriations is a prime example of the autocratic conduct the Framers believed warranted removal from office.