Impeachment is broken. Impeach Trump, anyway.
Articles,  Blog

Impeachment is broken. Impeach Trump, anyway.


In 1788, three founding fathers made the case
for the US constitution in a series of essays called “The Federalist Papers”. And if you want
to understand why impeachment is broken today, it’s worth starting there. With what they thought it would look like if it worked. In Federalist 65, Alexander
Hamilton makes the case for the way the Framers designed the impeachment power. The House brings impeachment, but it’s the Senate that decides whether to convict and remove. Not the Supreme Court, or some other independent tribunal. A bunch of politicians.
Why? Why give them that power? Here’s the argument Hamilton makes: Impeachment, he says, poses a special problem.
It’s meant for offenses that are “POLITICAL” — he writes “political” in all caps, for emphasis — “as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.” Stop for a moment on what Hamilton means there. Impeachment isn’t just for crimes. Perfectly legal acts can injure a society. James Madison said a president
could be impeached for “the wanton removal of meritorious officers” — that is to say,
the President can be impeached for firing good people for no reason. Not a crime, but it is impeachable. You can see this
in the first impeachment in American history. It was a Federal Judge, John Pickering, in
1803. Pickering was an alcoholic and a bully, and historians think he was probably suffering from early-stage dementia. Among the charges brought against him were “loose morals and intemperate habits.”
Is that really… a crime? No, it’s not a crime. But he was impeached, convicted by the Senate, and removed from office, anyway. It was an injury to the society he was serving The way he acted on the bench to the House and the Senate was not acceptable. In some ways, it would be easier if impeachment were just for crimes. And that was considered. Crimes have definitions.
At least in theory they have definitions. Political offenses are harder to define and the problem
with political offenses, as Hamilton said, is They get politicized. One man’s political offense is another man’s bold act to defend his party and country. That’s the problem, Hamilton said. Political offenses “agitate the
passions of the whole community” they “divide it into parties.” Once that happens,
the danger is that impeachment will be decided “more by the comparative strength
of parties, than by the real demonstrations of innocence or guilt.” And if that happened,
it would lose credibility. Everything about impeachment rests on the independence and authority and legitimacy of the body charged with the role. You needed
a body in touch with the people, but above the petty considerations of parties, and factions,
and fad. You needed a body the public could trust. trust. Hamilton admitted there was no perfect
answer. But the Senate, with its six-year terms and staggered elections, the Senate
came closest. Hamilton argued that no “other body would be likely to feel CONFIDENCE ENOUGH
IN ITS OWN SITUATION, to preserve, unawed and uninfluenced, the necessary impartiality between
an INDIVIDUAL accused, and the REPRESENTATIVES OF THE PEOPLE.” He was wrong. “This week the president has admitted to
asking the president of Ukraine to take actions which would benefit him politically …” President Donald Trump faces possible impeachment
after repeatedly asking the president of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden. He did all this a week after Trump froze military aid to Ukraine. When Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky brought up the aid, Trump responded in a call record
his own White House released: “I would like you to do us a favor though” and then he turned the conversation back to investigating Joe Biden. All of this, again, confirmed in a call record released by
Trump’s own White House. “This is about abuse of power by an overreaching
executive. Something the founding fathers feared.” Using the power of the Presidency to pressure
a foreign government to investigate your domestic political rivals.  I would say that’s somewhat worse
than the wanton of removal of meritorious officers. But even if that goes to full impeachment,
the President will be tried in the Senate. And he would not be tried in the Senate
as Hamilton imagined it: the impartial Senate Hamilton hoped we’d have. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell already said,
“If this is the ‘launching point’ for House Democrats’ impeachment process, they’ve
already overplayed their hand.” “From my point of view, to impeach any president
over a phone call like this would be insane.” Alexander Hamilton wrote in defense of a political system he thought would resist organized political parties. The
modern Senate, like the House, is controlled by political parties. And it is a political party
Donald Trump leads. We’ve gone from having impeachment as a political remedy for political offenses
to a partisan remedy for political offenses. So let’s be honest. It is very, very unlikely,
no matter what Trump has done, that he will be removed from office by the Senate. He is
being tried not before the unawed, uninfluenced body Hamilton imagined, but by his co-partisans,
whose fortunes are tied together with his. They will protect him at all costs because
protecting him is protecting them. So rather than just looking at what impeachment
can’t do, I want to look at what it can do. Because even a broken impeachment process isn’t
useless. Impeachment can act as a sanction to Trump. It can unearth information voters will need when deciding whether to reelect the President, and it
will provide a warning to foreign countries that would seek influence over our politics. I’m Liliana Mason. I’m a professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland. Lilliana Mason studies partisan polarization and how it’s warping the American political system. The most of what I do is actually looking at the ways that the public understands and
interprets what’s happening. And in an interview she made this great point to me: Voters are so overwhelmed with
information all the time that it’s hard to sort of have a focusing event for them where
they get to really pay attention to what’s happening and learn some new things. And that’s
one thing that these hearings would do. We have to think of it as more than just removal. Impeachment is a form of public disgrace.
To be one of only four Presidents in American history, even if you are not convicted
by the Senate, is to know an asterisk will be forever attached to your presidency. It
will make just about every single person now in the country seriously consider whether or
not you did something wrong. That’s not as strong a punishment as removal
from office, but it might lead to removal from office. In impeachment, yes, it is the House’s role is to bring the case and it is the Senate’s role to judge the accused. In an era of of partisanship like we have now,
it’s very very difficult for it to work properly. The problem facing the country right now is that
Senate leadership would almost certainly not convict the accused,
no matter what the accused did. But the Senate is not the only possible
judge of President Donald Trump. Public opinion is ultimately, I think, the jury that Democrats in the House are playing to. Look, in the previous two modern impeachments, you could see the effects on public opinion. Well, for Nixon, as the public learned more about what had happened, approval of both the impeachment
process and removal increased. For Clinton, his approval went up. As citizens
learned more about the details of Clinton’s crime, I think the approval went up because they sort of found
that there wasn’t a whole lot that he had done. It was gross, but it didn’t, maybe, seem like the
Constitution required that he be removed. But both of those impeachments
began in the president’s second term. They weren’t going to face the voters again. The difference, this time, is the impeachment process
began before Trump has won reelection. And, make no mistake, Trump’s offense
here was all about the 2020 election. It is about what is proper for the President to do
when running for reelection. It is about whether he can use his office, the most powerful office we gift upon someone, that we entrust him with, to enlist foreign governments
as allies in shaping American elections This one- THIS one, was about us.
What we would see, what we would know. What we would be made to believe.
So maybe we, the voters, are actually the right jury here. Trump wanted to run for reelection atop a
booming economy: “Make America great again!” Now he is going to run as a candidate arguing that
when he said, “I need you to do me a favor, though” of the Ukrainian President, it didn’t quite
rise to the level of quid pro quo. I’m not a political consultant, but,
“I’m not quite a crook” isn’t a great bumper sticker. In his farewell address, President George
Washington spoke against “the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party.”
In particular, he warned that partisan infighting, it “opens the door to foreign influence and
corruption.” In 2016, Russia reached deep into the US presidential election to help elect
Donald Trump and their investment paid off in spades. Trump has defended and praised Putin,
he’s undermined NATO, he’s made American politics more fractious and polarized and chaotic than ever. But it paid off for Trump.
He’s President, and the Mueller report, it carried no direct consequence for him.
That’s the context in which he asked Ukraine to help him in 2020. After all, it worked
the first time. Partisanship, opening the country to this kind of foreign influence, and then
protecting the foreigners who influenced it after they do, that is exactly what Washington and Hamilton
feared the system they designed couldn’t handle. The question for a foreign country, facing an opportunity or potentially a presidential request to intervene in America’s election, is what they may gain and what they may lose. For Ukraine, the possible gains were clear:
military aid they desperately needed and anything else that might flow
from nurturing Trump’s goodwill. But the spotlight of impeachment
makes the costs clearer, too. A foreign country asked to intervene in an
American election may see its activities exposed, much to the fury of the other political party.
Much to the fury even of the public. Ukraine may have wanted Trump’s goodwill, but it doesn’t want the Democrats’ ill will. It doesn’t want the distraction or infamy
of this investigation. Impeachment, in this case, acts
as a message to other countries too: You don’t want to be part of our circus. Even so,
we do live now in the world Washington feared. Republicans are falling in line behind Trump,
they are placing their loyalty to him, to each other, above any sense of public accountability. And in doing, they have opened American politics to foreign influence To foreign corruption. Partisanship like this, it
creates eras in which corruption of all kinds flourishes. Because so long as that corruption is to the benefit
of the party in power, that American politics has no true answer for official wrongdoing in periods of unified party government, it’s chilling. It’s not that the impeachment process itself isn’t working because I do think it has some benefits even without conviction. I think the frightening thing about it is that it’s impossible for it to be used if
there isn’t divided government. Look, Hamilton wasn’t, in the end,
just the author of Federalist 65. He was also the author of much of Washington’s farewell address. Sadly, it’s his pessimism about what would happen to an America driven by party, rather than his optimism about the Senate, that rings true today. And yet, even a broken impeachment
process has its uses. The House can focus the public’s attention. It can send a message to the world. It can create a record for the future. Maybe that’s not sufficient. Maybe it’s not as much as impeachment was initially designed to do. But it’s something. And it’s going to have to be enough.

100 Comments

  • Vox

    We want to hear from you: What are your biggest questions about impeachment and the Trump-Ukraine scandal? Submit them here: http://bit.ly/31PB0Aq

  • Dissociation Nation

    If you told the original founding fathers that there was an impeachment investigation going on because we elected someone like Trump they would be like "….you did what? You actually elected a completely incompetent individual as commander in chief?"

  • K. D.

    When I look at this through bipartisan lens I ask myself, " Do we want a Democratic President doing what it is alleged Trump is doing?"

    Of course not. The impeachment process should continue. Trump may not be impeached but because of the allegations, this process must continue.

  • sifridbassoon

    1. I seriously doubt that Trump will lose any sleep over whether his administration goes into the history books with an asterisk next to his name. We already know that he cannot be shamed.
    2. If I'm the head of a corrupt government (in, say, northern Eurasia), and I see that a US president is NOT removed from office for cutting a sweetheart deal with a foreign government, that could be a BIG deciding factor about whether I try to get a similar deal.

  • Scott Covert

    The Founding Fathers also envisioned a world where "A small number of persons, selected by their fellow-citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated [tasks]"

    That's called a Republic. This whole "we're a democracy and we need to abolish the electoral college" campaign is against the very idea of the Constitution. 

    But that's the DNC for you.

  • DaveyTheDJ

    I did not entrust Donald Trump with the presidency the Electoral College gave him that the popular vote gave it to Hillary Clinton which is what I firmly believe in is the popular vote!

  • Adam Winnett

    Am I the only one who hears an annoying, high-pitch and intermittent beep in the background noise? Great video but good grief it sounds like a childhood hearing test!

  • Chris Theron

    Why are people so devided. Like why do Fox and CNN paint an OPPOSITE picture of Trump. It feels like half of America HATES the other half. America doesn't need to impeach Trump they need to find a way to live in harmony.

  • Riley Davis

    The constitution says that the president must be guilty of “felonies or high misdemeanors” to be impeached
    It’s a good system, the publicly elected officials not the house and the senate get to vote on whether to impeach.

  • Cece Cee

    if impeachment worked like hamilton envisioned, Trump would've been impeached the second he called himself a "stable genius"

  • Jerome Wright

    When a mayor or senator breaks the law, they can be put on trial for their crimes. Sometimes the voters return these criminals to their elected offices (Jim Trafficant) even after their conviction. If the President is immune from prosecution then impeachment is the only recourse for justice. Just take the vote and let the names be read of who was on what side. Let the consequences fall where they will.

  • Ddd Kkk

    Act like russian influence is fact,what a moan. fact that seth rich passed that in fo and 6 russians on facebook influenced zero

  • tony elmore

    you know i continue to hear a lot of talk regarding hamilton , and nixon, clinton and the like but wthin all this noise there is still only one question in play ,,,did potus break the law,, meaning did he perform an impeachable act,,,was it wrong ,,,does he have a history of this behavior, did he know it was possibly illegal and did it anyway .,what's the probability of him doing it again,,if the answer to these questions is ,,yes then he is guilty and has exhibited the behavior that he can no longer be TRUSTED ,,,bottom line to leave him in office will be DISASTROUS.. he must start a WAR to detract from his GUILT ,, and he will …this is only the beginning of AMERICA IN TURMOIL….

  • Setheus Ramsey

    This is an excellent video, but if I can suggest in the future, not having background music that includes chimes/sustained high pitched noises? It really messes with us with auditory processing disabilities, thank you!

  • Robert

    You can't just impeach a president because you don't like their character, all your going to do is irrevocably split the nation

  • Mark Sommers

    Lots of leaks lately .. secure file ….No one is clean..heck , Biden even ragged on Trump for Dodging the Draft , yet , Biden himself Was A Draft Dodger …. ASTHMA ?! B b but , he was an ALL STAR Athlete through HS and COLLEGES .
    Look , if you were happy with the last four administrations…good on you but , facts are facts and This Patriot POTUS has accomplished more in 3 years than any other before him .

  • Lily Fenster

    i understand why this is the case for things that AREN'T crimes, but many of the president's offenses ARE. the president should absolutely be able to be convicted of a crime. i wouldn't be satisfied even if trump were thrown out of office – put him in prison like you would do to anyone who did what he did. no one is above the law.

  • troy tucker

    this guy sounds like a campaine ad for the DNC….. i dont think you should be preaching your opion as facts but try to present information for the people to make up thier own minds and not be perswaded by your liberal views…. get it right , trump is a great presedent . the best in hndreds of years…. maybe you should get another line of work . im not impressed with VOX as of now …… 4 pinockios..

  • rpbsjy

    Trump could be found not guilty by the Senate, but those Senators will be up for election within 5 years at most. Not all Republicans approve of Trump and it wouldn't take many of those to oust a number of those Senators.

  • Vance Sloan

    The problem with your argument is that Biden and his son are clearly corrupt and they SHOULD be investigated. The fact that Democrats are trying to impeach a man who is trying to find out the truth makes them look……..foolish. Frankly, it irritates me that the Democrats are going to waste my tax dollars on an impeachment that won't change anything. Thanks for nothing guys.

  • CHOPPERGIRL's AIRWAR

    Impeachment isn't broken. Statism is broken.
    Stop believing in government and that you need it and trying to fix it.
    Instead, lead yourself. Fight the state, don't fight for it.
    Anarchism 101.

  • Ahsim Nreiziev

    It's an uncomfortable subject to bring up, but another fundamental change happened between when Hamilton wrote about Impeachment and Removal, and today. And given that Hamilton did in fact write about the threat of Partisanship, it stands to reason that that wasn't the problem he (and the other Founding Fathers) didn't foresee. Maybe the point I am about to raise is the one he failed to anticipate..

    Another thing that fundamentally changed the Senate, and thus fundamentally changed the process of Impeachment and Removal, is the passing of the 17th Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1913.

    Like I said, not a comfortable subject to bring up. But it being a valid topic of discussion here is something which I think cannot be denied.

  • alejandro ojeda

    Hamilton: predicting the failures of a system he designed two centuries ago….😲
    the rest: in the meantime they did nothing to address it 😑

  • latengocomoburro

    Sure he did something wrong, but he is building the wall, solving the problem with North Korea, solving the problem with China. Things which no other president has ever done before, so are we going to vote him out of office because of this? nah. Plus nobody in the press (conveniently) is talking about what Biden did.

  • coffeehubby

    So if Pelosi gained, as well as Schiff from arms deals with the Ukraine, why is that not impeachable? Because they are not Trump.

  • Sunny Barua

    America, The greatest & the longest running Reality Show……..!!

    Here's my two cents, Teflon Don will get through this……!!

  • Cody Griffin

    Progressives need to get over 2016. You've run all of us off with your TDS, intersectionality, SJ & reparations. Good luck next year…

  • noah

    You dont need any reason to impeach as long as you can get the house and Senate to vote on it. Impeachment is basically impossable. No way to get 2/3rds of the Senate to agree on anything.

  • Top Rank AUDIOBOOKS PLUS

    When you hate a president so much that instead of trying to beat him in the next election you try to accuse him of spying of political candidates and so called whistleblowers to impeach him.
    That sounds like Trump Derangement Syndrome.

  • Ethan Ross

    Hamilton was actually just okay, at best. And throwing in a beat isn't a very impressive contextual attempt at a flex

  • Screw You

    You do realize that Trump was "asking a favor" to investigate the overall corruption in 2016, not to investigate biden specifically.

  • Fantazzim

    Democrats…I know you have the searing hatred of a thousand suns for trump, but if you try or succeed in impeaching him in the house you will guarantee him second term.

  • Jason Brown

    Questions? Sure, I have a question. Why are we even talking about impeachment when Adam Schiff falsified the contents of President Trump's phone call with the Ukraine prime minister? Why aren't people even recognizing this is over before it even started? Adam Schiff just handed Trump the single greatest boost for his re-election than anyone or anything I ever thought possible. Before anyone gets any ideas, I DO NOT support the President. He's erratic, impulsive, doesn't know what he's doing. He doesn't consciously lie, the truth is a fluid concept to him. Facts simply don't matter as much as his opinions, whatever feels right to him and he simply can't see past his own bluster. How does granting him underdog victim status help matters. It doesn't. This new impeachment effort is doomed to end badly just like Russia-gate did.

  • TheUnWantedMan

    If they are going to impeach Trump why don't they do it legally by having the House vote on the process as the law prescribes? If the Dems won't abide by the law, why does anyone believe Trump should?

  • The Gay Expat

    Silly pinkos. Hunter Biden didn't deserve that job and you know it. He got kicked out of the Navy for being a crackhead and now he got a cushy job making 50,000 a month from a poor country.

  • Hoosier Daddy, Boy

    Dems, prosecute and then find the facts later. There was no quid pro quo. Dems have been trying to remove President Trump even before he was sworn in. The house Dems are an embarrassment.

  • open lane

    Say wasnt bidens boy employed by them or something like that. They and when i say they i mean all of those who hold office in Washingtons Feces are compromised souless imbiciles with visions of the future that only include themselves and those like them. Good luck

  • Allaric Harosyn

    DEMOCRATS ALL LIE TRUMP DID NOT ASK A FAVOR WITH BIDEN , BIDENS NAME IS NOT EVEN IN THAT CONVERSATION THE “FAVOR” HAS TO DO WITH CROWDSTRIKE AND THE CLINTON EMAILS , BIDEN IS NOT EVEN MENTIONED UNTIL 3 PARAGRAPHS LATER WHEN THE PHONE CONVERSATION TURNS TO CORRUPT GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS IN UKRAINE WHICH INCLUDE HUNTER BIDEN DEALING WITH A PREVIOUS UKRAINIAN ADMINISTRATION
    JOE BIDEN IS CORRUPT GULIANNI HAS THE PROOF AND BIDEN IS GOING TO JAIL

  • Rudster14

    While we do need to impeach Trump because of the principle, in reality it may backfire for the Democrats politically because Republican voters see it as a partisan witch hunt and it may galvanize them to re-elect Trump

  • SoloTodo

    If you care about subscribers in the future use your super intelligence……Stay away from religion and politics. You will have a lot more supporters. Love your site when you discuss interesting topics.

  • ClownWorld

    "Foreign Countries should not be influencing our election."- The Country that interferes in everyother countries elections

  • Andrew O'Sullivan

    So when we vote Obama it's all good, but when we vote Trump we're deplorable and letting corruption happen? We voted Obama because he promised "Change". He promised to get corruption out. Politicians is one of the least trusted professions. So we voted an outsider to get rid of the corruption. And boy was this corruption deep… I hope Trump brought a fleet of diggers.

  • Corazon Sierra

    so long as we have a free and open internet to share ideas and discuss the wrongs of the powerful, there will always be a supreme rule of the people to dispose of corrupt politicians and factions…

    December 14, 2017 – Verizon successfully lobbies politicians to revoke net neutrality…

    Doh!

  • Georgina Whitby

    The claimed " offence " is literally about daring to investigate corruption , specifically corruption relating to the shady business dealing between the then VPs son and foreign ( Ukraine ) power players including those who confessed on tape , and were convicted in a court of law of law of interfering in the last US election.

    It's bold deception of Ezra to pretend to be concerned about foreign interference in US elections while wanting to impeach someone for daring to follow up on glaring appearance of corruption directly related to those who (on both testimony and legal conviction record ) engaged in electoral interference.

    I am no personal fan of Trump , and I've always voted to the left , but the Ukraine interference in the 2016 US elections , the missing 1.8 billion dollars Ukraine aid that passed through a company closely linked to Biden's son ( alongside other vast and extremely conflicted transactions with the totalitarian CCP regime) , the deflection to the " Russia " hoax ( even going so far as to outright pretend CCP aligned Ukraine actions were Russian ) , and now this obvious and desperate measure to villfy investigating this (on ground of the unavoidable truism that uncovering curruption by the one party always benefits the other ) , is evidence that those trying to impeach for investigating corruption are far far more scary , corrupt , and holding themselves above accountability , than we even expected Trump to be in our worst imaginings.

    And as for a channel like this …arguing utterly against constitutional democracy, and dismissing elected representatives because they are politicians ( !!!) and preferring autocratic judges to rule on polical matters , that is horrifying . Ezra, do you actually believe what you are selling , or have you knowingly sunk into by- any- means – necessary deception ?

  • Some One

    Everyone is an expert on the Constitution yet NO ONE lives by it. A crime is a crime. End of it, isn't it? Not when your rich using lawyer after lawyer. There are no gray areas in the law for wealthy criminals yet they walk away unscathed 99% of the time. Where is the Constitution then?

  • ArlanKels

    Right now I feel like the transcript of Trump's call with Turkey, which preceded his sudden and non-strategic withdrawl from syria, should be looked at by everyone.
    Because some sort of deal was made, and as one person put it who observed the call Trump was "rolled" by Turkey.

  • B J

    Impeachment is taking an individual’s right to vote, out of their control. If impeachment were equated to ‘firing’ for an unfounded cause, then every Congressional member would be removed by ‘impeachment’. Think about the repercussions. Now deal with Biden’s son, Kerry’s stepson and Pelosi’s son and their Ukraine connection.

  • Usagi Spoon

    You spent a whole video talking about partisanship and only talked about one party. Partisanship doesn't exist in a void.

  • Rusty Shackelford

    This is more liberal madness (as if there wasn't enough).
    I didn't like Obama, nor did I like Bush, but it didn't rule my every waking moment. Trump is the President, get over it.
    He's going to win reelection, accept it.
    All of the liberal obstructionism just helps to push moderates to Trump.

    TDS is very real and nearly every single liberal has it.

    "Liberalism, let's find a cure!"

  • Robert De La Cruz

    Your facts on blocking funds is wrong..if the the leaders of Ukrain said there was no Quid Pro Quo..you have no case for impeachment..none..nada..get a life..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *