We have, so far, in America had two Presidents impeached and one step down because he was about to be. Andrew Johnson, a southern sympathizer, who had been added to the ticket with Abraham Lincoln to try to heal the rift with the South following the Civil War, became President after Lincoln was assassinated only a few weeks into his second term. Johnson clashed immediately with Congress which was controlled by Radical Republicans, who in those days were the civil rights champions. He was impeached in 1868 after he proposed vetoing rights for freed slaves and allowing former Confederates to have all of their rights restored. He escaped being removed from office by the Senate by one vote.
In 1974 Articles of Impeachment were drafted against President Richard Nixon who subsequently stepped down.
In 1998 Bill Clinton was impeached for lying to Congress about a sexual liaison with a staff member. Clinton survived removal when the Senate vote was 55 not guilty and 45 guilty.
No President has ever been removed from office, yet, after being impeached. The Congress has impeached 8 federal judges over the years, but not a President.
Historically Americans have done a good job of keeping a decent political party balance between the three branches of government, the Executive ( President, Vice President and Cabinet), the Legislative ( Congress) and Judicial ( Federal and Supreme Court), consequentially the impeachment votes have gone generally along political party lines as they will no doubt do this time.
We are now in the midst of impeachment hearings for a fourth time, this time it is Donald Trump. This proposed impeachment is based on his supposed request for a “favor” from a foreign leader from Ukraine to help his own political career in return for releasing approved funds to help the Ukraine. The hearings are being televised widely and the American people are able to hear testimony for and against the legality and constitutionality of his actions. Considering what is usually on television it does make for interesting viewing.
Regardless of what one thinks of Donald Trump, his term in office has sparked a new interest among the American people in both government and politics. Many Americans had seemingly decided that what went on in Washington was only tangentially relevant to their daily lives. This was, of course, a totally false and foolish view. Decisions made by the federal government impact everything from what is in your paycheck—whether you are still working or retired, to your reproductive rights, to the safety of your environment, to your ability to vote. Very few people are neutral when it comes to the current President, which has encouraged more scrutiny not only of him and political parties, but also of the way the government works.
I am going to be very interested in the process, not only to see if the President is actually impeached, which would be historic, but to see what the two sides offer up as defenses of their positions. It is quite possible the House has enough votes to impeach. Considering the political make-up of the Senate there is virtually no chance that Trump will be removed from office unless, as happened in the case of Nixon, a number of his party members announce they will vote for removal. Considering that most impeachment processes last months we will be well into the next Presidential election cycle before they are concluded which rather makes removal a moot point.
This would be a great time to be either a Constitutional scholar or a history or government teacher or professor, great grist for the mill of academic thought, commentary, interpretation and publication.
Stay tuned, it is going to be interesting.
Cookie Newsom is a Greene County resident and guest columnist.