Thursday, January 9, 2020

The Ghosts of Impeachment Past


If one bothered to turn back the pages of history it should become quite evident that the 1868 impeachment of President Andrew Johnson bears a most eerie resemblance to the current two-count indictment that has been drawn up against President Trump by the Judiciary Committee of the present House of Representatives. A century and a half ago it was the Radical Republicans led by Congressmen Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania and Charles Sumner of Massachusetts who controlled the House with an over eighty-six per cent majority, while today the House is in the hands of radical Democrats who hold a more than fifty-four per cent majority. Even though the agendas and targets of the Republicans of 1868 and those of the Democrats of today may differ, each of the parties were and are more than willing to trample on not only the Constitution, but also the accepted rule of law and even the basic canons of ethics, justice and morality. Officially, the lower legislative body has the power to act in such a partisan and unfair manner, as Article One of the Constitution gives the “sole power of impeachment” to the House of Representatives, with only a simple majority needed there to carry out the indictment, no matter how fallacious their case might be. However, Article Two of the Constitution which outlines the basis for the impeachment of any officer of the United States government, including the president, is a bit more ambiguous. While the Article clearly states that the specific crimes of treason and bribery are to be considered as definite causes for impeachment, the Constitution also added the indefinite phrase “or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors” and it this highly elastic latter phrasing upon which all the Articles of Impeachment have been prepared in the cases brought against both Presidents Johnson and Trump.

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