With a slew of scandals hitting the White House, with a scent of obstruction of justice, the “I” word has started to float around news outlets and social media. Democratic Representative Al Green of Texas has already begun to draft the articles of impeachment. Labeling this an act of partisan politics would be more than an exaggeration. The soft spoken representative seems to believe that Trump has committed impeachable offences and wants to defend our Republic. It should also be noted that top Democratic leaders seem to be against calling for such a process right now. While the likelihood of a Trump impeachment remains fairly low, maybe obscure at best, what exactly is the case for impeaching Trump?
Much of the discussion we’ve seen regarding Trump’s impeachment involves the firing of FBI Director Comey who was investigating possible ties between Russia and Trump. Trump unwisely made statements that suggested Comey was fired for not dropping the Russian probe: “Trump told NBC News that he was frustrated by the ongoing investigation and believed it was motivated by Democrats’ fury at losing the election.” This was after, “Trump wrote in his letter informing Comey that he was being fired that he appreciated Comey ‘informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation.‘” and then posting what many considered a threat on Twitter that said, “James Comey better hope that there are no “tapes” of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” About a week after this stampede of events the Washington Post reported that Trump had asked two intelligence chiefs to push back on the FBI’s investigation of him:
President Trump asked two of the nation’s top intelligence officials in March to help him push back against an FBI investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and the Russian government, according to current and former officials.
Trump made separate appeals to the director of national intelligence, Daniel Coats, and to Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, urging them to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion during the 2016 election.
This is the main grounds that Representative Green is making his claim on. Green and others like him believe that president had the intent of obstructing the investigation into him. While some right wing provocateurs enjoy sharing liberals flipping on Comey (wanting him fired for ruining Clinon’s election but then asking for Trump’s impeachment after firing him) we should avoid categorizing everyone in this category. It is a weak attempt at dismissing what has turned out to be a rather serious discussion.
Despite the Nixon-esque feel that Trump has attracted to the Russian investigation, the case for impeachment is rather unclear at this point. Until there is more information that comes forward in the investigation it is hard to tell whether or not this will result in anything. For now, the case for impeachment in regards to obstruction of justice are weak at best. As Five Thirty Eight wrote, obstruction of justice is certainly the worst charge Trump could hope for it anything does come up:
Obstruction of justice is about the last accusation that a president wants on his radar if he fears impeachment; it was one of the two charges that the House used to impeach Clinton and one of the three charges that the House Judiciary Committee recommended against Nixon.
The better case for impeachment, and of course the less talked about, is Trump’s violations of the U.S. Constitution’s Foreign Emoluments Clause, which provides: “[N]o Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States], shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.” This is the argument pushed by impeachdonaldtrumpnow.org which was formed by Free Speech People and Roots Action.
This case still runs into problems, but it is stronger because there has a more concrete evidence. Trump has many business ties and has not receded being involved in his previous business affairs as president. To get an idea of how complicated and just how many ties there are take a glance at The Atlantic’s engrossing coverage. The ties Trump has are complicated making it hard to investigate whether decisions he makes on behalf of the US are actually in the interest of the country or his pocket book. The involvement of his family members as close advisers only complicates the issue of how Trump could possibly use his position to benefit his family. The most obvious case of this is Ivanka Trump’s fund receiving $100 million from Saudi Arabia and the UAE after the Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia (even though he criticized the Clinton’s for accepting money from the same people: “Saudi Arabia and many of the countries that gave vast amounts of money to the Clinton Foundation want women as slaves and to kill gays. Hillary must return all money from such countries!”)
Unlike the allegations of obstruction of justice it can be argued that Trump has violated the Emoluments Clause:
Many of the Trump Organization’s extensive business dealings with foreign governments, businesses owned by foreign governments, and other foreign leaders violate this ban. A recent legal analysis by Prof. Laurence Tribe of Harvard Law School, Ambassador (ret.) Norman Eisen (former chief ethics counsel to President Barack Obama), and Professor Richard Painter (former chief ethics counsel to President George W. Bush) concluded that Mr. Trump would be violating the foreign emoluments ban from the moment he took office, due to “a steady stream of monetary and other benefits from foreign powers and their agents” deriving from his existing business arrangements. As a result, since he did not divest his business operations before inauguration, he has been violating the Foreign Emoluments Clause since the moment he took office.
The problem with this case for impeachment is that it is difficult to establish whether Trump is actually using his position to benefit him and his family and whether this actually qualifies as an impeachable offense. Technically speaking it could be established as a form of bribery which is covered under the grounds from impeachment: “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” Needless to say, Trump’s lawyers wouldn’t have a hard time showing the weak foundation of this argument.
Currently the case for impeachment is rather weak, meaning that it is unlikely to happen or occur with the given information. There are serious allegations and breaches of law though that are cause for concern in the bigger picture, but how that pertains to impeachment is left to be known.
Image Source: The Inquisitor
Written by: Karsten Szajner