Although no president has been removed from office through impeachment conviction, what would happen if President Donald Trump were the first? The Constitution is clear. He would be removed from office immediately and forbidden “to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States” again.
As a private citizen, without privilege due to executive office, he would be “liable and subject to indictment, trial, judgment and Punishment, according to law.” If the crime were serious enough, he could go to prison like anyone else.
Vice President Mike Pence would be sworn into office as the 46th president. He would finish the term and run for president in 2020. He would need to move fast. The 25th Amendment to the Constitution requires him to nominate a new vice president “who shall take the office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both houses of Congress.”
Should Pence die, through natural causes or otherwise, before this confirmation vote, the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, would be sworn into office as the 47th president of the United States and she would finish the Trump/Pence term and run for president in 2020. She would also immediately nominate a new vice president who would take office when confirmed by the majority in both Houses. The Democrats would have retrieved the White House without a popular or Electoral College vote.
Why are Rep. Adam Schiff, and others, allowed to lie without consequence? Yes, Schiff has a real problem with the truth. The Constitution is designed to protect him with good reason. If he is removed, his congressional district is denied their choice of voice in the House of Representatives. Excepting “treason, felony and breach of the peace” as per Article I, Section 6, Clause 1, he and all congressmembers and Senators, are “privileged from arrest during attendance in the session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same,” and, this part is important, “for any speech or debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other place.”
Be grateful for this privilege. It works both ways. Our lawmakers are free to express themselves without fear of any government retaliation, all information is free to get out.
That said, it is also true that most people tire quickly of the lies or offensive behavior of those who cannot restrain themselves and cease empowering them with their support – notice the lack of interest in the impeachment proceedings. In an informed and vibrant elective such is challenged in the next election and a better option forwarded to take his place. The constitutional process cleans out such. Granted in some district’s constituents are not informed or vibrant and such remain in office forever. The districts of Rep. Maxine Waters and Pelosi come to mind in addition to Schiff.
The Constitution did not anticipate political parties and far too many people vote by party, regardless of what their candidates do or say. As a result, this check on lying or inappropriate behavior is largely tolerated because of political party.
So why shouldn’t the Senate have any additional witnesses beyond the 18 who already testified? Yes, 18. Schiff refused to release the transcript of Michael Adkinson, witness 18, presumably it defends Trump. Because it severely muddies the Constitution, which is very clear that the House investigates and the Senate evaluates. The House, is supposed to fully investigate and cite the impeachable offenses before they vote. The Senate is not to do the work of the House as both bodies would do the same thing. It cannot call new witnesses, but it could have recalled a witness previously called by the House if some point in their previous testimony needed clarification, or by having Adkinson testify again. Their call for new witnesses strongly suggested that they were still looking for a crime. Nor can the Senate add a new impeachable offense should a new witness, such as John Bolton, give them such.
The Sen. Mitt Romney’s in the Senate and the Democrats insisting upon additional witnesses would create a precedent for doing the work of the other body and forever searching for a crime that does not exist. The present clarity of the Constitution would be undermined. Both groups demonstrate constitutional illiteracy.
Why aren’t obstruction of justice and obstruction of Congress impeachable offenses? There are four reasons: both are too vague therefore subject to varied interpretation and varied application; most previous presidents did both; neither is a crime and neither is in the class of high crimes such as treason or bribery. Even quid pro quo, if proved, is not a crime or an impeachable offense. Actually obstruction of Congress is a legitimate separation of powers function of the Executive Branch.
The Constitution is non-partisan. The bar for impeachable offenses was made high and uncommon so that presidents had some immunity from mere disagreements. If Trump is removed from office for anything presently cited by the House, it would weaken future presidents to the point that they would not dare oppose or offend the majority in the House lest they have to spend most of their time warding off frivolous and multiple impeachment inquiries.
Dr. Harold Pease is a syndicated columnist and an expert on the United States Constitution. He has dedicated his career to studying the writings of the Founding Fathers and to applying that knowledge to current events. He taught history and political science from this perspective for over 30 years at Taft College. To read more of his weekly articles, visit www.LibertyUnderFire.org.