Finley: Impeach Trump? Don’t hold your breath
Those who still can’t accept the results of last fall’s election have placed their hopes on a plea to responsible Republicans and concerned conservatives to “do something” about Donald Trump.
By doing something, they mean unseating the president.
An impassioned email I received recently argued Trump “should resign or be removed from office — led by members of his own Republican Party. The longer Republicans dither and enable President Trump, the more they, too, own this ugly, un-American, immoral behavior.
“When will sensible Republicans come to their senses?”
A lot of sensible Republicans are distressed to see Trump in the Oval Office under their party’s imprimatur. But the Constitution intentionally makes it difficult to undo the results of a presidential election.
There are two options for involuntary removal, both tough to execute. That’s why no president has ever been forcibly ousted from office.
Impeachment is the most familiar path and Democrats have already drawn up articles of impeachment against Trump. This path is open under the Constitution if a president commits “high crimes and misdemeanors.”
Dave Dulio, a professor at Oakland University and expert on the presidency, says, “In plain words that would imply a criminal act. I don’t believe that’s the case.
“Some of the people who are chattering about impeachment argue that high crimes and misdemeanors are whatever Congress thinks they are.”
A formal criminal charge is not needed to begin the removal proceedings. Bill Clinton was impeached without being charged by the criminal justice system. So Trump could face impeachment even if special investigator Robert Mueller finds no evidence of an actual crime.
But Dulio reminds that “impeachment is a political, not a criminal, process.”
Republicans control the political process. If they didn’t, Trump would already be facing the gallows. The GOP is not likely to allow impeachment to go forward against their own president, absent solid evidence of a very serious crime. If a president is impeached, it still takes a two-thirds vote by the Senate to convict him and hand down punishment.
Trump seems safe even if his favorability levels remain at rock bottom. He still enjoys enough support in enough areas to make Republican lawmakers wary of defying their constituents and acting against a president who, in reality, is the same guy they voted for last fall. Trump is exactly what he showed himself to be in the campaign. There’s been no bait and switch.
The second course is via the 25th Amendment, which allows for the removal, temporarily or permanently, of an incapacitated president.
Trump is eccentric, often offensive, and some think deranged. But as he demonstrated last week in negotiating an immigration deal with Democrats, he’s still mentally capable of doing his job.
Authority to declare a president incapacitated rests with the vice-president and Cabinet. At the moment, both remain loyal to Trump. So there is a very specific and intentionally strenuous process for removing a president. The Constitution doesn’t make provisions for buyer’s regret.
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