The Trump Defense Hinges On The Idea That Impeachment Requires An Actual Crime

The Democrats have wrapped up their string of accusations regarding President Donald J. Trump’s behavior regarding Ukraine. The trial has followed a rapid impeachment inquiry. Democrats have built their argument from an extremely firm foundation in fact. Trump hasn’t done himself any favors when discussing the impeachment proceedings and subsequent trial with his colleagues or the rest of the world on Twitter.

But what does the Trump defense hinge on?

Not fact, that’s for sure. His protectors have consistently said that his actions, while perhaps inappropriate, are hardly impeachable. Gerald Ford famously said, “An impeachable offense is whatever the majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history.”

While that argument may not hold weight with constitutional scholars, it is, for all intents and purposes, technically accurate. The House decides. And the House has already decided. Trump is impeached. That will never change.

The Hill recently published an article written by Jonathan Turley, who sums up how the flimsy defense will stress those Republicans who find themselves torn between doing right and the party line: “Murkowski, who is being courted by both sides, could again find herself aggrieved by an argument from counsel if, as widely expected, the White House frames its case around a widely discredited theory that impeachment requires a criminal allegation.”

What does “widely discredited” mean? The founding fathers didn’t agree with modern interpretation of the phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors” so we might as well start there.

Frank Bowman, a law professor, described impeachment as predictable in some ways: “The defenders of the impeached officer always argue, always, that a crime is required. And every time that misconception has to be knocked down again.”

When the Founding Fathers included the clause for impeachable behavior defined by treason, blah, blah, blah, and “high crimes and misdemeanors,” they weren’t actually talking about crimes. They were describing about abuse of power or behavior that breaks the public’s trust in the officer. That’s all. How do we know that’s all? Because Alexander Hamilton said as much in Federalist Paper No. 65, and he was one of the Founding Fathers in case you’d forgotten.

Bowman says, “Let’s say the President were to wake up tomorrow morning and says, ‘All this impeachment stuff is kind of getting on my nerves. I think I’m going to Barbados for six months. Don’t call me, I’ll call you,’ and just cuts off all contact and refuses to do his duty. That’s not a crime. It’s not violating a law. But could we impeach him? Of course we could — otherwise what’s the remedy? We have a country without a president.”

So while the defense is invalid, the president’s lawyers are poised to make it. Why wouldn’t they just argue the facts? It’s exceedingly simple: the facts don’t support the president’s actions. He was impeached for a reason and should be removed.