fbpx

Our Impeachment Future

Last week I participated in two panel discussions at a Virginia Continuing Legal Education seminar, held at the Washington Library at the General’s Mount Vernon estate (it’s a spectacular place). Technically the panel dealt with Executive Orders but the moderator was John Dean (of Watergate fame—fit as a fiddle after all these years). So naturally the talk turned to impeachments. That got me thinking: arguably, it’s quite likely that the next President or perhaps some other official will be impeached (though not convicted). Three reasons:

  • Impeachment is the only remaining means of disciplining the Executive. Withholding funds? There’s one budget bill, and it has to pass. Hearings? Congress no longer does that because all it gets is a snow job. Appointments? There’s always the recess, or maybe several; and there are tsars and tsarinas who don’t need no appointment. Legislation? Asked and answered. So you might as well do something other than fundraising: impeachment. At least that’s in the Constitution.
  • Speaking of which: both presidential contenders, throughout their careers and this mercifully-soon-over campaign, have displayed an aggressive contempt for the Constitution, from the Preamble to Article XII. The faithful execution of the laws isn’t high on their respective bucket lists. Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors? Persona ipsa, etc. ?
  • Both contenders have made it clear that they will not divorce themselves from their private business enterprises (and would you believe them if they said otherwise?). We won’t know where the White House ends and the Foundation or Enterprise begins. Impeachment is a good way to find out.

Follow the speculation a bit further: we have impeached Presidents; judges and justices; a U.S. senator (which raises the interesting question of whether a Senator is a “Civil Officer of the United States” for the purposes of Art. II Sec. 4); and once, in 1876, a cabinet official who had resigned his civil office (is that covered? The official was the excellent William W. Belknap, who as Secretary of War under the Grant administration had engineered various kickback schemes to keep his three wives, two of them sisters, in shoes that transform a woman. It’s not as bad as it sounds: he married them sequentially and none was an East European import and also Mr. Belknap started the National Weather Service. But I digress.) Curiously, though, we have never impeached a “civil officer” in office—the scenario plainly contemplated by the Constitution.

I’m not giving anyone any ideas because I don’t have to: the thought has occurred to the House of Representatives even as we speak. House Republicans have agitated for the impeachment of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen for his role in the agency’s campaign against conservative non-profits and the subsequent investigation. That particular crusade will not and perhaps should not go very far. But the basic idea is on the table, and it will get a try-out in the next administration.

I’ll hazard one more prediction. My former colleague Norm Ornstein has vehemently defended Mr. Koskinen as an honorable civil servant who tried to make the best of a very bad situation. If that’s right, it’s predictive. The incoming President’s consiglieri will be smart enough to surround themselves with fall guys and gals—earnest, otherwise decent people who are sufficiently glassy-eyed to serve as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Something or Other. The target on their backs will come with the office.

Reader Discussion

Law & Liberty welcomes civil and lively discussion of its articles. Abusive comments will not be tolerated. We reserve the right to delete comments - or ban users - without notification or explanation.

on October 03, 2016 at 12:10:42 pm

And the quality both of candidates and the debates show a weakening of prospective office holders. Nothing really new, just a continuation of a gradual slide. As a side note I see Mr. Koskien as a willful soldier in the corruption so very endemic, the attacks or investigations remarkably centered on Republicans, any Democrats there?

read full comment
Image of john trainor
john trainor
on October 03, 2016 at 14:00:34 pm

Those guys all have people overseeing their work to check for possible trouble, such as impeachable offenses. That's why you aren't likely to see an impeachment in a higher office any time soon.

It's the threat of impeachment that keeps them at least moderately honest, not the act of impeachment itself.

read full comment
Image of Scott Amorian
Scott Amorian
on October 03, 2016 at 15:27:35 pm

How about we throw the Director of the FBI into the impeachment mix - just for the fun of it!

But what would really make a difference, and would ultimately lead to a greater likelihood of impeachments actually being used as an effective tool against governmental abuse would be if we could impeach the Editors of the NY Times, WAPO, CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, ad infiniteum.

Now that's what I'm talkin' bout!

read full comment
Image of gabe
gabe
on October 03, 2016 at 20:17:01 pm

Then again. there is this against the Dear (and honest), according to Andy McCarthy)) Director Comey wherein the FBI *enables* a member of a criminal conspiracy (I refer, of course, to the Democrat Party) to DESTROY EVIDENCE:

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2016/10/03/fbi-agreed-to-destroy-laptops-clinton-aides-with-immunity-deal-lawmaker-says.html

Sorry andy but your faith has been misplaced!

read full comment
Image of gabe
gabe
on October 03, 2019 at 13:28:38 pm

[…] Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were still vying for the Presidency, legal scholar Michael Greve made a prediction. “[I]t’s quite likely,” he said, “That the next President … will be […]

read full comment
Image of Michael Greve Called It! - The Locker Room - The Locker Room
Michael Greve Called It! - The Locker Room - The Locker Room

Law & Liberty welcomes civil and lively discussion of its articles. Abusive comments will not be tolerated. We reserve the right to delete comments - or ban users - without notification or explanation.

Related