To the Editor of The Daily Campus:
A topic as complex and prescient as impeachment deserves a thorough discussion. The opinion column published this past Wednesday entitled “A matter of constitutional integrity” smells so greatly of partisanship that it becomes difficult to read in its entirety without having to stop and roll one’s eyes. When an author resorts to shoddy whataboutism, they blatantly circumvent the matter at hand, often in attempts of relieving any form of culpability from the person, idea, or action in question. Such a strategy is too simple and evasive. Discuss the suspicious actions of past leaders all you like, but the matter at hand is about the man who currently occupies the Office of the President and the very real consequences of his administration.
So, rather than engage in the all-too-easy practice of discussing President Trump’s “grotesque perversion” of constitutional norms, let’s examine the Impeachment Clause in greater detail.
The criteria for impeachment, while enumerated in Article II, section 4, is not nearly as clear as some like to argue. The phrasing “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” has been the subject of much debate since our country’s founding. It is generally understood that the Clause excludes charges of gross incompetence, but was broadly defined to include abuses of power by public officials. Because impeachment is such a rarity in our history, there is little precedent to guide our interpretation of the Clause’s ambiguous tailend. The Supreme Court, in fact, has remained relatively silent regarding the impeachment process, as it is a power solely vested in one of our political branches, the legislature. See Nixon v. United States (1993). The impeachment process has been — and will continue to be — a political process. Impeachment need not pass the high standards of criminal law. It is a judgement charged by the House and tried by the Senate.
The “deeply immoral and highly unethical” actions of our president should startle any inhabitant of our nation. Indeed, the reader should investigate these events and allegations to arise at their own judgement. For the sake of argument, though, if we are to accept the author’s premise that “in the absence of high crimes” impeachment cannot be charged, I refer the reader to 52 U.S.C. § 30121, a federal statute prohibiting the solicitation of foreign actors in our elections.
Ian W. Leighton
University of Connecticut – Class of 2020