Donald J. Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States of America on 21st January 2017, and from 22nd January there were calls for his impeachment. On Wednesday 9th December, the first official step towards this goal was taken by Congressman Al Green, a Texan Democrat, when he attempted to force the first articles of impeachment against President Trump through Congress. This was despite the objections of the House Democrat leadership, who reportedly saw it as a ‘distraction in a Republican-controlled senate’, and almost all Democratic representatives in the house supported a motion to side-line the resolution, which passed 364 votes to 58, essentially stopping the resolution in its tracks with no hope of revival. After his move to impeach the president had failed, Congressman Green said that “this will not go down as a footnote in history” and that the vote in the house Was definitely “not a non-event”. Green had never expected the articles to pass and had not even lobbied for Wednesday’s debate, but his comments afterwards clearly show that he expects later attempts to be more serious and credible.
It is all well and good saying that future articles of impeachment will have to be more serious and credible in order to succeed where Wednesday’s resolution failed but how can this level of credibility be achieved by the Democrats hoping to oust Trump? Well, for myself at least, the answer to this can be found in the meaning of the word ‘impeachment’. To impeach a president quite simply means ‘to put a president on trial’. This makes it clear that impeachment has a serious legal context as well as a political one and Article II, Section 4 of the American Constitution states that: “The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanours.” The constitution makes it clear that impeachment is reserved for the most disgraceful and criminal acts committed in office and, quite frankly, Congressman Green’s justification did not meet this. As much as we may all agree with Al Green when he denounces Trump as a bigot and a man who demeans the office of US president, none of these are considered high crimes in the law of the USA and as such do not provide stable grounds upon which to submit articles of impeachment to the House.
It is entirely possible that the federal inquiry into suspected collusion between the Trump presidential campaign and the Russian State, led by Robert Mueller, could reveal evidence of impeachable conduct, even treason, by the President and if this does happen then Trump’s impeachment will be inevitable. However, this seems unlikely as the investigation is into the Trump administration and not President Trump himself. What could pose more of a direct threat to Donald Trump’s presidency is an investigation into the accusations of sexual harassment against the President made by several women. Following the resignation of Democrat Senator Al Franken over sexual harassment and assault claims, there have been renewed calls for an investigation into Trump over similar and more severe accusations of harassment and assault. Whilst such an investigation should be called for reasons other than potential impeachment, namely to make the truth known for the American people and provide justice for the women if the allegations are found to be true, if the Democrats really want to challenge Donald Trump’s presidency then those in Congress and the Senate should be making a greater push for an independent investigation into President Trump and the allegations as a whole.
Amongst the questions of how to achieve impeachment there also lies the following question. Should the Democrats truly be trying to impeach President Trump? Obviously, if either the federal inquiry into Russian collusion, or an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and assault committed by Donald Trump, reveal illegal and unethical behaviour by the President then of course the procedures of impeachment should be acted upon by the House of Representatives and the Senate. However, the American people should be wary. Waiting in the wings to take over from Donald Trump upon his resignation or removal from office is Mike Pence; an ultra-conservative Republican from Indiana, and the current Vice-president. What makes Pence so much more dangerous than Trump is that he is so much better than him. As a politician, as a negotiator and as a law maker, Mike Pence far surpasses the capabilities of Donald Trump solely because he has been in politics for far longer. He has been a part of the establishment of American politics for a while now, having previously been Governor of Indiana, and has the competencies and awareness that comes with that experience. It is totally foreseeable that, under a Pence administration, the USA could slip back into a society where people are marginalised and social issues are left to grow and fester. Just imagine, the policies and ideals of Trump and his administration, only presented by a credible and capable leader who can gain the political and popular support that they require to pass into law. If this is the future that faces a post-Trump America, can it be any wonder that the House Democrats are wary of impeachment.
By Rowan Fitton