1A is part of the 2017 Aspen Ideas Festival. What's it all about?
Guest Host: Indira Lakshmanan
When the Founding Fathers laid out their plans for a new kind of government, they also installed an executive kill switch. Article Two, Section Four of the U.S. Constitution says presidents shall be impeached and removed from office if they commit “high crimes and misdemeanors.”
Ever since President Donald Trump took office, Americans outraged by what they see as his financial conflicts of interest or his campaign’s links to Russia have been beating the drum for the president’s impeachment. And we’re not just talking about Internet trolls and protesters; Democratic lawmakers, constitutional scholars – even city councils have called for Trump’s ouster.
Conservatives have dismissed this as sour grapes and a liberal pipe-dream; a notion with no basis in reality that would never be approved by a Republican-controlled Congress anyway. But the idea is gaining credence from some unexpected quarters.
Allan Lichtman, dubbed ‘Prediction Professor’ for accurately calling every presidential election since 1984, is out with a new book and a fresh, bold prediction: that President Trump will soon get the boot. In ‘The Case for Impeachment,’ Lichtman examines a range of possible offenses that could cut short President’s Trump tenure in office. They include charges of treason, abuse of power and emoluments violations. Professor Lichtman also cites now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions who, as a senator, argued that a president could be impeached for offenses committed before he ever took office. Among those potential offenses are Donald Trump’s housing violations, charity problems, potential violations of the Cuba embargo and alleged Trump University fraud.
Will Allan Lichtman be proven right again?
- Jeffrey Rosen President and CEO, The National Constitution Center; professor at The George Washington University Law School; author of "Louis D. Brandeis: American Prophet."
- Allan Lichtman Distinguished professor of history at American University; author of the new book "The Case for Impeachment"
Professor Rosen on whether a president can be impeached for offenses committed before assuming office
“The precedent here is hard to read. No president, vice president, or other civil officer of the US has been impeached by the House solely on the basis of conduct occurring before they began their tenure in office. I think the bottom line, based on the precedents at least, is that it would be unusual [if Trump were impeached based on actions before taking office]. It would be the first time impeaching a president solely on the basis of conduct that took place before he reached office. However, two important things to say: first, Gerald Ford, when he was in the House, famously said, ‘Impeachment is whatever the House says it is’. So if the House decided to change the precedent and concluded that the previous conduct was so related to the President’s official conduct that it is an impeachable offense, then there would be no one to stop that. The second thing to say is that if the conduct were related in any way to the President’s official conduct—like lying about previous business dealings or anything related to the election and Russia that could be considered treasonous—obviously that would be the core meaning of impeachment because treason and bribery are the two examples of ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ that the Constitution specifies.”
Professor Lichtman on his prediction that Donald Trump will be impeached
“It is based on a very careful review of history, of the process of impeachment, and a deep study of the first couple of months of the Trump presidency. Through this deep study of history and politics, I was able to discern that Donald Trump is more vulnerable to impeachment than any newly elected president in the history of the United States. I also point out in the book, though, that impeachment is a difficult process, that you’re dealing with a Republican congress in whose hands impeachment rests, and that impeachment will likely only happen if the American people demand it.”
Professor Lichtman on parallels between Donald Trump and Richard Nixon
“There are many parallels between Trump and Nixon, who by the way would have certainly been impeached and even convicted by the Senate had he not resigned. Trump and Nixon both have this penchant for secrecy, they both see themselves as beset by enemies, they both see themselves as above the law, and neither man is guided by core principals but is instead concerned by their own advancement. I think generally, the grounds for impeachment that I’ve laid out can be summarized as relating to the same thing that caught Nixon in the web of what would have been certain impeachment and conviction—and that is abuse of presidential power. We obviously see that in the possible Russia connection, we see that in his travel ban, in his demeaning of the courts, we see it his calling the press his enemy and labeling respectable news outlets as fake news, we see it in his refusal to divest.”
Professor Lichtman on whether Republicans would impeach Trump
“Let’s not forget the Republicans in Congress love Mike Pence. He is not a loose cannon like Trump but a down the pipe, predictable conservative. And guess what? Few people know this but under that 25th amendment he gets to appoint his vice president if he becomes president and you could then have the dream Republican ticket of Mike Pence and Paul Ryan. And remember, it’s also possible — hard but possible — that Democrats win in a wave election in 2018 and retake congress. Then all political calculations fundamentally change.”
Read An Excerpt Of Lichtman's Book
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