The reason for impeaching a President is specifically stated in Article II, Section 4, of the Constitution: “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 Misdemeanors.”
On 17 May 2018 the acting Attorney General appointed Robert S. Mueller III as Special Counsel to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election and other matters as the Special Counsel saw fit to examine. That report has been filed and most of it has been made public.
The in-depth examination by the Special Counsel resulted in thirty-four indictments and the conviction, so far, of seven individuals.
The report issued by the Special Counsel does not charge the President with anything. On the matter of obstruction of justice is very specifically does not exonerate him.
In Scottish Courts there are three possible verdicts. There is one verdict of conviction known as “guilty”. There are two verdicts of acquittal known as “not guilty” and “not proven”. It is safe to say, upon examination of the Special Counsel report, that it concluded with “not proven”.
Some, and may I emphasize not all by a long stretch, Democratic Members of Congress are interested in pursuing impeachment based on the Special Counsel’s report and other Presidential actions where the President is withholding information from Congress.
I do not support impeachment of the President.
Impeachment proceedings have been attempted three times by the House of Representatives. In two instances the impeached President – Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998 – were acquitted by the United States Senate. In one instance – Richard Nixon in 1974 – the proceedings for impeachment ended upon his resignation.
If the President instructs Executive agencies not to provide documents requested by either branch of the Congress then there is another course that could be followed. Either the United States Senate or the United States House of Representative can vote to censor the President.
The Senate censured Andrew Jackson in 1834 for withholding documents requested by the Senate. Three years later, when control of the Senate shifted, the Senate retracted the censure. The House censured James Polk in 1848 for starting a war with Mexico without a vote by Congress.
Other censures include an attempt to censure Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton in 1793. This effort failed. Attorney General Augustus Garland was censured in 1886 for not providing documents. While the Senate and House can and have censured their own members the two presidential censures and the censure against an Attorney General are the only non-House/Senate member censures by either house of Congress.
This brings us to the current day.
The House of Representatives has requested a number of documents as part of its oversight duties. The President’s administration appears to be adamant about not providing these documents.
Both the Senate and the House of Representatives have the right to exercise oversight of the executive branch. Regardless of which political party has organizational control of the House when the House requests documentation from the Executive branch it does so as an official part of the government.
For example, the House Select Committee on Benghazi requested documents and testimony from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The Secretary of State responded to questions over an eleven hour examination. The committee acted properly as did the Secretary of State.
If the President or the Secretary of various departments continue to refuse to hand over requested documents – and ones a court orders to be turned over – then the House, acting independently of the Senate, should censure that Secretary or the President. I would support such a move.
The censure, while not limiting or ending the power of the transgressor, does put a permanent stain on the person censured. Of course, as Andrew Jackson proved, a censure in one year can be removed three years later.
Since I cited President Jackson’s censure it still exists in our country’s collective memory even if it was removed from the official Senate records. Our current President’s effort to thwart oversight may put the Secretaries of various departments, and himself, in the position of being censured by a majority vote of either the House or Senate.
Going back to the desire of some Democratic leaders, including our former Mayor, for impeachment I would oppose such. The voters themselves can make a judgement in November 2020.
Based on the record of withholding documents and information by the current Administration I could support a motion to censure.
Jon M. Ausman is the longest serving member of the Democratic National Committee in Florida’s history (December 1992 to January 2017). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 850-321-7799.