On Tuesday July 16 Texas Democrat Al Green introduced Articles of Impeachment in the House of Representatives against President Donald Trump. Impeachment has been a long simmering issue and one that a fair amount of Democrats in the House even supported, except the one that mattered most House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Suffice it to say a few Americans were supportive of it as well, especially after the Mueller Report was released.
By late Wednesday July 17 the Articles of Impeachment against President Trump had been voted by the House to be set aside, or “tabled”. In other words, the impeachment resolution had been killed. The vote to table the measure was along party lines, with all Republicans voting to table impeachment and 137 Democrats voting to table it and 95 voting against tabling.
Interestingly, this is the third time Representative Green has raised the issue of impeaching President Trump. The first time was in 2017 after the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in which one protester was run over and killed.
Green brought it up a second time just one month later. You may recall that was when President Trump eloquently requested fewer immigrants from “sh*thole countries.”
In both previous efforts, Green was shut down decisively with all members of the House, Republican and Democrat, voting to table the impeachment measure.
Since American governance is a complicated machine, you may be asking yourself what allowed Representative Green the ability to introduce Articles of Impeachment. Well, Representative Green was able to get his impeachment submitted by a measure in the House of Representatives called the “Question of Privilege”.
According to Megan Lynch, the author of “Question of Privilege”, this is a “formal declaration by a Member of the House asserting that a situation has arisen affecting the House collectively, its safety, dignity and the integrity of its proceedings.”
Much like the “Unite the Right” rally and the “sh*thole countries” comment before, Green felt President Trump’s questionable Tweet(s) last weekend in which he told any “progressive representatives” to go back to their original countries (oddly, three of the four are American and the fourth became an American citizen). It’s no secret he was referring to Reps. Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley, four women of color.
However, just prior to Greens introduction of his Articles of Impeachment, the House of Representatives voted to rebuke those Tweets and label them as racist.
It’s important to note that once a “Question of Privilege” is raised by a House member, and ruled valid by the speaker (as it almost always is), it supersedes everything else the House can do. It basically strong arms the House into a vote.
Prior to Green, this was used most recently in 2016 by Republican Jim Jordan of Ohio who wanted to impeach the then IRS Commissioner John Koshkinen (that was also tabled). Prior to that by Ohio Democrat Dennis Kucinich against Vice President Dick Cheney in 2007 (also tabled).
While we’re on the subject of impeachment, there seems to be a misunderstanding about what impeachment actually is. While it can lead to someone being fired, historically, that has yet to happen . . . at least to a sitting president.
According to Article II, Section 4 of the US 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.” While treason and bribery are rather easy to define, high crimes and misdemeanors is a little more amorphous.
Of course, it’s true that a president can be removed from office through impeachment. The process is actually rather laborious legislatively and requires a fair amount of political maneuvering. It begins in the House of Representatives, with the introduction of the Articles of Impeachment and then a vote.
If approved, it would then move to the Senate where the individual facing impeachment would be put on trial before the full 100 member Senate. The trial would be presided over by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. For the person to be impeached, and effectively removed from office, there must be a “supermajority” vote (67 out of 100).
In fact, only three American presidents have been impeached – Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton — and only two have been brought to trial in the Senate — Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. Johnson for his handling of post-Civil War matters, Nixon for Watergate and Clinton for his affair with Monica Lewinsky. While all three Presidents were impeached by the House of Representatives, Johnson and Clinton were acquitted by the Senate and finished out their respective terms.
After Nixon was impeached by the House of Representatives he knew he faced losing in the Senate, as a result of his continued deceit over Watergate. Rather than face conviction there he decided to resign the presidency. It’s because of that, it seems as though the presumption is that impeachment equals termination.
And that just is not historically the case.
Representative Al Green doesn’t seem to have suffered any political damage from bringing his third Articles of Impeachment charge against President Trump in two years and it’s unlikely he will. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi doesn’t appear to have felt any repercussions and it’s unlikely she will.
And President Trump? For some inexplicable reason, the president seems, at least to date, impervious to any retribution for his questionable, scandalous, immoral, unethical and perhaps even illegal activity.
Unfortunately whether it’s the behavior of the president or the premature actions of an elected official, much of this is simply further dividing the country.
While Abraham Lincoln was dealing with a much different divisiveness in 1858, his words “a house divided against itself cannot stand” still ring true today, 161 years later. Perhaps now more than ever . . . and that was during The Civil War.
That should be alarming.