• 70°

Hugh Hewitt: Know who would love impeachment battle? Trump

Author

Hugh Hewitt, a Washington Post contributing columnist, hosts a nationally syndicated radio show and is author of “The Fourth Way: The Conservative Playbook for a Lasting GOP Majority.”

If you were born at the right time, you will get to fully observe three presidential impeachment fights. The firsttwo were high dramas over high crimes and misdemeanors, and the third episode, likely opening in earnest in January, will be as riveting as the first two.

First, the key, long-standing assumption about any president: He or she can be removed for misdeeds only through impeachment by the House and trial and conviction in the Senate- not by ordinary criminal indictment, trial and conviction. There is a small rump of talkers and professors who want to lay aside this truth, but it is an obvious one, first declared by Alexander Hamilton in Federalist 69:

“The President of the United States would be liable to be impeached, tried, and, upon conviction of treason, bribery, or other high crimes or misdemeanors, removed from office; and would afterwards be liable to prosecution and punishment in the ordinary course of law.”

A sitting president cannot be indicted. That’s the conclusion of the vast weight of scholarly opinion, as well as the plain reading of Hamilton. It was also the opinion of the Justice Department in 1973 and confirmed in 2000: “The indictment or criminal prosecution of a sitting President would unconstitutionally undermine the capacity of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned functions.”

Many books have been written on impeachment; millions of words in fact. The quick summary: An impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House says it is. Thus, the incoming new Democratic majority could impeach President Donald Trump on any single theory or many at once. Certainly, cable news is full of breathless speculation about what special counsel Robert Mueller has or may possibly have, and to what Michael Cohen pleaded guilty, and, of course, there are charges of unconstitutional emoluments received and inaugural committee contributions mislaid.

Of the original charge — that the president and his campaign colluded with the Russian government to bring about his election —there is still only the thinnest of reeds. We all await — at least we should await — the special counsel’s report on his investigation.

But that the House Democrats are going to drive toward a vote on one or more articles of impeachment seems, to me, predestined. The animal need for House members to be on television combined with the already accelerating race for the Democratic presidential nomination guarantees that one dynamic will feed off the other as surely hurricanes do over warm ocean water. The big blowoff is coming. It will last months and months.

And, in the end, there is this, from Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution: “The Senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachments. When sitting for that purpose, they shall be on oath or affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two thirds of the members present.”

So put together in your head a list of the 20 Republican senators likely to vote to convict and remove the president on the basis of what is known right now, for assuming a lockstep Democratic caucus, it would take all 47 Democrats and Independents plus 20 members of the GOP caucus.

It is not an impossible set of circumstances to foresee, only an extremely unlikely one — not least because of the acquittal of President Bill Clinton, whom very few serious people deny did indeed lie under oath, and whose other misdeeds seem larger, not smaller, from this side of the #MeToo moment.

The precedent of Clinton’s acquittal is Trump’s greatest shield. The hard political lessons Republicans learned along the way — especially during the 1998 midterm elections, which saw the Democrats pick up five House seats after a year of GOP attacks on Clinton (no change occurred in the Senate) — should also caution the Democrats.

But it won’t. The difference now is the militarized industrial news complex that simply must be fed. It will gorge itself on impeachment. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., the incoming chairman of the Judiciary Committee, will be the new Peter Rodino for those old enough to recall the Nixon impeachmentdrama. Rudy Giuliani will be reprising the role played by James Carville in the Clinton impeachment drama, going after critics and prosecutors of Trump the way the Ragin’ Cajun went after independent counsel Kenneth Starr and team.

It will be a ratings bonanza. Who likes ratings bonanzas? Who can command the media — or any particular outlet — and appear on 10 minutes notice? Who, in short, might learn to love “the process?” Trump, of course.

It isn’t a normal presidency seeking normal historical achievements. He already has some of those in his massive tax cut, his two justices on the Supreme Court, a much-needed military rebuild and a new realism regarding China.

This president can look at his markers already down on the table and actually come to relish the battle.

Don’t be surprised. Be prepared.

Hewitt hosts a nationally syndicated radio show and is a professor of law at Chapman University’s Fowler School of Law.

Comments

Crime

Blotter: April 13

Coronavirus

County switches vaccines for Livingstone clinic after federal, state guidance

Coronavirus

US recommends ‘pause’ for J&J vaccine over clot reports

Education

Superintendent talks first 100 days, dives into district data

Business

‘It was an answer to a call:’ TenderHearted Home Care celebrates 10 years of providing care at home

News

Political Notebook: Local polls find increasing number of North Carolinians want COVID-19 vaccine

News

Trial begins on challenge to latest NC voter ID law

Local

Burch, Fisher, Marsh honored as 2021 recipients of Elizabeth Duncan Koontz Humanitarian Award

Landis

Landis board talks revenues, budget planning, department updates

College

College baseball: Catawba rolls 7-1 and 24-1

Nation/World

Student fires at officers at Tennessee school, is killed

Nation/World

Police: Minnesota officer meant to draw Taser, not handgun

Crime

Man receives consecutive prison sentences for sex offenses

Education

RSS Board of Education approves Faith Elementary sale

Coronavirus

Rowan Health Department receives 400 Pfizer, 800 Johnson & Johnson vaccines for week

Crime

Blotter: Accident in Food Lion only weekend shooting to produce injuries

Crime

Salisbury man charged with felony drug crimes

Crime

Second person charged in thefts from house near county line

Crime

Police use tear gas to end robbery stand off, arrest suspect

Local

Ask Us: When will Rowan Public Library’s West Branch open?

Nation/World

Prosecution case nears end in ex-cop’s trial in Floyd death

Nation/World

Officer accused of force in stop of Black Army officer fired

Crime

Blotter: Man charged with hitting man with car, fleeing while intoxicated

Local

‘Meet the need’: Rowan County Health Department looks to add to vaccination options