Impeachments, Alexander Hamilton predicted more than 200 years ago, “will seldom fail to agitate the passions of the whole community, and divide it into parties more or less friendly or inimical to the accused.
“In many cases it will connect itself with pre-existing factions, and will enlist animosities, partialities, influence and interest on one side or the other; and in such cases there will always be the greatest danger that the decision will be regulated more by the comparative strength of parties, than by the real demonstrations of innocence or guilt.”
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Hamilton stated that in something that came to be known as Federalist No. 65, published on March 7, 1788.
The Federalist Papers today are widely quoted by conservatives and liberals who consider themselves constitutional scholars because they were written by three men considered the greatest authorities on the U.S. Constitution.
Those fellows would be James Madison, who would become president, John Jay, who would become the first chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, and Hamilton, the subject of a wildly popular Broadway musical.
These three fellows secretly agreed to write a series of letters (85 in all) to newspapers promoting the Constitution in an effort to have it ratified by 9 of the 13 states.
Many people today would be horrified to learn that these three men decided to take turns writing the letters under a fake name, “Publius.”
In a sense it was pure propaganda. It could have been called fake news. It continues to inspire anyone who understands the genius of the document on which our entire government is based.
It was Madison, by the way, who came up with the word “misdemeanors’ as a justification for impeachment. He thought it was more specific than the word “maladministration” which had some support.
As the U.S. Congress begins the process of impeaching President Donald Trump, there are millions of Americans who don’t understand how it’s going to work and just as many who probably don’t care.
When I listen to the news, I hear Washington political analysts and members of Congress claim that “back in the heartland,” “outside the beltway,” Americans care more about health care, the economy, the environment, immigration and education than they do about impeachment.
Well, if that’s the case, those folks are pretty darn ignorant because the impeachment of a president is the most important thing happening in this country.
It’s going to impact just about everything else. And since we are the most powerful country in the world, it’s going to concern people across the globe.
The attempted removal of a president, his alleged betrayal of the public trust, is so important that our founding fathers decided it could be done only by splitting the authority between the two branches of the legislature.
The House of Representatives would draw up the articles of impeachment, the charges initiating the impeachment process.
A committee is usually assigned this task. The full House must then vote on whether to approve the charges, to vote for impeachment, with only a simple majority required to move the process on to the next stage.
That next stage is the impeachment trial before the U.S. Senate, with the chief justice of the United States presiding. Two-thirds of the members of the Senate must vote in favor of impeachment to remove the president from office.
No president in the history of the United States has been removed from office by impeachment and conviction.
Presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton both were impeached by the House, but both were later acquitted by the Senate (Johnson by a single vote).
Richard Nixon resigned before the impeachment process was completed in the House. He was later given a full and unconditional pardon by Gerald Ford, his vice president and successor in office, a controversial move lauded as a way to heal the nation.
Trump haters shouldn’t be surprised if something similar happens down the line, with the support of Democrats.
Fate often has a way of disappointing everyone.
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