Friday, July 21, 2017

The Rule of Law Is Protecting Trump

For the time being anyway.

The Rule of Law is a foundation of our democracy.  It means that we follow the rules, the laws, that are created by our elected officials which are based on the legal foundation of the constitution.  We aren't supposed to take short cuts, but rather follow through the process of administering justice.

The rules for removing a president are laid out in the constitution.  There's impeachment.  From the University of Chicago:

Impeachment Clauses
Article 1, Section 2, Clause 5
The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.
Article 1, Section 3, Clauses 6 and 7
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.
Judgement in Cases of Impreachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgement and Punishment, according to Law.
Article 2, Section 4
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.
Article 3, Section 1
. . . The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour. . . .  (emphasis added)

I started this a week ago, and planned to go into each of the grounds for impeachment.  I thought I'd have to abandon this post, because I just don't have the time to complete this properly.

However, today I ran across a Tweet that cites a short 1974 book by Charles L. Black, The Impeachable Offense, which does all the work for me.   And Lawfare blog has excerpted key parts.  Critical  reading for anyone who wants to talk about impeaching the president.

There's also a commentary by Jane Chong that speculates on how this might be applicable today.  (For example, Black dismisses treason as not relevant in Nixon's case, but because the word is being used today, Chong discusses it, though only to show that it is still not relevant, despite the use of the term by some.

For the time being, though, the rule of law protects Trump.  From my perspective, Trump is actively doing damage to our laws and institutions that protect people's safety, health, and even lives.  Just as many people are supportive of taking legal shortcuts during a crisis, I have that instinct now with Trump. But I know we have to take it step by step and do it right.  We'll have to clean up the damage later.  Chong too makes that point, of taking it slowly.
"Last month I made a pragmatic argument against pushing too early for Trump’s impeachment. But as Black makes clear, hasty action on this front is more fundamentally a failure of principle. “Everyone must shrink from this most drastic of measures,” he declares on page one. Acknowledging his own status as a longtime political opponent of then-President Richard Nixon, Black nonetheless expresses 'a very strong sense of the dreadfulness of the step of removal.” Impeachment must be treated like high-risk surgery, he insists, “to be resorted to only when the rightness of diagnosis and treatment is sure.'”

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