Investigating Impeachment

Baylor Investigating Impeachment: A Recap

On February 5, Baylor held a discussion about the recent events in Washington DC regarding the impeachment of President Donald Trump called Investigating Impeachment: Context, Congress, and the Constitution.

Congress voted to impeach President Trump on December 18, 2019 for the abuse of power and obstruction of justice. He was the third president to face the Senate for removal of office, however, the Senate voted February 5 to acquit Trump from both charges.

Hosted by the W. R Poage Legislative Library, the Institute of Oral History and Baylor Law, Investigating Impeachment was an insightful program for democrats and republicans alike to discuss the recent impeachment process, the history of the past impeachments and the laws (or lack thereof) regarding the impeachment process. 

Rory Ryan, a professor of Baylor Law, was the moderator of the event and opened the conversation noting how the Constitution is limited in terms of laying out the general laws of the nation.

“The Baylor Student Handbook has 44,800 words. The structural Articles of the Constitution have 3,700. That means something when it comes to Constitutional interpretation,” Ryan said. 

In the context of impeachment, Ryan said the Constitution is what you write when you want something revolutionary that has never been done before to last 240 years.

“You can’t write about being impeached for wiretapping, there were no wires back then,” Ryan said. “It can’t involve the Internet, that wasn’t even fathomable back then. You would have been impeached for thinking such a thing was possible.”

The limited laws of the Constitution only state that Congress has the power to remove the President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors. Other than the laws stated in the Constitution, there are no other specifics in terms of removing the president from office. 

Alan Steelman, former Republican U.S Congressman under the Nixon Administration gave his account of the Nixon resignation after Watergate.

“A mere four months after Nixon was sworn into the presidency,” Congressman Steelman said, “John Dean appears on the cover of Time Magazine saying that there is a cancer on the presidency.”

Although President Nixon was not impeached from office, three articles of impeachment were ordered against Nixon for obstruction of justice, abuse of power and contempt of Congress.

While listening to the Watergate tapes, Congressman Steelman recounts hearing Nixon on the tapes saying that he would “take care of their families” in regard to the individuals who broke into Democratic National Committee. 

“And the long slippery slope of a cover-up over the next 14 months started in that very moment.”

Chet Edwards, former Democrat Congressman under the Clinton administration began his account with a statement about the current climate of the country.

“If our democracy could have that humility, that respect over our differences about impeachment or something else, we would be far better preserved than we are today,” Congressman Edwards said. 

Congressman Edwards then started his discussion of how the impeachment process began for President Clinton.

“The Starr report came out alleging the potentially impeachable crimes of perjury before a grand jury and then an effort by President Clinton to hide his extramarital affairs with the 22-year-old White House intern, Monica Lewinsky.”

“Having watched that process, I came away thinking that the Nixon impeachment process was literally the goal if not the platinum standard for how the impeachment process was to be handled. It was thorough, it was fair and it was bipartisan.”

In the Q&A session, Congressman Edwards said that he hopes that impeachment doesn’t become the norm in our world.

“Putting aside if you are for or against President Trump, everyone should have a fear of unchecked presidential power.”

When asked about being able to count on representatives to maintain a level of impartiality, Congressman Steelman said that young representatives will face a conundrum of issues in representative government.

“You are representing the people that sent you there. When you are at odds with them, you got to weigh, is this something I feel so strongly about that I want to go against them? What things I believe so much in that I am willing to put my seat on the line?”

 

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Overall, this discussion of impeachment was an amazing opportunity to hear from both party lines about the process of checking the President’s power in office. However limited the laws are in terms of impeachment, it is important to know that they do not have all the freedoms in the world. 

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