High Crimes and Misdemeanors sound ominous. But the meaning of this phrase is whatever the political party in power wants it to be.
If we step aside from the political punditry and partisan talk, the impeachment process is relatively straightforward and the end result has historically been toothless. First, a criminal act (aka High Crimes and Misdemeanors) is not needed to impeach the President. All it takes is any conduct that the majority party in the House believes is violative of one’s duty to country or a breach of the public trust (e.g. corruption, abuse of power, sexual misconduct, or any conduct in our ever-relaxing moral compass). This conduct is malleable in the hands of the prosecuting political party. One party’s definition of corrupt intent is another party’s “suggestion”; one party saying abuse of power is another party’s “show of strength.”
The impeachment process was installed into our constitution to help weed out those who are unfit for office. This would be based upon bad acts that we should all be able to agree upon (versus the talking points that are force-fed to us daily by the MAGA diehards and the Never Trumpers). Today’s politics has morphed this process into a power play that is full of hypocritical acts/arguments and demanding of party loyalty. What has been lost is our elected leader’s spines and desire to do what is right for our country and not what is right for one’s political party. Add to all this, the millions upon millions of our dollars being spent in partisan bickering and spin and it’s no wonder our country’s people are in a state of indifference to that which is happening around them and sometimes to them. Our noble constitutional process has become a contest of who has the loudest voice and can sling the most factual distortions to suit their party.
For the party in power, impeachment is a relatively straightforward process. The House investigates; then the House drafts articles of impeachment. If a simple majority of the House votes affirmatively, the President is impeached. Being impeached is a great intellectual talking point for pundits and historians; however, the reality is that being “impeached” does not change the status quo or impact us in the least.
Change can only come from the Senate. But this change has never come in American political history. There have been 2 Presidents impeached in our 243 years of existence (Johnson and Clinton — Nixon resigned before impeachment proceedings began). All three impeached presidents were acquitted by the Senate. This is because one party rarely has a majority in the House and a supermajority in the Senate. Acquittal doesn’t mean you didn’t do it, it just means the prosecuting political party didn’t control two-thirds of the Senate (the 66 votes needed to convict).
There are no solutions in sight to the political infighting, deficit spending or the social morass we face. I expect no better than the daily feigned outrage and hypocritical flip-flops. But rest assured, the possible impeachment of President Donald Trump will change nothing in our daily lives. The news cycle of the next 13 months will continue to proliferate mealymouthed surrogates and politicians fighting with each other — with the end result of getting them more. The status quo remains.
Manubir “Manny”Arora is an Atlanta defense attorney, a former lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve and a former assistant district attorney in Fulton County.
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