Two of the greatest symbols of the most powerful country in the world are destroyed on a beautiful late summer’s day by hijacked airliners piloted by Islamic terrorists.
The next fifteen years see long, vengeful, expensive and inconclusive wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; the rise of a so-called Islamic State; the greed-based collapse of the Western banking system; the loss of manufacturing business to authoritarian China; a stagnant wage economy and a growing evangelical movement which calls on its followers to reject science and return to the illogical faith-based logic.
Then along comes a spray-tanned, billionaire reality TV star with a long list of easily identifiable scapegoats and simplistic solutions to what every other politician warns are difficult and complex problems. Drain the swamp. Ban the Muslims. Deport rapist Hispanics. Build a wall. Cozy up to the Russians. Raise tariff barriers against the Chinese. Force American companies to manufacture in the US. Destroy Islamic fundamentalists. Rein in the “dishonest media.” Reject the scientifically-proven dangers of climate change and spend billions more on defence and infrastructure while cutting taxes and backing away from established alliances. All he asks in return is that voters have blind faith in him.
There is only one thing standing between Donald J Trump and the imposition of his frighteningly simplistic solutions—the law. In particular the US constitution. The law and the constitution exist to protect all sections of society, not just the majority of the Electoral College that voted for a specific candidate.
On past and present form, President Trump, does not appear to have any great respect for the constitution or the rule of law. It is alleged that he has several times, sexually assaulted women. His company has been twice sued by the Justice Department for failing to rent properties to African-Americans. Trump has avoided paying taxes for many years. He may have accepted help from a foreign power—the Russians— during his presidential campaign. And, finally, it appears he knew that National Security Minister Mike Flynn discussed sanctions with the Russians weeks before Flynn was forced to resign over the issue.
None of this is fake news.
The number of possible crimes that Trump has committed are mounting—almost daily. And you may rest assured that thousands of intelligence officials, State Department employees, FBI agents, liberal-minded Republicans, Democrats and, of course, journalists from the “dishonest media,” are compiling evidence with the express purpose of starting impeachment proceedings.
Trump has every right to be paranoid. They hate him. They hate the narrow-minded anti-intellectual bigotry he represents, and they are worried he is a danger to the stability of the world.
So what are the procedures for impeaching an American president? Founding father Benjamin Franklin insisted at the 1787 constitutional convention that there was a legal procedure for the peaceful removal of “obnoxious” executives. He successfully argued that the historical alternative—assassination—was unacceptable. So Article Two, Section Four of the US constitution says that “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.”
To date, no president or vice-president has suffered this fate. Richard Nixon quit before he could be tried. So did his Vice-President Spiro Agnew. Andrew Johnson was acquitted by the Senate as was Bill Clinton. However, 15 federal judges, 13 district judges, one judge from the court of appeals and one Supreme Court Associate Justice have suffered the ignominy of impeachment and removal from office. Actually that is not a bad record for 230 years.
So how do you impeach the president? For a start, you gather the evidence which is usually done by a special prosecutor appointed by Congress, a special congressional committee or by private citizens who petition the Congress.
The evidence is then heard by the appropriate committee of the lower house—usually the Judiciary Committee. Committee hearings are the first step in determining whether or not there is a case to answer. If—by a simple majority vote—they determine that there is a case then proceedings are referred to a full meeting of the House of Representatives. Two Congressmen called “house managers” are appointed to take on the defence and prosecution roles. If, after listening to the evidence a simple majority think the president is guilty then they vote to impeach.
However, a vote to impeach, does not mean the president is immediately thrown out of office. When the House votes to impeach it is saying that the president should be committed for a proper trial. The Senate still has its say. It is in the Senate where the proper trial takes place. The House of Representatives appoints the prosecutor and the president is allowed to appoint his own legal representative.
If the president is found guilty by a simple majority of the Senate then he is immediately removed from office and the vice-president assumes control. At the moment the impeachment lobby is faced with the fact that Republicans control both Houses of Congress, although a growing number of Republican congressmen and Senators are becoming rapidly disillusioned with Trump.
However, there is a deeper problem. The frustration and anger that started on 9/11 is still there. Trump is the symptom, not the disease. But his impeachment could be the start of a cure.