As Democrats in the House of Representatives debate among themselves whether the political risk of impeaching President Trump — in the face of the nearly impossible odds at this juncture that the Republican-led Senate would actually convict him —outweighs the constitutional imperative to begin proceedings immediately as their vocal base demands action, The New York Times has decided to make their job somewhat easier.
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With the prospect of impeachment now more of a question of “when” than of “if,” Ian Prasad Philbrick of The Times‘ editorial staff took the liberty of drafting articles of impeachment against Trump by utilizing the past templates of the articles filed against the two most recent presidents who were subject to the ultimate penalty for misconduct while holding the nation’s highest office, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.
In an editorial published in the opinion pages of today’s edition of the newspaper, Philbrick utilizes a color-coded revision tracking system to show what would need to be changed in the impeachment documents of the two past presidents to make them suitable for any proposed action against our current chief executive.
Before presenting the results of his proposed revisions, Philbrick explains his reasons for going through this exercise.
“Impeachment is often said to be a political process. But when you assess Mr. Trump’s conduct by the bar for impeachment set by past Democratic and Republican lawmakers for past presidents of both parties, the results are striking. The pathway to a possible Trump impeachment is already mapped out in these historical documents,” he writes.
Starting with Nixon’s impeachment articles — which were drafted but never actually used since the felonious president resigned after negotiating a pardon from his successor, his Vice President Gerald Ford — Philbrick shows the parallels between the offenses alleged against each man that make the revisions primarily a matter of substituting the relevant details of Trump’s actions for Nixon’s. The basic scope of the charges, however, is identical.
“The introduction in the first impeachment article against Nixon sets up the main argument Congress would likely use against Mr. Trump: The president attempted to impede a federal investigation into his actions and those of his associates,” Philbrick points out.
The results below show the additions relevant to Trump’s impeachment highlighted in green while the deletions applicable to Nixon’s original articles are marked in red.
As you can see, the charges against Nixon don’t require much change beyond the names and the particular details to be applicable to President Trump as the basic attempt to impede a federal investigation is identical.
Philbrick goes on to make the same type of revisions to the second and third articles of impeachment against Nixon to update them to be relevant to President Trump’s situation which you can peruse in The New York Times‘ original editorial. Suffice it to say that the changes are relatively minimal and that the parallels in the rogue presidents’ behaviors are remarkable.
The parallels with President Bill Clinton’s articles of impeachment are not quite as strong as those of Nixon’s, and Clinton was famously acquitted in his Senate trial, but nevertheless, the obstruction of justice accusations are similar. Philbrick notes that “Trump arguably took more extensive steps than Mr. Clinton did to thwart investigators,” so perhaps our current president faces more risk than Clinton did.
The detailed list of changes made to revise Clinton’s articles of impeachment to be applicable to Trump is also shown in the original editorial, but the big payoff of the editorial is the inclusion of a draft of potential articles of impeachment against President Trump that incorporate the language from both sets of previous articles and could form the basis of what the Democrats may finally decide to make a reality.
As you can see from the attachment below, they lack some of the impeachable offenses that have no precedent in the previous impeachment documents like “hush-money payments to women or possible violations of the Constitution’s emoluments clause.”
However, as Philbrick concludes his editorial:
“An impeachment inquiry against Mr. Trump is far from guaranteed. And whether impeaching him would politically help or hurt Democrats remains an open question. But there is no question that by the standards for high crimes and misdemeanors applied to past presidents in living memory, Donald J. Trump has committed impeachable offenses.”
Now that was satisfying to read, wasn’t it?
Call your representative in Congress to ensure that it becomes a reality as soon as possible.
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Original reporting by Ian Prasad Philbrick at The New York Times.