- With Donald Trump’s long-time lawyer, Michael Cohen and the company that owns National Enquirer copping pleas earlier this week, the “I” word – Impeachment – has begun to echo off the stone walls of Capitol Hill corridors.
- First, let’s remember that Impeachment is what the U.S. House does. It is like an indictment. It takes a simple majority of those voting in the House to impeach a President (or other Federal officer). Article II, Section 4 says:
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.
- If that happens, the case is sent across the Capitol building to the U.S. Senate where the Members sit as a jury. Article I, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution:
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.
- A lot has been written and talked about regarding the recalcitrance of Republican Members of the House and Senate to engage in I-word discussions.
- Members of the President’s party are always loathe to engage in activities that would result in the tossing him out of the Oval Office.
- In spite of the oft-told story of how a brave and noble group of Republican Senators descended on the Nixon White House to tell him he had to go, a glance at the votes for impeachment in the House tell a different story.
- There were five counts of wrongdoing presented in the House Judiciary Committee which consisted of 21 Democrats and 17 Republicans. Of the five, three were adopted:
– Obstruction of Justice (Passed 27-11)
– Abuse of Power (Passed 28-10)
– Contempt of Congress (Passed 21-17)
- In none of those did a majority of Republicans vote Aye; nor did a majority of Democrats vote Nay. In fact, only the Abuse of Power count got as many as 7 GOP votes.
- By the way, the two counts that failed were:
– Cambodia Bombing (Failed 12-26)
– Failure to Pay Taxes (Failed 12-26)
- Richard Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974 – less than two years after he had won 49 states in his re-election campaign. He was never tried by the Senate.
- On the Bill Clinton impeachment proceedings, there were four counts that went to the House floor after having been voted on by the House Judiciary Committee which was controlled by the Republicans 21-16.
– Perjury before the Grand Jury: (Passed 21-16)
– Perjury in the Paula Jones matter: (Passed 20 -17)
– Obstruction of Justice (Passed 21-16)
– Abuse of Office (Passed 21-16)
- Note that the votes were all strictly party line – with the exception of one Republican Member voting with the Democrats on the Paula Jones count. If you bet that then-Congressman Lindsey Graham was that vote, you won.
- Of those four counts, only two – Perjury before the Grand Jury and Obstruction of Justice – were approved by the full house.SIDEBAR
The House votes were taken in late December during a lame duck session. There was obviously not going to be time before the new Congress was sworn in in early January for the Senate to act.
I called the Senate Parliamentarian and asked how the impeachment articles could be held over. He told me that the Senate, because only a third of the members are elected every Congress, considers itself to be a “continuing body.” The House, in which all 435 Members are elected every Congress, does not.
- When those two counts, having been sent to the Senate for trial, were voted on both counts failed to reach the 67-vote supermajority and Clinton was acquitted. All 45 Democrats in the Senate voted to acquit. Five Republicans voted to acquit on each of the two counts – five different Senators on each.
- Oh, on the Andrew Johnson impeachment vote in 1868? Yes, seven Republican Senators bolted from their leadership and joined with the Democrats to fall one vote short of conviction.
- So, as you watch the hand-wringing on the cable chat shows, pining for the good old days of bi-partisanship when it comes to an impeachment of a President – stay calm. There have never been good-old days of bi-partisanship, and to the extent, there has been any bi-partisan activity, it has almost totally been on the part of Republicans.
- On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to the Nixon impeachment votes; to the Clinton impeachment votes; and to the Andrew Johnson impeachment votes.
- The Mullfoto is of the tasteful and understated Christmas tree in our office lobby.