Let's Impeach Trump Right Now
Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution states, “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.”
Most of the talk surrounding the prospect of Trump’s impeachment (which remains mostly confined to MSNBC and internet commentators) relates to alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government during the 2016 election and claims of obstruction of justice revolving around the investigation of this alleged collusion. Legal minds much greater than this college senior’s have discussed and debated the impeachability of these alleged offenses, so for the purpose of this piece, I am confining my analysis to the president’s alleged witness tampering. In my view, this is the most cut and dried argument, based on the evidence available at this point, upon which to build a case for Trump’s removal from office.
Section 1512 of Title 18 of the US Code prohibits witness tampering, defined as, among other things, “Whoever knowingly uses intimidation, threatens, or corruptly persuades another person, or attempts to do so, or engages in misleading conduct toward another person, with intent to influence, delay, or prevent the testimony of any person in an official proceeding.”
41 days after Trump’s now infamous tweet, “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press,” he acknowledged that he was not aware of any tapes, tweeting, “With all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information, I have no idea…whether there are ‘tapes’ or recordings of my conversations with James Comey, but I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings.”
One can make the argument that it would be unfair to characterize Trump’s first tweet as intentionally deceiving the American people. After all, saying that Comey should “hope” that no tapes exist is not the same as saying that he possesses any. The intention of Trump’s tweet, however, is only legally relevant so far as it relates to the effect he intended it to have on Comey’s testimony.
In an interview with Fox & Friends after admitting that he did not have any tapes, Trump said, “When [Comey] found out there may be tapes … I think his story may have changed.” The interviewer then said, “It was a smart way to make sure he stayed honest in his hearings,” to which Trump replied, “Well, it wasn’t very stupid, I can tell you that.”
Let’s break that down. Trump floats out the possibility that his tweet influenced Comey’s testimony without explicitly stating that was his intention. The reporter then clearly infers (as most of us probably did) that it was not just his observation, but was in fact Trump’s intention for his tweet to influence Comey’s testimony. She provides Trump with the opportunity to reject the notion that it was his plan to “make sure he stayed honest in his hearings.” Instead, he confirms her perspective that he aimed to mislead Comey in an effort to influence his testimony by agreeing with her about the intelligence of this method, if only putting his own characteristically modest spin on it by adjusting her analysis of his intimidation tactics from “smart” to “not very stupid.”
Whether or not Trump’s tweet in any way successfully influenced Comey’s testimony is irrelevant. Trump admitted in this interview that his tweet was an attempt to mislead Comey in order to influence him to offer testimony that would match Trump’s version of the events, which legally qualifies as witness tampering.
Witness tampering can be a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the circumstances of the case, which, if we refer back to Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution, qualifies Trump for impeachment. Considering the president admitted to committing this offense on national television, the case for impeachment should be fairly black and white.
The principle of no man being above the law is vital to a functioning democracy. We must not accept the excuse that we have heard from many Republicans so far, that Trump’s blunders are a result of the fact that he is new to politics. His ignorance of the law does not excuse him from abiding by it. Our system of checks and balances only works if each side is willing to uphold its end of the bargain, which requires Congress to hold the president accountable regardless of party allegiances.
If you’ve read or watched the news lately, you’ve likely seen analysts speculate that any talks of impeachment are contingent on Democrats making huge gains in Congress in 2018. This should be absolutely devastating to every American regardless of party affiliation. If impeaching a president for committing illegal acts is dependent on which party controls Congress, we are in danger of establishing a precedent that may shake the very foundations of our democracy. If our elected officials refuse to carry out their duty to the American people, to hold the president accountable for his actions, we all have a responsibility to hold them accountable at the ballot box. The fate of our democracy quite literally depends on it.