Several decades before the writing of the Constitution, the French theorist Montesquieu proposed a separation of powers. Montesquieu argued for a strict separation of legislative, executive, and judicial power. The framers of the U.S. Constitution rejected his idea and instead divided legislative, executive, and judicial power among separate branches while also granting each branch a share of the power of the other two branches. To the framers, this “sharing of power” was an important mechanism for keeping each branch in check. No branch would be able to exercise full power even within its sphere because the other two branches had a share of it, positioning them to counter an attempt by that branch to act beyond its constitutionally assigned powers.
There are a fairly large number of examples of how shared power can act as a check on power. Here are a few of them: The executive branch has an ability to check the legislative branch through use of the veto—in casting a veto, the president voids a legislative act of Congress. Meanwhile, the legislative branch’s can check the executive branch through its funding power. The president is authorized to spend money for an activity only if Congress has appropriated money for that purpose. An example of the judicial branch’s ability to check Congress or the president is to declare its action null and void on the grounds it violates the Constitution. In turn, Congress and the president have checks on the judicial branch—an example is the president’s power to nominate federal judges and the Senate’s power to confirm them.
Another check on the president is the power of the Congress to impeach the president for, as the Constitution says, “high crimes and misdemeanors.” This clause in the Constitution is vague. What constitutes “high crimes and misdemeanors?” In end this is a political question. It is up to the Congress to determine if presidential actions deserve impeachment.
Impeachment does not mean that a president is removed from office. An impeachment is the first step in the process. First the president is charged with crimes. This is the impeachment part of the process. The task of the House of Representatives is to determine if a president should be impeached. If a majority of the House determines that the president should be impeached then the Senate holds a trial. The chief justice of the United States presides at the Senate trial. If two -thirds of the Senate, or 67 senators believe the president’s crimes meet the Constitutional requirements of “high crimes and misdemeanors” then the president is removed from office.
The Democrats are now considering whether or not they want to impeach the president. The question that we will address this week is if you believe that the president should be impeached. Remember that an impeachment is not removal from office. Impeachment is like an indictment. It is a list of charges.
I have also included articles that appeared in the Washington Post and New York Times on impeachment. Review these articles before you post your comments. The question for this week is a follows:
Do you think that President Trump should be impeached? Be specific. What charges would you list as meeting the constitutional standard of “high crimes and misdemeanors?” If you believe he should not be impeached (based on our current information) then defend your position.
We will have a scholarly and civil debate on this issue. I will delete posts that are not civil.
1. Congressional Powers: Congress Isn’t Just a Coequal branch . . .
2. What Could Change Pelosi’s Mind on Impeachment Speaker Pelosi and Impeachment
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