Impeachment is broken. Impeach Trump, anyway.

Impeachment is broken. Impeach Trump, anyway.


In 1788, three founding fathers made the case
for the US constitution in a series of essays called “The Federalist Papers”. And if you want
to understand why impeachment is broken today, it’s worth starting there. With what they thought it would look like if it worked. In Federalist 65, Alexander
Hamilton makes the case for the way the Framers designed the impeachment power. The House brings impeachment, but it’s the Senate that decides whether to convict and remove. Not the Supreme Court, or some other independent tribunal. A bunch of politicians.
Why? Why give them that power? Here’s the argument Hamilton makes: Impeachment, he says, poses a special problem.
It’s meant for offenses that are “POLITICAL” — he writes “political” in all caps, for emphasis — “as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.” Stop for a moment on what Hamilton means there. Impeachment isn’t just for crimes. Perfectly legal acts can injure a society. James Madison said a president
could be impeached for “the wanton removal of meritorious officers” — that is to say,
the President can be impeached for firing good people for no reason. Not a crime, but it is impeachable. You can see this
in the first impeachment in American history. It was a Federal Judge, John Pickering, in
1803. Pickering was an alcoholic and a bully, and historians think he was probably suffering from early-stage dementia. Among the charges brought against him were “loose morals and intemperate habits.”
Is that really… a crime? No, it’s not a crime. But he was impeached, convicted by the Senate, and removed from office, anyway. It was an injury to the society he was serving The way he acted on the bench to the House and the Senate was not acceptable. In some ways, it would be easier if impeachment were just for crimes. And that was considered. Crimes have definitions.
At least in theory they have definitions. Political offenses are harder to define and the problem
with political offenses, as Hamilton said, is They get politicized. One man’s political offense is another man’s bold act to defend his party and country. That’s the problem, Hamilton said. Political offenses “agitate the
passions of the whole community” they “divide it into parties.” Once that happens,
the danger is that impeachment will be decided “more by the comparative strength
of parties, than by the real demonstrations of innocence or guilt.” And if that happened,
it would lose credibility. Everything about impeachment rests on the independence and authority and legitimacy of the body charged with the role. You needed
a body in touch with the people, but above the petty considerations of parties, and factions,
and fad. You needed a body the public could trust. trust. Hamilton admitted there was no perfect
answer. But the Senate, with its six-year terms and staggered elections, the Senate
came closest. Hamilton argued that no “other body would be likely to feel CONFIDENCE ENOUGH
IN ITS OWN SITUATION, to preserve, unawed and uninfluenced, the necessary impartiality between
an INDIVIDUAL accused, and the REPRESENTATIVES OF THE PEOPLE.” He was wrong. “This week the president has admitted to
asking the president of Ukraine to take actions which would benefit him politically …” President Donald Trump faces possible impeachment
after repeatedly asking the president of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden. He did all this a week after Trump froze military aid to Ukraine. When Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky brought up the aid, Trump responded in a call record
his own White House released: “I would like you to do us a favor though” and then he turned the conversation back to investigating Joe Biden. All of this, again, confirmed in a call record released by
Trump’s own White House. “This is about abuse of power by an overreaching
executive. Something the founding fathers feared.” Using the power of the Presidency to pressure
a foreign government to investigate your domestic political rivals.  I would say that’s somewhat worse
than the wanton of removal of meritorious officers. But even if that goes to full impeachment,
the President will be tried in the Senate. And he would not be tried in the Senate
as Hamilton imagined it: the impartial Senate Hamilton hoped we’d have. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell already said,
“If this is the ‘launching point’ for House Democrats’ impeachment process, they’ve
already overplayed their hand.” “From my point of view, to impeach any president
over a phone call like this would be insane.” Alexander Hamilton wrote in defense of a political system he thought would resist organized political parties. The
modern Senate, like the House, is controlled by political parties. And it is a political party
Donald Trump leads. We’ve gone from having impeachment as a political remedy for political offenses
to a partisan remedy for political offenses. So let’s be honest. It is very, very unlikely,
no matter what Trump has done, that he will be removed from office by the Senate. He is
being tried not before the unawed, uninfluenced body Hamilton imagined, but by his co-partisans,
whose fortunes are tied together with his. They will protect him at all costs because
protecting him is protecting them. So rather than just looking at what impeachment
can’t do, I want to look at what it can do. Because even a broken impeachment process isn’t
useless. Impeachment can act as a sanction to Trump. It can unearth information voters will need when deciding whether to reelect the President, and it
will provide a warning to foreign countries that would seek influence over our politics. I’m Liliana Mason. I’m a professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland. Lilliana Mason studies partisan polarization and how it’s warping the American political system. The most of what I do is actually looking at the ways that the public understands and
interprets what’s happening. And in an interview she made this great point to me: Voters are so overwhelmed with
information all the time that it’s hard to sort of have a focusing event for them where
they get to really pay attention to what’s happening and learn some new things. And that’s
one thing that these hearings would do. We have to think of it as more than just removal. Impeachment is a form of public disgrace.
To be one of only four Presidents in American history, even if you are not convicted
by the Senate, is to know an asterisk will be forever attached to your presidency. It
will make just about every single person now in the country seriously consider whether or
not you did something wrong. That’s not as strong a punishment as removal
from office, but it might lead to removal from office. In impeachment, yes, it is the House’s role is to bring the case and it is the Senate’s role to judge the accused. In an era of of partisanship like we have now,
it’s very very difficult for it to work properly. The problem facing the country right now is that
Senate leadership would almost certainly not convict the accused,
no matter what the accused did. But the Senate is not the only possible
judge of President Donald Trump. Public opinion is ultimately, I think, the jury that Democrats in the House are playing to. Look, in the previous two modern impeachments, you could see the effects on public opinion. Well, for Nixon, as the public learned more about what had happened, approval of both the impeachment
process and removal increased. For Clinton, his approval went up. As citizens
learned more about the details of Clinton’s crime, I think the approval went up because they sort of found
that there wasn’t a whole lot that he had done. It was gross, but it didn’t, maybe, seem like the
Constitution required that he be removed. But both of those impeachments
began in the president’s second term. They weren’t going to face the voters again. The difference, this time, is the impeachment process
began before Trump has won reelection. And, make no mistake, Trump’s offense
here was all about the 2020 election. It is about what is proper for the President to do
when running for reelection. It is about whether he can use his office, the most powerful office we gift upon someone, that we entrust him with, to enlist foreign governments
as allies in shaping American elections This one- THIS one, was about us.
What we would see, what we would know. What we would be made to believe.
So maybe we, the voters, are actually the right jury here. Trump wanted to run for reelection atop a
booming economy: “Make America great again!” Now he is going to run as a candidate arguing that
when he said, “I need you to do me a favor, though” of the Ukrainian President, it didn’t quite
rise to the level of quid pro quo. I’m not a political consultant, but,
“I’m not quite a crook” isn’t a great bumper sticker. In his farewell address, President George
Washington spoke against “the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party.”
In particular, he warned that partisan infighting, it “opens the door to foreign influence and
corruption.” In 2016, Russia reached deep into the US presidential election to help elect
Donald Trump and their investment paid off in spades. Trump has defended and praised Putin,
he’s undermined NATO, he’s made American politics more fractious and polarized and chaotic than ever. But it paid off for Trump.
He’s President, and the Mueller report, it carried no direct consequence for him.
That’s the context in which he asked Ukraine to help him in 2020. After all, it worked
the first time. Partisanship, opening the country to this kind of foreign influence, and then
protecting the foreigners who influenced it after they do, that is exactly what Washington and Hamilton
feared the system they designed couldn’t handle. The question for a foreign country, facing an opportunity or potentially a presidential request to intervene in America’s election, is what they may gain and what they may lose. For Ukraine, the possible gains were clear:
military aid they desperately needed and anything else that might flow
from nurturing Trump’s goodwill. But the spotlight of impeachment
makes the costs clearer, too. A foreign country asked to intervene in an
American election may see its activities exposed, much to the fury of the other political party.
Much to the fury even of the public. Ukraine may have wanted Trump’s goodwill, but it doesn’t want the Democrats’ ill will. It doesn’t want the distraction or infamy
of this investigation. Impeachment, in this case, acts
as a message to other countries too: You don’t want to be part of our circus. Even so,
we do live now in the world Washington feared. Republicans are falling in line behind Trump,
they are placing their loyalty to him, to each other, above any sense of public accountability. And in doing, they have opened American politics to foreign influence To foreign corruption. Partisanship like this, it
creates eras in which corruption of all kinds flourishes. Because so long as that corruption is to the benefit
of the party in power, that American politics has no true answer for official wrongdoing in periods of unified party government, it’s chilling. It’s not that the impeachment process itself isn’t working because I do think it has some benefits even without conviction. I think the frightening thing about it is that it’s impossible for it to be used if
there isn’t divided government. Look, Hamilton wasn’t, in the end,
just the author of Federalist 65. He was also the author of much of Washington’s farewell address. Sadly, it’s his pessimism about what would happen to an America driven by party, rather than his optimism about the Senate, that rings true today. And yet, even a broken impeachment
process has its uses. The House can focus the public’s attention. It can send a message to the world. It can create a record for the future. Maybe that’s not sufficient. Maybe it’s not as much as impeachment was initially designed to do. But it’s something. And it’s going to have to be enough.

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About the Author: Sam Caldwell

100 Comments

  1. Under "cleaning the swamp" I agree with Trump to clean up corrupt politicians. Media and Democrats are COLLUDING against a duly elected president. I like how Trump is NOT politically correct in his opinions and actions.

  2. Dnc's tactic is to put more attention on impeachment rather than broken social security and constant warmongering. That is why pushing impeachment when realistically it won't happen, an awful idea. By peddling this topic, you are helping the establishment and pushing Americans into a bigger hole than before..

  3. Minor fact check: when the original method of impeachment was being written the senate wasn’t a elected body, they were closer to the House of Lords in the UK with members being nominated and confirmed by the parties

  4. So Joe Biden's acts with clear corruption is okay???
    Joe bragged about getting a prosecuter removed for investing his son. That is extremely serious. Don't forget the underlying problem. If Joe can do it before being president, how is he going to act, if he gets into the white house. Very bad things.

  5. TRUMP has done nothing wrong, he's been attacked at every turn, and still has accomplished 20x more than Obama did in less than half the time.

  6. Idk if anyone could focus the publics attention for more than a week. I doubt anything serious will happen to him

  7. Леваки в америке настолько продвинутые, что не смогли объявить импичмент президенту за 3.5 года его срока

  8. I’m starting to think Trump watched CGP Grey’s video The Rules for Rulers and is practically following them perfectly.

  9. Well said! This is all about democracy. There is no point in having elections if voters don’t know who they are voting for and against. Like everything, it’s not perfect, and voters are usually uninformed about important things BUT that’s often a choice. Voters can vote for a candidate simply because that candidate is tall, but if the candidate has cleverly-hidden lifts in his shoes, the “tall candidate” voters are being deceived.

    Candidates don’t give up all of their rights to privacy, but voters are justified in wondering why a candidate is withholding certain information and assuming the worst.

  10. . Well one person one vote and districts and electoral collages (but especially one person one vote) is why it's a two party system, a two party system is the logical and only real conclusion to one person one vote. What we need is ranked voting where you can vote for more than one person by order of preference.l

    I worry about the current impeachment system as I hear talk from Nancy and others of trying to make it fast and limiting the investigation to only the Ukraine issue as though he doesn't have a mountain of impeachable offenses to bring up. Someone even made a report about it they could use.

  11. Remeber when vox made an article filled blatant lies about trump that was proven wrong later. You guys lost your credibility

  12. Russia hacked the electoral college… in order to make sure Trump would get elected and aid Ukraine in their fight against… the Russians…🙄🙄🙄

  13. If the story is so damning, why do you have to lie about it? The "I would like you to do us a favour, tough." is about investigating Crowdstrike and the DNC server. Not Biden. Trump also didn't "repeatedly" ask Zelensky to investigate Biden.

  14. The US has a history of interfering in other countries' elections, and now when the enemies are at their gates, they are crying foul.

  15. I don't even know why I watch these videos and learn so much about the United States' government when I live in Australia…

  16. Is this an opinion? If it is, is this informed enough…listening through this it feels as though this video was paid for by a group of people. I may be wrong.

  17. Fate whispered to President Trump…."You cannot withstand the storm".
    President Trump whispered back…."I …. AM …. the storm".

  18. While Hamilton was right that parties in a senate would make impeachment and removal partisan, one could argue that if the senate and house are both filled by the opposition party, that the people don’t support the president and that gives the senate a mandate to impeach.
    To play devils advocate of course.

  19. Clinton should have been impeached and removed and I think most other millenials feel the same way. Using the office of the president to MeToo women is an enormous abuse of power and violation of the oath of office

  20. I want people to stop saying, "I assume the Senate won't remove Trump." That just gives them a pass. Put pressure on them!! Assume they'll remove him from office! Be shocked when they don't!!

  21. “It’s a good idea because it might help voter turnout.” Hasn’t the whole argument against it been that it would hurt Democrats’ chances?

  22. Your two party system looks inherently broken from the outside (like most of what's going on in your country… like wth). That video backdrop though is quite nice.

  23. I love how Vox (an independent news source) just, went straight out in the title: "Impeach Trump, anyway." 😂😂😂

  24. So hypocritical, Nixon's watergate was baby compared to Obama's NSA. American democrats are such a joke but whatever. Not like Ezra Klein has any credibility

  25. I am a fan of the channel but pretending to be informative whilst stating that Russia reached deep into the 2016 presidential election like it’s a fact without citing a single source or piece of evidence is unprofessional and irresponsible, and generally undermines the more astute points the video makes.

  26. This is in contrast to Australian politics, where it seems that our prime minister gets replaced every 6 months or so.

  27. i’m still trying to understand what more is needed in one conversation to be considered Quid Pro Quo … however unneeded

  28. Hamilton was a Deep state actor working to bring in the cancerous central banking system…… of course he found a way to oust the leader of the free world

  29. I believe the problem lies, that originally the senate used to be a body appointed by the officers of each state, not elected. Like it is in The Netherlands to this day. They were appointed officers of each state to defend the state’s individual sovereignties and interests. That’s why each state only has two, and it is not an amount alike the House of Reps. And THAT was why at the time the Senate would have been a good and “impartial” body to ask to convict. An impartial body that had nothing to do with federal elections or federal parties, but instead a number of appointed officers of each individual state, selected by their own states' governments.

  30. I am in no way connected to USA …but Doesn't this mean there is something that the Democratic party wants to hide in Ukraine

  31. 6:07 Prof. Mason: "In an era of partisanship like we have now, it's very, very difficult for it to work properly[?]."

    As a middle-age woman I try very, very hard to listen to younger women but upspeak annoys me to no end; here is a learned professor ending a statement with a question-inflection that undercuts the assertion of her statement.

    I know it's a newish verbal style for emphasis that lots of people use, but it's so disconcerting that it obviously took me out of this important subject enough to comment on it…

  32. Still pushing Russiagate. At 8:11 he says Russia reached DEEP into the US election to help elect Trump. Disgusting. I can't stand Trump, but I hate the hypocrisy and political lying even worse. The jig is up the Russiagate nonsense. It is long passed time to quit pushing this narrative. You make me sick VOX.

  33. Nice try Vox , Trump will still Win no matter how much you will push your Russiagate lies … and now , try to push Ukrainegate when Trump asked for a investigation , when the Democratic party started to meddle in Ukraine politics , when Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter was hired by a Ukrainian gas company in 2014

  34. I was challenged to find one good thing to say about Trump by one of his fans two years ago. I got nothing. It seems that's reason enough to want him impeached, it's a small comfort but I'l take it.

  35. Opinion is not fact. If you clearly oppose the will of the majority because you are smarter or somthing, this is not a democracy. Why protect Biden, if he's clean, there's no need to be scared of the investigation.

  36. kekeekekekkiieieellelellelellelelellelelllee oyoyuourouourouoyroyruoyrourououourouroslelelleelelflflflflelfleflelfelfleleflelfelfle kneknkenkneknekneknkenknkniiieeieiieieieieiekkkikeieieiieieigigigiegaigiaigieaigieaieiaieigaiegiaegiaeigeigiegieieirierieireirierieireirieieaieiaieaieiaeirieireiarierieairaei

  37. Ok. This makes sense, but partisanship has to go. I'll convince you by asking one question:

    What if the house was controlled by Republicans?

  38. The US system and the country as such have really lost its image… Nowadays around the world being compared the US has become something negative.

  39. man i can't believe vox can post 11 minutes of this guy blowing alexander hamilton, youtubes algorithm must be slipping

  40. If you really think republicans aren’t going to vote for trump just because he’s being impeached…..you’ve got another thing coming

  41. the music that kicked in right before 7:00 had some really rough scratchy high notes id recommend not using clips like it again

  42. Alexander Hamilton was against impeachment altogether. Trump can't be impeached. At least by the allegations the congress are throwing at him. This happens almost every time the left doesn't get the presidency. It's just TV.

  43. More than 2,500,000 voted for Clinton instead of Trump. Given that impeachment is not crime dependent obviously Trump would be impeached if control of the house went to the Democrats. Democrats took the house by a landslide. Impeaching Trump was as predictable as gravity.

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