Congress should immediately impeach Trump
Here are all of Donald Trump’s constitutional violations and other high crimes and misdemeanors – in other words, here are the reasons Congress should immediately impeach Trump.
Article 1, Section 9, Clause 8: “[N]o Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them [the United States], shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”
Any market transaction – regardless of “fair” price – from which an employee or stakeholder benefits financially constitutes an emolument, as our Founders understood and used the word.
Corporations owned by foreign governments fall under the Foreign Emoluments Clause, as do foreign government agencies and diplomats spending foreign government money. Even if they do not pay above the fair market rate for their leases or rooms, the definition of “emolument” covers the transaction and, as the money originates from a foreign government and Trump, as a financial stakeholder in the Trump Organization, ultimately receives part of it.
Donald Trump’s refusal to divest himself from his sprawling, global businesses that frequently interact with (agents of) foreign governments means he has violated the Foreign Emoluments Clause since his first day in office. A few examples include:
- The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, a massive financial entity largely controlled by the Chinese government, rents space in Trump Tower New York.
- Abu Dhabi’s government tourism agency rents from a Trump-owned building.
- The Trump Hotel DC has drawn international visitors as well as diplomats and other foreign agents who book rooms at the president’s hotel in hopes of currying his favor.
Congress should immediately impeach Trump for violating a clause so serious that in 1810, a constitutional amendment stripping the citizenship from anyone receiving a foreign emolument fell one state short of ratification. That state chose not to ratify the amendment because legislators found it redundant given the existing Foreign Emoluments Clause. The potential for the president to be corrupted by foreign actors – or in any way be subject to a conflict of interest that causes the president to act without regard for the country’s best interest – greatly worried our Founders (see Federalist No. 22). We should not take this impeachable offense lightly.
Article 2, Section 2, Clause 7: “The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be encreased [sic] nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.”
In other words, the president’s compensation for his duties may not exceed the predefined presidential salary. The president cannot receive any other emoluments from the government, thus preventing government officials at the federal and state level from tapping department or local coffers to buy favor with the president, causing the president to be biased in favor of certain states (much in the same way the Foreign Emoluments Clause seeks to prevent the president from being biased towards foreign interests).
Steven Mnuchin (Secretary of the Treasury), Linda McMahon (who heads the Small Business Administration), and Gary Cohn (economic adviser) all call the Trump DC hotel home during the work week. They are paid by the government; they use that pay to live in the Trump Hotel; Donald Trump has a financial stake in the Trump Hotel and profits from each dollar spent in the hotel. Therefore, Trump receives an emolument from the United States above and beyond his presidential salary (and also unfairly increases the demand for his hotel because patrons may stay there – and be tempted to pay more – in hopes of spotting Trump or a cabinet secretary). Impeach Trump for this constitutional infringement.
3. Obstruction of Justice
Donald Trump fired then-FBI Director James Comey because he “faced great pressure because of Russia,” which he figured had been “taken off” by dismissing the actor leading the Trump-Russia investigation (to boot: He gave this reasoning to Russia officials).
Comey’s firing occurred not long after Trump begged Comey to stop investigating Michael T. Flynn, former National Security Adviser. “Let this go,” pleaded Trump, “he is a good guy.” Furthermore, Trump had reportedly grown ever-more incensed that Comey refused to support Trump’s obviously false allegation that President Barack Obama wiretapped him. Trump repeatedly asked for Comey’s sworn allegiance, which Comey – having sworn his loyalty to the Constitution, not a fallible politician – refused to give. This, too, angered Trump and, combined with Comey’s devout interest in the Trump-Russia investigation (rather than identifying administration leakers), led Trump to fire the director.
Clearly, doing so represents obstruction of justice: Infuriated that Comey would not back down from the Trump-Russia investigation, drop the FBI’s investigation into Flynn, or swear loyalty to the president, Trump attempted to kill the probe by removing its head. This obstruction well aligns with earlier administration actions:
- The Trump administration selectively leaked classified information to Devin Nunes, who originally headed the House investigation into Russia’s 2016 influence, which Nunes then leaked to the press and public, hoping to stall the investigation. Nunes had to recuse himself.
- Trump and his aides tried to block former acting Attorney General Sally Yates (whom Trump fired) from testifying before Congress. Yates, as would be revealed, cautioned Trump that Russians had compromised Flynn; Trump ignored those warnings and kept Flynn in the White House. Naturally, Trump didn’t want such damaging information to be revealed, so he tried to block Yates from sharing her story with Congress and the American people.
Impeach Trump for doing his best to hinder investigations into his campaign and preventing those involved with the investigations from delivering correct information or testifying before Congress.
4. Witness Intimidation
Worried that recently-fired James Comey would contradict publicly made statements, Donald Trump threatened to release White House tapes of conversations between the two actors (we still do not know whether these tapes exist). Doing so constitutes witness intimidation as Comey, whose memos had recently leaked to media outlets, would almost certainly be called to testify before the House and Senate (indeed, not long thereafter, he was). This threat, likely empty, represented an attempt to silence a potential witness in order to obstruct justice, preserve a narrative, and not be contradicted by someone more credible than himself.
This follows Trump’s attempts to silence Sally Yates and, before her testimony, more tweeted threats that amount to intimidation and witness discrediting. It should hardly be a surprise, then, that Donald Trump – against direction from the White House Counsel – reached out to Michael Flynn, witness and subject in an FBI investigation, urging him to “stay strong.” Such a message perhaps intimidates Flynn to silence; regardless of its result, Trump tampered with a potential witness to reassert his own interests. Congress need not tolerate such behavior – the legislative branch should impeach Trump for his attempts to silence, intimidate, or otherwise tamper with (potential) witnesses.
5. Abuse of Power
The actions described above constitute an egregious abuse of power: While the president of course has authority to fire the FBI Director, doing so in the midst of an FBI investigation into the president’s campaign and top aides politicizes the agency and shows that Trump believes he is above the law – or at least that he should be. Impeach Trump for abusing the powers of the president.
6. Violating the First and Fourteenth Amendments
Trump’s initial travel ban executive order, since struck down by court and abandoned by the administration, would have given refugee preference to Christians (necessarily at the expense of Muslims). Preferring Christians to Muslims violates the First Amendment – “the clearest command of the Establishment Clause is that one religious denomination cannot be officially preferred over another” (Larson v. Valente). The same case holds that the government “may not aide or oppose any religion,” constitutional law clearly at odds with Trump’s original desire to give Christian refugees precedence vis a vis Muslims and spells out, in six simple words, why Trump’s campaign promise to bar Muslims from entering the country would never stand constitutional scrutiny. Even though courts blocked the original travel ban, Trump still signed an unconstitutional order that ran against the First Amendment. That’s grounds for impeachment.
“An executive order or law displays unconstitutional animus and thus violates the Equal Protection Clause when it has the ‘purpose and effect of disapproval of a class recognized and protected by state law,’ as Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the Supreme Court in U.S. v. Windsor” (Corey Brettschneider, Politico Magazine). The intent of Trump’s travel ban couldn’t be clearer: Prohibit as many Muslims as possible from entering the country. Such an interpretation, of course, finds support throughout Trump’s campaign and even from top Trump supports. Rudy Giuliani stated in an interview that prior to signing the first travel ban, Trump called him in hopes of advice on how to make the campaign’s Muslim ban legal. The resultant ban, then, emerged as an attempt to make legal a blanket religious ban, one obviously motivated by animus. That, according to the principles laid out in Windsor, violates the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
7. Unfaithfully Executing Laws
Realizing that a blanket Muslim ban would surely be struck down by the courts, Trump unveiled the two immigration executive orders that trade a religious ban for a country-specific one. However, in doing so and in hoping to executive such an order, Trump violated the 1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA), which forbids discrimination on the basis of national origin. He knowingly signed an executive order that broke a legitimately enacted law; enforcing the executive order necessarily mean failing to enforce the 1965 INA – the two cannot coexist. In hoping to do so, Trump violated Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution, which holds that the president “shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” Impeach Trump for neglecting to do the president’s most import duty.
8. Inciting Violence
Three protesters have sued Donald Trump for inciting violence at one of his riots. Recently, a federal judge ruled it “plausible” that Trump “incited a riot.” At the rally, Trump screamed to his crowd: “Get ‘em out of here!” in reference to peaceful protesters. Such charged rhetoric led to violence in other rallies, too, often driven by Trump’s own words (see: Mashable). Trump glorified campaign violence, going so far as to encourage, in a likely form of stochastic terrorism, for “Second Amendment people” to stop Hillary Clinton from taking their firearms (which she obviously had no intent to do).
As CNN reports, “Judge Hale reiterated that Bamberger began pushing the protesters on Trump’s order and that as Trump’s supporters began shoving protesters, the would-be president said, “Don’t hurt ’em.”
“Presumably,” the judge wrote in dismissing Trump’s free speech defense (incitement is not speech), “if Trump had intended for protesters to be escorted out by security personnel, Trump would have instructed the intervening audience members to stop what they were doing, rather than offering guidance on how to go about it.”
In fact, the two attendees who attacked the protesters “blame Trump for their behavior at the rally, saying he encouraged the violence by telling the crowd to “get ’em out of here,” referring to protesters. At earlier rallies Trump had promised to pay his supporters’ legal fees if they got in trouble,” a clear indication that Trump appreciated and supported efforts to violently put down protests (why else would he be willing to foot the legal bills?).
Trump’s a threat to protesters and others seeking to exercise their right to free speech. Impeach Trump for encouraging violence and the suppression of dissent.