The U.S. Constitution is arguably the most important, remarkable document ever written. Those assembled to write it were brilliant visionaries. Was it perfect? No. That’s why there are 27 amendments.
The words in the Constitution were carefully chosen during the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, May through September, 1787, presided over by George Washington. But words, in and of themselves, cannot always convey precisely what the framers of the Constitution intended during their four months of deliberation.
For example, during the ensuing 230-plus years, the Supreme Court has frequently been called upon to render its interpretation of the framers’ intent.
Additionally, precedent has been a powerful factor in determining how the three branches of government operate. While performing a significant action, if generally accepted, the government thereby sets an example (precedent) for how similar actions should be performed in the future. This is also called establishing “norms.”
Adhering to the words in the Constitution, judiciously determining intent, and establishing precedent have served this nation well for over 200 years, and the U.S. Constitution remains the world’s greatest operational document.
Recently, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has spoken out about the impeachment of President Trump as follows: “When someone is impeached, they are always impeached. It cannot be erased.”
I agree 100 percent with those statements. I also agree with her pronouncement last spring: “Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path, because it divides the country.” Compelling? Overwhelming? Bipartisan?
If one studies the literature associated with the Constitutional Convention, there was great discussion and debate as to how to word the impeachment clause so as to avoid a purely partisan act to take down a president. The intent was clearly for the House of Representatives to identify “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
Pelosi cannot fall back on the expressed words or intent or precedent associated with the Constitution to back up her reckless actions. She has changed the course of this country, perhaps forever.
How can I make that assertion? Impeachment has now been redefined as something more akin to a no-
confidence vote in the British Parliament and may well be used in the future by a House of Representative that is simply in disagreement with an opposing party president.
To illustrate, by the current standards of impeachment, once President Obama lost the House in 2011, he could have been impeached for obstruction of Congress and abuse of power for the “Fast and Furious” scandal, and for invoking “executive privilege” to justify administration officials’ refusal to testify to Congress.
Also, using a list compiled by the writer Victor Davis Hanson, the new impeachment standard would have included:
* Political corruption at the IRS toward conservative groups during the Obama re-election bid;
* Lies and obstruction about the Benghazi disaster;
* The hot-mic quid pro quo promise Obama made to Russian President Medvedev that resulted in the dismantlement of Eastern Europe missile defense in exchange for Putin’s good behavior to the benefit of Obama’s re-election campaign;
* The abuse of executive orders to nullify federal immigration law;
* The failure to consult Congress on the prisoner swap with the Taliban;
* The lying under oath to Congress by both the CIA director and the director of National Intelligence;
* Secret monitoring of the communications of Associated Press reporters and Fox’s James Rosen, along with former CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson;
* The deliberate nullification of the constitutional treaty-making prerogative of the Senate during the Iran deal, whose secret accords were never disclosed to the American people; and
* The warping of the CIA, DOJ, FBI, and National Security Council, respectively, in their unethical and often illegal efforts to mislead the FISA courts, surveil the Trump campaign, unmask and leak the names of U.S. citizens whose communications were tapped, and disrupt a presidential transition.
Before the Pelosi-led impeachment of President Trump, none of these offenses would have been impeachable. Now they all are, and everything like them in the future will also be fair game.
The deep-seated and frenetic nature of the culture of hate that has consumed the Democrats since the 2016 election of Donald Trump has blinded them to the unimaginable ramifications of taking down a president simply because they detest him.
And to think that by closing her eyes to the words of the Constitution, the intent of the framers and 200 years of precedent, one person alone, Speaker Pelosi, was able to completely orchestrate the impeachment. And as she said, “It cannot be erased.”
Lt. Gen. Marvin L. Covault, U.S. Army (ret.) is the author of “Vision to Execution, A Book for Leaders.”