I’ve noticed the almost exponential spread of a misconception being bandied about on social media the past few days and thought it would be a good idea to clarify before there is premature dancing in the streets. The misconception is that if Trump were to be impeached and removed from office, Pence and the rest of his appointees would also be automatically removed from office. Sounds like a truly wonderful idea, doesn’t it? Much as I hate to have to take those happy smiles off your face, I have to tell you folks … it just ain’t so.
I understand where the confusion comes in. Remember that when the Constitution was drafted, the framers were trying to keep it short and simple, for they wanted every man (women didn’t count back then) to be able to read and understand it. If we were writing the document today, lawyers would be involved and it would no doubt turn into a few million words, rather than the mere 7,591 words it is now, including the amendments. So, in keeping the document short and readable, there are some segments that, on the surface, may seem to mean something that they do not. Article II, section 4 is one such:
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.
First of all, it should be noted that while the House of Representatives may formally ‘impeach’ a president, this alone does not call for a removal from office. Remember President Clinton? The Senate basically acts as the jury once the House has voted to impeach, and if the Senate finds the president or other officer guilty with a 2/3 majority, in other words a vote of 67 senators, then and only then is that person removed from office. And only the person convicted of treason or another impeachable crime is removed, not the entire bunch of ‘em.
The tricky word that has given people hope we might do a thorough cleaning of the White House is that word ‘and’. “The President, Vice President and all civil Officers …” Replace ‘and’ with ‘or’, and you get a better picture of what the framers were trying to say.
If you think about it, it wouldn’t make sense to remove the vice president and the rest of the crew from office if the president were convicted and removed from office. In the case of Trump & Co, yes, it might make perfect sense, but in most cases it is highly unlikely that the entire crew was guilty just because the president was. And, can you imagine what chaos it would cause? Just the removal of the president would likely set the nation reeling for years. So no, there is no clean and legal way to “throw da bums out” all at once.
Something else to think about, as we call for impeachment. If the House impeached Trump today, we would still have him as president a year from now, because with the current makeup of the Senate, 51 republicans, 47 democrats, and 2 independents (who generally vote with the democrats), and given the fact that they are not only split along party lines but rent along party lines, there is no way in heck they would garner a 2/3 majority to remove him from office. It’s one of those situations where “Be careful what you wish for …” applies, for in all likelihood there will be only one chance to impeach Trump. Let us not waste it at a time when he will not be judged guilty by the senate and nothing will change except that the process will have wasted a ton of time and money. And frankly, while I really hate to burst everyone’s bubble – including my own – I don’t think that even with the best possible outcome in November, Trump will be removed from office by impeachment. The numbers just don’t add up.
There are 35 Senate seats up for election in November. Of those, 26 are already held by democrats, leaving only 9 seats currently held by republicans that could be switched to democrats. If every seat were filled with a democrat, the makeup of the Senate would be: 58 democrats and 42 republicans. Enough for a simple majority, but not enough for a 2/3 majority.
The only hope, and it is one I still think could happen, is if the evidence that Trump committed treason is so overwhelming that even the republicans in the Senate are ready to shove his patootie out the door. This, of course, would require that they dig deep and find both a pair of cojones and a conscience.
I apologize for bursting everybody’s bubble today, and I still believe that Trump needs to be removed from office and soon, before he does more damage to our system of government and our nation as a whole. But we need to be realistic, too. Sorry …