To start to Impeachment proceedings, a majority of the House of Representatives must vote to impeach the President. There’s been a lot of talk lately about how the Democrats may immediately vote to impeach the President Trump if they win a majority in the house. Indeed, the Republicans may campaign on the issue of voting Republican to keep the Democrats from winning the House and then immediately preceding to vote for impeachment.
If Impeachment is a major goal of the Democrats seeking election, it is not a worthy goal. On the other hand, if the Republicans want to keep the majority in the House simply to prevent Impeachment, that is an equally unworthy as a goal.
Will politics be the key factor in determining whether President Trump is impeached? It should not be. Richard Nixon resigned from office rather than face Impeachment once he understood his own party was going to support Impeachment. Will that same thing happen here with President Trump? Or, will he be Impeached? Whatever happens, whatever party controls the House, the decision to Impeach should be based on the Rule of Law.
The Rule of Law is an expression for the concept that, to prevent arbitrary exercise of power, the government operates under well-defined and established laws. It should be the guiding principle in determining whether President Trump is impeached.
Bill Clinton’s Presidency is a good example of The Rule of Law. Clinton was forced to appear for deposition while he was the President of United States. After his testimony, a federal district court judge in Arkansas fined him $90,000 for lying. The Arkansas Bar Association took away President Clinton’s license as a lawyer, also while he was President of United States. There could be no better example of the Rule of Law than the punishment of the President, considered the most powerful man in the world, while he is in office.
When impeachment proceedings were commenced against Bill Clinton, there was discussion as to whether he should resign from office and there was talk that he himself was considering resigning. William Safire used his column in the New York Times to urge Clinton not to resign. In Safire’s words:
“Clinton should stay right where he is because the people elect Presidents directly for a fixed term of four years. Our decision cannot be reversed by a parliamentary vote of no confidence. Resigning – even entertaining the idea on the excuse of the appearance of paralysis to the world – weakens the office and undermines the system.”
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“Nobody flinches; nobody rushes; nobody quits.”
As we wait to see what the Special Prosecutor will report and how this President will react, the Congress, and all of us as citizens, should aspire to listening and learning and applying for the Rule of Law so that whatever happens will be consistent with the principles that make this country what it is.
Bill Clinton did not resign. He was impeached. He was not removed from office. The Rule of Law prevailed.