by KrisAnne Hall, JD
Current events always bring about the most powerful teaching moments. Today’s question can be generally formed as:
“What is the remedy when articles of impeachment are established that do not comply with the terms of the Constitution?”
Those who ratified our Constitution knew that those in government would always be tempted, for reasons they would attempt to justify, to try to work outside the boundaries of the Constitution. James Madison, “Father of the Constitution” and our fourth President even called our Constitution a “parchment barrier,” knowing that the document itself would have no force to keep the politically ambitious within the Constitution’s limited and defined boundaries. It was always considered, and will always be the duty of the citizens to control those they place in government.
The Constitution lays out very specific terms for impeachment in Article 2 section 4 of the Constitution. According to the Constitution impeachment can only be brought for four specific crimes: Bribery, Treason, High Crimes, or Misdemeanors. Any article of impeachment that is outside those four crimes is completely unconstitutional. So what can the people do, Constitutionally, when articles of impeachment are brought by the House outside those four authorized terms?
Understanding the constitutional solution to this political problem requires understanding that the structure of government created by the Constitution is not the structure of government we currently have operating outside the Constitution. When those holding the trust of public office leave behind the standard of the Constitution, the people have a duty to correct their course. When the power to impeach is exercised to satisfy political lusts rather than comply with Constitutional standards, what is the solution that exists within the established constitutional framework?
The first thing we must remind ourselves is, the people didn’t elect the president. The office of the president was not created to be a representative of the people; the president was created to be an ambassador for the States in foreign affairs. For that reason, the States elect the president through the electoral college. This is not a bad thing. As a matter of fact, the electoral college was established for specific reasons; first and foremost to protect the liberty and authority of the people. (If this principle seems strange to you, please read what those who drafted the Constitution said about the Electoral College: http://bit.ly/ElectoralCollegeTruth)
With that first principle in mind, here is the solution to the question: what is the check and balance upon unconstitutional articles of impeachment:
- Because the president is a representative of the States, elected by the States, an improper impeachment is a disenfranchisement of the States.
- Since it is the States’ vote that is being overturned, the remedy exists in the States. It is the obligation of every State Governor and Legislator to bring a lawsuit against the enforcement of the articles of impeachment and the members of Congress violating the specific terms of impeachment.
- Because the purpose of the Senate is to represent the States in federal government, it is also imperative that those Senators representing States who chose the President, absent proper ground for impeachment, must not only oppose the House articles of impeachment, they must vote against conviction.
As a final note if truth, the Senators are representatives of their State as a whole, not the people of their State and not themselves. So if the State selected the president and if true grounds for impeachment are absent, a Senator MUST oppose the impeachment regardless of personal opinions and the opinions of a portion of the people of the State.
The designers of our Constitution crafted that document to be simply written so that the average person in 1788 could read and understand how their government was required to operate. The designed the solutions to be simply but necessarily applied by the people.
“If the federal government should overpass the just bounds of its authority and make a tyrannical use of its powers, the people, whose creature it is, must appeal to the standard they have formed, and take such measures to redress the injury done to the Constitution as the exigency may suggest and prudence justify.” Federalist #33
However, because the American education system no longer teaches the essential principles driving the proper application of our Constitution, the remedies often evade our view and the people slip into overwhelming frustrations due to a perceived lack of options. As Thomas Jefferson remarked in a letter to Charles Yancy in 1816:
“…if a nation expects to be ignorant & free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was & never will be. The functionaries of every government have propensities to command at will the liberty & property of their constituents. there is no safe deposit for these but with the people themselves; nor can they be safe with them without information.”
Those who designed and ratified our Constitution gave us very powerful options, we simply need to apply those options to make the necessary course corrections. Application must begin with proper education. With this understanding, now we can demand our Governors and State Legislators exercise their duty in authority to be a necessary check and balance upon an unauthorized and unconstitutional behavior of those in the federal government.