Attend to inquiry with open mind



November 12, 2019 - 10:13 AM

As the U.S. House of Representative speeds toward formal impeachment hearings and vote — and as the U.S. Senate prepares to then hold a trial on whether to remove the president from office — it’s time to get back to first principles.

According to Article II, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution, “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.”

That’s pretty much it. In other sections Constitution outlines the general process; the House has the power to impeach, and the Senate conducts the trial. It requires a two-thirds vote to remove the official from office. But there are not pages and pages of details.

In other words, impeachment is a generally outlined process, and one that has been used infrequently in our nation’s history. Much depends on the interpretation of the Constitution at the time proceedings begin, and of course the personalities of those in the executive and legislative branches. The House and Senate themselves have codified their own processes, but these are simply elaborations built upon a general structure.

Allow us a few modest suggestions.

First and most of all, representatives and senators should try to think through these circumstances without name and party attached. If any president, Democrat or Republican, engaged in the conduct alleged, should he be impeached? If any speaker of the House pursues an impeachment inquiry, regardless of party, with the attendant subpoenas, should that investigation be followed or blocked?

There are not always clear-cut answers. “High Crimes and Misdemeanors” are notoriously fuzzy to define, which means the impeachment is fundamentally not a matter of criminal law, but of institutional propriety. Has the president overstepped the generally understood bounds of his office? Has he become an embarrassment or an encumbrance to the country? Has he somehow become compromised in the duties of office?

Likewise, investigating in a process with so many areas of grey can lead to accusations of partisan overreach. Are those in the House merely trying to get the truth or score political points? Your viewpoint likely depends on your side.

We urge both representatives and senators to keep their minds open. They should seriously consider all the evidence and remove party and personality from the process, as much as possible. They should strive to serve their country, not their partisan instincts.


December 3, 2019
November 15, 2019
November 11, 2019
October 17, 2019