The Impeachment Process
At this moment, 435 Congressmen are each faced with a decision so monumental in scope and so critical in its outcome, that this very nation’s future hangs in the balance. While the case centers around the actions of one man, yet there is a much larger concern here. For it is not one man who can bring the wrath of God upon us. We the people may bring it upon ourselves. If we, through our representatives, give consent to the actions of vile and evil men, then we have rejected the God of this land and flaunted His laws. And if we reject the God of this land, we will pay a terrible price in suffering and disaster until this land is again cleansed, for God will have a people in this land who honor Him or they will be swept off.
On the one hand, some say private morality does not matter. On the other, some say it really does matter. Listen, again to the wisdom of the Founders on this subject:
Benjamin Franklin: “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.”
John Adams: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Samuel Adams pointed out a sobering fact concerning our political survival as a free people when he said:
“But neither the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt. He therefore is the truest friend to the liberty of his country who tries most to promote its virtue, and who, so far as his power and influence extend, will not suffer a man to be chosen into any office of power and trust who is not a wise and virtuous man.”
So what do we do when we find ourselves in violation of these most basic requirements?
The Constitution, Again, has the Answer
As is the case in so many modern situations, our precious Constitution contains the procedure of peaceful self-repair. Franklin explains what the procedure was throughout history up until the time of the Constitution:
“What was the practice before this, in cases where the chief magistrate rendered himself obnoxious? Why, recourse was had to assassination, in which he was not only deprived of his life but of the opportunity of vindicating his character. It would be the best way, therefore, to provide in the Constitution for the regular punishment of the executive, where his misconduct should deserve it, and for his honorable acquittal, where he should be unjustly accused.”
And so the Founders instigated the procedure of Impeachment. It has an interesting history. Dr. Skousen explains:
“Impeachment proceedings give the Congress the right to remove any official from the executive and judicial branches of government.
“.the power of impeachment was a great victory which the Parliament extracted from the British Crown. In the thirteenth century when the Parliament was in its infancy, the king agreed to have the Parliament serve as the legislative or lawmaking body of the realm, but he often frustrated Parliament by appointing administrators who were subservient to the king rather than Parliament, and often engaged in nefarious activities such as bribery, extortion, or embezzlement. Because the king was required to constantly come to the Parliament for money, its leaders finally extracted from the king the authority to bring charges against corrupt judges or administrators. The charges were made on the floor of the House of Commons and the trial was held before the House of Lords. This entire procedure was transferred over to the House of Representatives and the Senate when the United States Constitution was written.” (The Making of America, p. 314)
Impeachment Provisions in the Constitution
Article I, Sec 2, Clause 5: The House of Representatives shall .have the sole power of impeachment.
Article I, Sec 3, Clauses 6-7: The Senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachments. When sitting for that purpose, they shall be on oath or affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside. And no person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two-thirds of the members present.
Judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States; but the party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to indictment, trial, judgment, and punishment according to law.
Article II, Sec 4: 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.
The Impeachment Process
David Barton explains the process:
“While impeachment proceedings can be complex, the basic process is quite simple. An impeachment begins when an official behaves in a manner which the people believe disqualifies him from further public service. A complaint requesting an impeachment investigation of that official is lodged with the House of Representatives. That request may either be general in its scope or it may delineate specific offenses; it may be requested in a petition filed by individual citizens or on the request of a single Representative, a group of Representatives, or the President.
“The request is referred to the House Judiciary Committee which forwards it to the Subcommittee on the Constitution. The Subcommittee then investigates the complaints and, if there is merit to the charges, Articles of Impeachment describing the specific offense(s) are prepared. Those Articles are forwarded to the full Judiciary Committee for a vote. If approved, the Articles are sent to the full House for a vote.
“A simple majority of the House either approves or disapproves the Articles. If disapproved, the issue is terminated. Approval, however, is, in effect, the equivalent of a grand jury indictment against that official. The approved Articles of Impeachment are then delivered to the Senate. With this action, the House’s role in an impeachment is finished.
“The Senate, according to the process described in Article 1, Section 3, Clause 6 and 7, then becomes a courtroom for a full-scale trial, with the Senators serving as the jury. In that setting, evidence is presented both by the defendant (the impeached official) and the prosecution. A vote is then taken. If less than two-thirds of the Senators present concur in the official’s guilt, then the impeached official is acquitted and returns to the practice, responsibilities, and full privileges of his office.
“However, if two-thirds of the Senators believe the evidence proves the impeached official guilty, then the Constitution allows the Senate to impose two penalties: (1) remove the individual from that specific office, or (2) remove the individual from that office and also prohibit him from all future office-holding. This is the extent of the Senate penalty; it can withhold political positions, but it cannot impose civil or criminal penalties. (If an impeachment conviction is rendered by the Senate, a court may not overturn it; a decision by Congress on impeachment is final .) (Impeachment, by David Barton, p.11, Wallbuilders, Aledo, TX, 1996)
What Are “High Crimes and Misdemeanors?”
Many people today have come to believe that Congress cannot impeachment an executive unless he has broken the law–the law being a written, statutory law. This is the basis for the oft-heard argument that certain moral indiscretions are not impeachable offenses. Once again, David Barton help us understand that the original meaning of “misdemeanors” was quite different:
“What, then, was the original meaning of ‘misdemeanor’? Alexander Hamilton and Joseph Story defined it as political ‘mal-conduct’; John Randolph Tucker explained that it was ‘a synonym for misbehavior’; and Webster’s original dictionary defined it as ‘ill behavior, evil conduct, fault, or mismanagement.’ Recall, too, that both Justice James Wilson and Justice Joseph Story had expressly described non-statutory ‘misdemeanors.’ Certainly none of these was a legal offense, and all of them are quite different from today’s definition.
“Based, then, on the historical evidence, Professor Tucker correctly concluded:
“[T] he words “high crimes and misdemeanors” cannot be confined to crimes created and defined by a statute of the United States. (emphasis added)
“In fact, Justice Story believed that any such interpretation was preposterous:
“[W]hat are to be deemed “high crimes and misdemeanors”? … [N]o one has as yet been bold enough to assert that the power of impeachment is limited to offenses positively defined in the statute book of the Union as impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors.
“Story then emphatically punctuated his conclusions by summarizing the history of impeachments:
“Congress has unhesitatingly adopted the conclusion that no previous statute is necessary to authorize an impeachment for any official misconduct…. In the few cases of impeachment which have hitherto been tried, not one of the charges has rested upon any statutable misdemeanors.” (emphasis added)
“Indeed, the history of every impeachment case brought before Congress to that point proved the correctness of Justice Story’s conclusion. For example, in 1797, William Blount was impeached for seeking to violate American neutrality 16 (as explained by justice Story, “The offense charged was not defined by any statute of the United States. It was for an attempt to seduce an United States’ Indian interpreter from his duty and to alienate the affections and confidence of the Indians from the public officers residing among them.” 17); in 1803, federal judge John Pickering was impeached for issuing an order which contradicted an act of Congress, for Judicial high-handedness, and for drunkenness and blasphemy; “in 1804, Supreme Court justice Samuel Chase was impeached for judicial high-handedness and for excluding evidence from a trial; ” and in 1830, federal judge James H. Peck was also impeached for judicial hi -handedness.’ (Ibid. pp. 22-23)
I Forgive, But I Want My Delegated Authority Back
Someone asked me the other day if I could forgive the President. When I replied yes, he said it would not really be forgiveness if I wanted him removed from office. My reply to him was that I can forgive an individual for any wrong he may have done against me – as a matter of fact, by my religious beliefs I am required to forgive all men. But that does not mean I must leave my delegated authority with him to continue to represent me in positions of honor and trust. They are two quite different matters.
The Constitution provides a peaceful, though perhaps painful solution to our present crisis. As citizens we should be insisting our representatives in Congress do the right thing. Surely, God is watching to see what we will do with our “government of the people”. America will be cleansed either by us or by Him.