This month is a pile of shit. I’m taking a trip into fantasy land for a minute. I am still trying to make sense of the confusion of this travel ban nonsense (donate to the ACLU if you can!), but more and more I am concerned that we need to focus bigger: on removing Trump from office. He is destroying everything he touches; we need to remove him and return to Pence (who is a huge nightmare, but a devil we know who may not be interested in destroying our alliances).
Two weeks ago, I would have told you that removing him from office was a far-fetched idea not worth reaching for. Now, I’m not so sure. I’m more and more convinced it might be our only way totally out, because Trump’s regime intends to ignore courts, to bypass the legislative branch almost entirely (along with tons of other agencies), and most of all, dismantling the structure of intelligence behind the office to install his crew of white supremacist cronies.
We can fight our legal battles – and I do believe we will win many of them, over time, but in the immediate future, lives are going to be destroyed while the courts take their time to address these things. The institutions we believe in – the press, the checks and balances of our governments, the courts – will break down the longer they are in chaos. There are supporters who will enforce his will, whether or not it is legal – enforcers in the police force, the border patrol, the agencies he oversees. Whether it is permanent does not matter to him; he is effecting damage now, and that’s what he wants.
I fear that the longer this goes on, the further we will slide into possible totalitarianism. I think we should try every avenue to get him out. We will not suffer from casting a wide net to see what we can catch.
How does impeachment work?
First, the House Judiciary committee has to do an investigation to determine if whatever allegations are true (or likely to be true). If they proceed, the House votes on whether to impeach. Following that, the Senate must agree to convict Trump with a two-thirds majority. If that happens, we will be inaugurating President Pence.
Some fun facts about impeachment:
- The president can only be impeached on grounds of bribery, treason, or “other High Crimes and Misdemeanors“.
- That last part essentially means if he uses his office to his own advantage (like imprisoning a political opponent or misappropriation of funds).
- Some scholars believe that it doesn’t require the act to be illegal.
- It’s also said to include appointing unfit subordinates. Hmm.
- During Trump’s potential Senate trial, Chief Justice Roberts would be present (per the constitution). It’s hard to say whether he’d be biased in one way or another; he tends to be a swing vote in the Supreme Court, although he identifies himself as a conservative. That said, all bets are off with Trump.
- The only two presidents to be impeached were Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. Richard Nixon was on his way there but resigned first.
- Both Johnson and Bill Clinton were impeached but not convicted during their Senate trial, so they remained in office.
- Were Trump to be removed from office, he would be the first President to be successfully impeached and then convicted. But hey, let’s not let that stop us – he has been defying history this whole time.
Do we have a path to impeachment for Trump?
It depends on who you ask, but essentially if you look at the rules, and then look at many of the things he’s done (for instance, like violating the rights protected by the Constitution, or like setting himself up to profit from being president), he seems like he is already there. There is certainly grounds to begin the proceedings.
The problem is that we have a Republican controlled Congress who might be unlikely to impeach him (except that he is losing friends fast with his behavior). As terrifying as it is, it’s probably in our best interest that he continues to act like a bull in a china shop, leaving his potential allies behind to clean up his mess, if we want him impeached.
The required majority of the House of Representatives to impeach would be 218. With the current Congress, this would require all Democrats to vote along party lines (which we shouldn’t take for granted), and 25 Republicans to defect. There is a caucus of around 50 Republicans in the House called the Tuesday Group who are moderate; I cannot find a current list, but if we can figure out who they are, they would be a good tree to bark up.
The required majority to convict in the Senate would be 67 Senators, to get him removed from office. This would require all Democrats to vote along party lines, and 19 Republicans and/or Independents (one of whom is Bernie Sanders) to defect. That is not likely, but not impossible.
In 2018, it might become more likely, which might mean we need to wait. With tremendous effort, we might be able to pick up a couple seats in the Senate (although it looks grim), and maybe in the 20-30 range in the House. Historically, the first round of midterms after a party change in the White House results in some heads rolling, though. And this year is like no other, so we cannot rely on any traditional patterns to hold.
What to do:
If you’re serious about starting the impeachment process, first we need a member of the House to draft legislation. Call your House representatives or House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi* to try to get that ball rolling. (*I originally referred to the Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer rather than House)
Next, we will have to put pressure on the House to vote against Trump. Then, we will have to put pressure on the Senate to do the same. Hopefully, Republicans wouldn’t be so short-sighted as to think that giving up all their power to the Executive Branch is going to benefit them in the long run. It’s unlikely they’d participate in something that would be so unpopular with their base, though. However, I strongly believe they will suffer consequences either way.
- ImpeachDonaldTrump.org has a petition up.
- Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has already started investigations and has filed a brief.
The 25th Amendment
I just learned about this one, and it’s…kind of crazy. It would be fun drama to witness, I tell you.
Overview & History:
The main way we’ve used the 25th Amendment is in that it determines the succession of filling a presidential vacancy. The Constitution had been unclear on the exact succession of the president before; often a VP would take over (like in the case of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination) but then not one would take his place.
The amendment was ratified because there was previously no process for declaring a President incapacitated or unfit. There had been plenty of presidents in history with some form of mental illness, or then there was that time noted racist Woodrow Wilson had a stroke and his wife helped cover it up while running the country. We knew that the VP would take over in that case, but never who was in charge of determining that. This proved especially necessary after the JFK assassination, and was ratified in 1965.
Section 4 is the part that concerns us, and his has never been invoked.
What needs to happen to get us there?
A few things:
- Mike Pence himself has to declare Trump unfit to govern.
- A majority of the Cabinet would have to be on board as well (this would mean 8 out of 15 of his Cabinet defects from him – I find that difficult to envision but who knows? We’d also have to remember that if Pence was spearheading this, he’d probably get some allies)
- Trump will inevitably declare that he is indeed fit to rule, and then Congress would have to vote 2/3rds to oust him. While that also seems unlikely, I feel like if Pence and the Cabinet were on board, other Republicans would quickly join in on the fun.
I could not find anyone petitioning for this, but hey, you could be the one to start.
- As Alex Pareene argues, why wouldn’t Republicans want a President Pence? It seems like it would be in their best interest.
- Trump’s very low approval rating might scare some current Republicans into alliances with us; that said, for many of them, not falling in line behind Trump could be a political death sentence. I think this will depend on whether they come from swing states.
- Keep your eyes on 2018, so we can increase our chances to impeach Trump.
- Find out if any of your representatives are up for reelection, and set some calendar alarms for important dates (deadlines to register to vote, election day, etc).
- Depending on how they’re voting, make sure you threaten with your vote when you call them to demand whatever thing you’re demanding that day.
- Join flippable.org to learn what elections around the country you can help focus in.
- Join SwingLeft.org to find your nearest seat that might be able to be flipped blue.
- Urge your House member to begin impeachment proceedings.
- Sign some petitions about impeachment.
- Drink water, eat healthy, breathe and go outside. You need to stay strong.