Based on what we know now, is there enough evidence to impeach President Donald Trump? That was the subject of a debate between Fordham Law Professor Jed Shugerman and attorney Ross Garber, who has represented several U.S. Governors who faced impeachment. (Well, actually the proposition stated that there is NOT enough evidence to impeach based on what we know today and they debated from there.)
During his opening statement, Prof. Shugerman argued that the standard for impeachment—high crimes and misdemeanors—is not quite as high as people tend to believe. “There’s a mispreceptopn that a high crime and misdemeanor must be a crime in the traditional sense.”
He gave examples of past impeachments in English history for reasons such as misappropriating government funds, appointing unfit subordinates, and losing a ship by neglect. In the United States, “high crimes and misdemeanors” has been applied to cases such as using the office for financial gain and filing false income tax returns. Some of the examples, Shugerman said, were like a “greatest hits” of what we’ve seen from Trump’s presidency so far, specifically unfit subordinates and misappropriating funds.
Garber, on the other hand, said that the standard is much higher than Shugerman suggested. Noting that the Constitution’s examples of high crimes and misdemeanors are treason and bribery, he said that only serious offenses warrant removal from office. Garber mentioned that “maladministration” was specifically omitted from the Constitution, to show how high the standard really is. Supporting this argument, he reminding everyone that no president has ever been removed as a result of impeachment.
Addressing Trump’s situation specifically, Shugerman and Garber talked mainly about obstruction of justice. Garber said that as president, Trump has the power to fire the FBI Director for any reason or no reason at all. So too, he can pardon anyone he wants, including himself. Shugerman countered, saying that just because Trump has these powers, that doesn’t mean every use of the power is automatically legal. For example, the professor said, if Trump pardoned someone in exchange for a bribe, he would have the power to do so, but he’d still be guilty of bribery, which is an impeachable offense. Likewise, while Trump had the power to fire James Comey, his intent for doing this matters.
Shugerman compared Trump’s situation to Watergate, and said that like that case, there is evidence that President Trump was covering up a crime, mentioning the hacking of Democratic National Committee emails as an example of such a crime. Garber responded by saying that Shugerman is making a big leap by assuming that Trump had anything to do with the hacked emails, as there is still no evidence that Trump had anything to do with it or even knew about it at the time. Because there’s no evidence that Trump was involved in any underlying crime, Garber said, there’s no evidence that he was covering anything up.
The two lawyers briefly touched on the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which prohibits officials from receiving gifts from foreign officials or governments. The argument is that Trump violates this clause any time foreign dignitaries stay at his hotels.
Shugerman said that this is just another reason for Trump to be impeached. Garber said that it’s questionable whether Trump has violated the Emoluments Clause, but even if he did, violating the clause is not a crime, and is not grounds for impeachment.
In conclusion, Garber said that to impeach a president, there needs to be a strong case that proves that the president committed a serious offense. “Certainly today, there is not that evidence, there is not that proof,” he said.
On the contrary, Shugerman said, crimes are not the only reasons for impeachment, and that the standard is not so high that it would allow a president to abuse his power unpunished. Otherwise, he argued, “fundamental democratic values are at risk.”
So who won the debate? Watch in the player above and decide.
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