From Politics to Justice: Amending the Impeachment Process
By: Marcus Perriello | Our Voice Contributor
Alexander Hamilton once argued that Impeachment could be utilized as a political football for whichever political party was in the congressional majority in the face of a sitting president from a political opposition. This truism has never been more evident than today as we witness, in real time, the process of Impeachment against Donald Trump take on a strictly partisan paradigm. The Republican-controlled Senate has already made it clear that their goal is to acquit Trump, regardless of whether or not he is proven Guilty of committing the crimes of which the articles of impeachment accuse him.
On the other side, the Democrats in the Senate are in a no-win scenario, as they understand full-well how this process is going to end. Donald Trump is accused of committing far worse crimes than Bill Clinton, who was accused solely of lying to Congress about an extramarital affair and was impeached for it, by a Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
Alexander Hamilton was right: Impeachment should not be a political process. In a nation that claims to believe in the Rule of Law, each and every citizen must be held to the exact same legal standards, regardless of wealth, property, social status, lineage, or influence.
This is why a proposal has been put forward, in part through a petition from moveon.org, to pass a constitutional amendment that would transform the impeachment of a sitting president from a political process into a normal criminal trial just like any other that takes places in the United States, leaving the accused (the POTUS) subject to the same laws and due process as the rest of the American citizenry. The amendment reads:
“Prior to an impeachment trial, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court may elect to recuse any and all members of the Senate and move to a random jury selection process, should circumstances arise that suggest the integrity of the impeachment process may be at risk.”
Transforming Impeachment from a political process into a regular criminal trial causes an accused President to fall under the same legal standards as any other U.S. citizen. This better ensures that a sitting President will make decisions that benefit the American people and don’t violate either state, federal, or international law. The American people, selected at random from the process enacted by the Supreme Court Chief Justice, would be directly involved in deciding the fate of an accused sitting President.
Bringing elected officials face to face with their own constituencies can potentially force the realization in the minds of sitting Senators who might otherwise use Impeachment as a political football that if they did so with their own constituents present, their seats may not be so secure if they act in bad faith. It also exposes ordinary citizens to the exact environment and proceedings that occur within Government, making them better informed about how Washington works.
There is also the ripple effect. If ordinary citizens who are selected for Impeachment Duty witness, first-hand, the corruption and apathy towards them during the impeachment process, they can relay those experiences to their fellow constituents, serving as a stronger form of checks-and-balances on government power. There’s the old saying “When the cats are away, the mice will play.” This is basically putting the cats in with the mice, both serving as jurors, as well as watchdogs over sitting Senators who intend on acting in bad faith – if they haven’t already been recused by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
Impeachment of a U.S. President is extremely rare so it is highly unlikely that this measure would need to be utilized again, anytime soon. But with this measure in place – and permanently so, it serves as a strong incentive for a sitting President to abide by state, federal, and international law. Failure to do so results in finding themselves at the mercy of their constituents in an impeachment trail, who’s trust they have so willingly betrayed.
This is also a measure that has the potential to be adopted at the State level. We can transform Impeachment from a political process into a simple matter of Administrative Justice whereby the accused official is legally bound to the same laws and legal standards as any other citizen. The threat of being judged by said official(s) own constituents is ever present bringing the balance of power full-circle. Placing that power back into the hands of the very people who elected the accused public official into office.