Must Impeachment Include Crime? Experts Split

Print More

President Donald Trump’s defense relies partly on arguments in the impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson more than 150 years ago that impeachment requires a crime. Most legal scholars disagree, including a law professor called by Republicans in the House investigation to argue against impeaching Trump, reports the Associated Press. A lawyer for Johnson argued that Johnson could not be removed from office because he was not guilty of a crime. Johnson was acquitted by a single vote. Trump attorney Alan Dershowitz says that same argument — that impeachment requires “criminal-like conduct” — will be central to his defense on the president’s behalf.

Legal scholars dispute the idea that the Founding Fathers intended for impeachable offenses to require proof of a crime. And historians are equally dubious that the argument from Johnson’s lawyer, Benjamin Robbins Curtis, can be credited with securing Johnson’s narrow acquittal. At issue is the Constitution’s standard for impeachment: “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” The threshold has been understood to encompass actual crimes. Legal scholars and Democrats disagree. Frank Bowman, a University of Missouri law professor and former student of Dershowitz at Harvard Law School, described the argument as “rubbish.” Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University law professor who argued to the House against impeachment, said such an argument was politically unwise and constitutionally shortsighted

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *