Now that Donald Trump is the President, his opponents, and even his allies, have impeachment on their minds. With Trump’s impeachment odds changing with seemingly every ALL CAPS tweet he puts online, discussion of whether the 45th president of the United States will be impeached for any number of reasons continues to flow among people on both sides of the aisle.
First, here’s how the president is impeached:
Impeachment is the process by which a president is charged with (by the House of Representatives) and tried for (by the Senate) an offense against the nation’s interest. Those offenses are defined in Article II, Section IV of the Constitution as “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” They are further delineated by Alexander Hamilton in The Federalist Papers: No. 65 as “the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust.” Like much of the Constitution, these criteria are rather vague. Taken together with the fact that only two presidents have ever been impeached (both of whom were acquitted), this means Congress has a lot of flexibility in deciding what, if anything, it wants to use to impeach Trump.
Here are some potential sources of impeachment charges:
Business Corruption and Conflicts of Interest
Trump, as anyone who’s heard him speak will surely know, claims to be a very successful businessman. He’s done business (and made deals) all over the world, and despite publicly stepping away from his business, he remains attached to them, claiming that he isn’t obligated to put his assets in a blind trust as past presidents have done. He’s vaguely maintained that he won’t be involved, but the terms of the Donald J Trump Revocable Trust leave his son and chief financial officer running his business for his “exclusive benefit.”
But turning over control to Donald Trump Jr. won’t really do much to eliminate the many potential conflicts of interests with which Trump could face. It’s true that conflict of interest laws apply differently to the president, but that doesn’t mean Trump won’t ever make political decisions based on what he knows will help his business. If it was ever proven that Trump was putting his personal finance interests above the interests of the nation (like maybe with the Dakota Access Pipeline, that would certainly be a violation of public trust, as well as rank corruption, and could be grounds for dismissal.
Among the most concerning remarks that Trump made over the course of his campaign were those regarding America’s checkered past with torture. Trump, if he is to be believed, would like to repeat history. Waterboarding hasn’t been ruled out as a practice the Trump administration could use, despite overwhelming evidence that torture doesn’t actually work.
Trump, in the past, has even said that the Geneva Conventions, which outlaws torture, is a “problem.” He may feel that way, but Congress might not agree with him if he actually keeps his word here. Violating international law and human rights might just be the most impeachable offense on this list.
Renewed Sexual Assault Allegations
It has somehow, horrifyingly, been buried amidst all the recent chaos, but it must not be forgotten that there have been a substantial number of women who’ve come forward to accuse Trump of sexual assault. The allegations are as numerous as the accusers and cover varying degrees of unwanted sexual contact, all of which are illegal. And no one can forget his “grab her by the pussy” comments that surfaced in October.
Trump, at one point, threatened to sue all of these women, but as of now he seems to have forgotten all about that. But should the women reassert themselves? Trump will have much to answer for — first to Congress, then maybe even a judge.
Sharing Confidential Information With His Kids
It’s no secret that Trump thinks very highly of his children — of Ivanka in particular. Anyone on the internet has seen the creepy photos. And although Ivanka Trump doesn’t have an official role in the White House, her husband is working as one of Donald Trump’s senior advisors. There’s nothing inherently wrong with turning to kin for guidance — until it breaches the realm of classified information. Sharing, or otherwise jeopardizing classified information, as the whole country learned exhaustively via Hillary Clinton’s email debacle, is illegal. If Trump was to allow his children, or the family of an administration official, to see information that’s above their pay grade, that is something Congress would and should take seriously.
This may indeed have already happened. It must be recalled that on November 17 Ivanka was present at a meeting between Trump and the Japanese Prime Minister. She wasn’t really supposed to be there, and may have even been closing a business deal in Japan during the meeting. That’s what you call a two-for-one.
Admittedly, this is the least likely of scenarios. But imagine this: Pence really enjoyed Hamilton when he went to see it in November. Maybe he really wants to listen to the music when he travels with Trump on Air Force One. So Trump, ever the thoughtful and computer-literate friend, decides to download the soundtrack from a music sharing site. Not good. Very illegal — especially over a government internet connection — and very impeachable. Think about it.
Beyond all of these offenses are actions that, while less blatantly illegal, could still get Trump slapped with an impeachment hearing. If he were to start a trade war with China, unilaterally backs out of the Paris Agreement, ignore the judicial branch, or does something else that could severely harm America’s reputation or economy, that could well be defined by an eager Congress as a breach of the public trust. Ultimately, whether or not Trump actually sees impeachment is going to hinge on how much Congress really wants it. If Republicans, who constitute a majority in both houses, want to be serious about maintaining the integrity of the American government, impeachment may be possible within the next four years — and honestly the odds are pretty good.