CNN: ‘Is the Country There Yet’ on Impeachment?

CNN wants to know if America is ready for impeachment. In the wake of Donald Trump’s botched press conference with Vladimir Putin on Monday, At This Hour anchor Kate Bolduan on Tuesday leapfrogged to wonder: “Is the country there yet?” 

Talking to impeachment attorney Ross Garber, she added: “So, let's break this down. High crimes and misdemeanors. Did the President rise to that level yesterday?” Garber calmly explained the requirements for impeachment and why Monday’s meeting doesn’t reach that level: 

 

 

The constitutional standard for impeachment is treason, bribery and other high crimes and misdemeanors. The question is, was what he did treason? Treason is actually defined in the Constitution. It's a rare offense in that way. It's actually defined. The definition refers to aiding enemies. So, he question is, is Russia our the answer is, it may be an adversary, it may be a foe, it may even be a competitor as the President said it's not an enemy. We are not at war with Russia. Technically, no, there was no treason that happened yesterday. 

Bolduan mused: “High crime and misdemeanor doesn't need to actually be a crime though?” Again, he explained: 

There's a debate about that. Most legal scholars would say, technically, it doesn't need to be a crime. As a practical matter, given all of the crimes, all of the federal crimes that exist, it's unlikely that there would be something that's so egregious, so terrible that you would overthrow an election, which is what an impeachment is, that’s not actually defined as a crime. 

A transcript is below. Click “expand” to read more: 

At This Hour
7/17/18
11:42

KATE BOLDUAN: One of President Trump’s hometown papers, The New York Daily News, putting it this way: Just look at that image. “Open treason. Trump backs enemy Putin over U.S. intel.” But is the country there yet? Joining me now, CNN legal analyst, impeachment expert, attorney Ross Garber. Great to see you, Ross. Thanks for coming in. 

ROSS GARBER (impeachment attorney): Good to see you. 

BOLDUAN: So, let's break this down. High crimes and misdemeanors. Did the President rise to that level yesterday? 

GARBER: The constitutional standard for impeachment is treason, bribery and other high crimes and misdemeanors. The question is, was what he did treason? Treason is actually defined in the Constitution. It's a rare offense in that way. It's actually defined. The definition refers to aiding enemies. So, he question is, is Russia our the answer is, it may be an adversary, it may be a foe, it may even be a competitor as the President said it's not an enemy. We are not at war with Russia. Technically, no, there was no treason that happened yesterday. 

BOLDUAN: Why is it, when it comes to this standard, if you will, when you talk about treason and high crimes and misdemeanors, why is the President's motivation key to these questions? 

GARBER: The reason why his motivation is going to be key is the standard for impeachment is treason, bribery and other high crimes and misdemeanors. And high crimes and misdemeanors is not defined in the Constitution. It’s not defined in the law, anyplace. You sort of have to look to historical context for what that means. Normally, the way that's been interpreted is some sort of egregious crime or similarly very, very serious misconduct involving the office. So what you have to look at what the President has done and what his motivations are. If what the President is doing is doing foreign policy the way he thinks it should be done, well, that's within the power of his office. If on the other hand, he is doing something for some illegal or otherwise improper motive, well, that may be another issue. So far, that hasn't been established. 

BOLDUAN: High crime and misdemeanor doesn't need to actually be a crime though? 

GARBER: You know what? There's a debate about that. Most legal scholars would say, technically, it doesn't need to be a crime. As a practical matter, given all of the crimes, all of the federal crimes that exist, it's unlikely that there would be something that's so egregious, so terrible that you would overthrow an election, which is what an impeachment is, that’s not actually defined as a crime. 

BOLDUAN: Why is there so much gray area around all of the questions? Because that is the only consistent thing I see when you talk to politicians about it or people on the street about it. When it comes to this president, any president, and this issue. 

GARBER: Yeah. In our constitutional democracy, we elect presidents and we sort of trust and let them do their jobs. The only way that comes into question is if something very, very serious is going on. You talk about impeachment. We have never removed a president from office, not once in our history. We have impeached two presidents, Clinton and Andrew Johnson. But they were acquitted in the Senate. We have never removed a president. The way the system is set up is it's based on a trust on the one hand. Then also, allowing the political arms of our government, specifically Congress, to oversee the presidency as appropriate. So right now, there is a lot of 
ambiguity. But the Mueller investigation continues. The President's allowed that to happen. Congress continues to do its investigation, particularly on the senate side. That investigation is I think we will have to see what that yields. There are certainly questions. 

BOLDUAN: Certainly questions and it would come down to a question of political will when it comes to trying to impeach a president. That comes down to the political will of Congress. We see where that is at the moment. 


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