To go from President Obama, who had so few scandals, to President Trump, who has so many, seems almost like we’re living in the Twilight Zone. Every day President Trump seems to be in the news for one reason or another: his National Security Adviser Michael Flynn resigning due to undisclosed ties with Russia, for his senior advisor Kellyanne Conway’s endorsement of Ivanka Trump’s clothing line, or for what can only be described as an unprecedented and bizarre hour long press conference where he berated various news outlets. And let’s not forget his insistence that he would’ve won the popular vote for his election had there not been millions of people committing voter fraud, despite no evidence to support his declaration.
While many are upset about President Trump’s presidency, the only way to remove him from office is through a process known as impeachment. Legal experts suspect that Trump’s recent dealings with China may be an impeachable offense.
What is Impeachment?
In laymen terms, impeachment is an accusation of wrongdoing committed by the sitting President. The House of Representatives can vote to impeach, or kick a President out of office, and the Senate tries the case. The text of the Constitution states:
“The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”
History of Impeachment
Two U.S. Presidents have been impeached by the House of Representatives – Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998. President Johnson was accused of violating the Tenure of Office Act. President Clinton was impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice. Both were acquitted at trials held by the Senate.
President Nixon Scandal
It may be shocking to learn that President Nixon was never impeached. He resigned before the impeachment process began but likely would have been removed from office for Obstruction of Justice and Abuse of Power.
A President can be found to obstruct justice if he makes misleading statements or withholds relevant evidence to investigative officials and makes false or misleading public statements in order to mislead the people to believe the President was not involved in any wrongdoing.
Abuse of Power can be found if a President uses his office and title to obtain something. The President has a duty to act faithfully to execute the office of the President and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution.
What about China?
Trump has been given a 10-year trademark on his name for construction from China, a trademark he had been trying to obtain as a private citizen for a decade prior to becoming the President. The timing is particularly suspect having only obtained the trademark one month after taking the oath of office and one week after a conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping where Trump endorsed the One China policy. Did Trump receive a favor from China, and will Beijing use its influence over Trump’s business to control the President?
This business deal with China may violate the Emolument Clause of the Constitution which prohibits the President from accepting a gift or anything of value from a foreign government or entity. In this way, the trademark could be considered unconstitutional and an impeachable offense, specifically an abuse of power. An investigation by the Senate could reveal any number of things. President Trump may have accepted the trademark from China in exchange for endorsing the One China policy after previously placing it in doubt. In the alternative, perhaps he endorsed the One China policy in order to obtain the trademark for his business.
Without a more formal investigation, it is impossible to determine whether Trump will be impeached for violating the Emolument Clause. However, if he withholds evidence or lies about any secret dealings with China and is found to violate the Emolument Clause, he can also be impeached for Obstruction of Justice.
At least at first blush, it certainly seems that Trump received a gift from China. We will have to wait and see whether Congress is willing to investigate, or if they continue to play partisan politics.