What Clinton's Impeachment Can Teach Us About Trump's Upcoming Trial


Lawmakers lawmakers will will come come back back to to Washington Washington DC DC next next week week and and the the next next phase phase of of the the impeachment impeachment process against president trump will start senators are still debating how the trial in the Senate will work and since we don't know it makes some sense to look back at the trial of president Clinton twenty one years ago here's Clinton talking just after his Senate trial I want to say again to the American people how profoundly sorry I am for what I said and did to trigger these events then the great burden they have imposed on the Congress and on the American people Clinton of course was impeached but acquitted so was president Andrew Johnson and it's likely to be the same with president trump constitutional scholar Kim Whaley wrote an essay in the Atlantic about why this matters she's in studio with us good morning good morning so you have raised such an interesting question is impeachment really attack on presidential power if a president has never been removed from office well it's really sort of a a matter of human nature if we are concerned about consequences for certain behavior then we check that behavior so in this moment it's still exists as a means of basically conveying to future presidents listen there's a red line and if you cross that red line they'll be consequences on to ensure that the president stays accountable to the people and not to him or herself you are concerned about what happens if they are not consequences in your racing another really interesting point you're saying the important thing is that Bill Clinton and Donald Trump when peach for different reasons Clinton was impeached for lying under oath perjury which is a crime and president trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress which at the moment no one is calling a crime right right so so president Clinton some of the critiques of that impeachment process war that what he did was not about abusing his office to the extent to which he sort of took advantage of a young intern that is an abuse of office but in the same way that any sort of senior person in an organization with but he was acquitted not withstanding that he was basically charged with perjury which is a crime an internal justice system for president trump we have an abuse of office but we don't have him charged in the articles of impeachment with a crime so the kind of different sides of the same coin if you cannot you you commit a crime no abuse of office your quitted you don't commit a crime at least charged with a crime and there is an abuse of office and your quitted the question becomes what's left of impeachment what what in the future is impeachable may I ask you what you think the answer to that question might be you know I eat arguably it's something like bribery treason causes are specifically listed in the constitution it's difficult to imagine even in this moment the Republican Congress convicting president trump had he then actually impeached for bribery of course obstruction Congress itself is a crime so I think going forward that's a question for Americans if because of the D. O. J. memo that you can't indict a sitting president did you just a branch is not available to base as a check on the presidency impeachments the only thing left other than an election if impeachment is basically treated as a nothing burger because nothing is impeachable then we have an office of the presidency that's really above the rule of law and then what do we do you know I'm into the constitution is he is my only guess but well amending the constitution the constitution does have an impeachment clause but a you know like anything if you don't enforce a rule if there's a ban on speeding but use but there's no consequences for speeding people were speed and we see this with the constitution we as Americans in understand if parts of what it exists are not in force we can take out our black marker and cross it out and I think impeachment in this moment is one of those questions future presidents could say at impeachment doesn't really mean anything nothing's really impeachable anymore it so political and that we have to understand means whoever's in that office regardless of party has more power and ultimately the framers understood it's human nature to abuse power if you have it one major argument against both the impeachment of president Clinton and also president trump was that it's just too partisans what people said back then they're saying it now do you think impeachment as a process is inherently flawed because it is political it in this moment it is and I don't think the process is flawed but the way it's playing out is flawed because we've got the Senate Majority Leader saying listen I'm in lockstep with the presidency we don't have Republicans in this moment in Congress committing to independent sort of measured thoughtful oversight of what's happening in the office of the presidency I'm to your prior question I think one possibility would be to create another means of checking the presidency through the criminal justice process basically passing a law that would override the DOJ internal memo saying you can't prosecute a sitting president that would probably be challenged as unconstitutional I I think in this moment the rationale for why you can't prosecute a sitting president doesn't really hold water but of course for the same reasons despite this sort of partisan Congress won't impeach this particular man I it's it's impossible to imagine that there be legislation that would come through both houses that would actually operate as a check going forward on on the presidency and with us with an account of a presidency we all are safer we every American regardless of political party needs to make sure that there are two tickets issued for speeding in the White House because that pot that office just has so much power you are a constitutional scholar and a couple seconds we have left room for optimism reason for optimism well reason for optimism if we can see you know in a in the Senate trial a thoughtful measured process that's overseen by the the Supreme Court justice the chief I think that will make it more meat meaning fall but we'll just have to see I I wish I were more optimistic to be quite honest Kim Wheatley constitutional scholar thank you

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