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Special Prosecutor Holds Key For How A Trump Impeachment Might Unfold

Special Prosecutor Holds Key For How A Trump Impeachment Might Unfold

President Donald Trump might have drawn headlines away from his domestic troubles with his first state trip abroad, but ongoing investigations into his team’s Russian ties and financial dealings aren’t going away.

Which means the steady murmurs of impeachment will likely remain when he returns to Washington. Statistical analyst Nate Silver noted in his FiveThirtyEight blog that there are two ways Trump can be removed from office:

    1. Congress invokes the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which would make Vice President Mike Pence the acting president if Trump were “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” Trump could be replaced if Pence and a majority of his Cabinet agreed he was unfit, but it requires a two-thirds majority in both Congressional chambers should Trump resist.
    2. He’s impeached by the House and then convicted by the Senate. Former Presidents Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson were impeached, but the Senate in each case failed to muster the two-thirds necessary to convict and remove the men.

But Silver noted only President Richard Nixon lost so much support and likely would have been impeached had he not resigned, meaning Trump only has to reach a Nixonian standard of impeachability. Silver wrote, “The empirical evidence wouldn’t be comforting for Trump.”

Obstruction Of Justice?

On May 15, U.S. Rep. Al Green (D–Texas) held a press conference calling for Trump’s impeachment over the Russia dealings (former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former campaign director Paul Manafort, among others, all have had Kremlin dealings).

Former FBI Director James B. Comey, who was leading the Russian investigation, was fired after Trump purportedly told him to back off on the investigation, which the White House denies.

Complicating matters for Trump are allegations that he bragged one day later about sacking “nut job” Comey to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and then spilled information about a highly classified espionage operation that may have compromised an intelligence asset and the relationship with an American ally country.

There also remain questions about Trump’s undisclosed tax returns and whether he received any money from Russia himself.

The Justice Department appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as a special counsel overseeing the Russian-Trump investigation, and sources told CNN that Mueller already has met with Comey to discuss the latter’s detailed memos of conversations with Trump, including one in which the president urged Comey to drop the Flynn probe.

One of the sources told the news network that part of Mueller's investigation is expected to focus on obstruction of justice. In that case, Comey would be a witness and Mueller will likely interview him as part of the probe.

The Impeachment Process

Mueller is essentially filling the role of Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, who was forced out by Nixon as the trail into the Watergate coverup grew hotter. Cox’s work was continued by Leon Jaworski, and the revelations from Oval Office tape recordings — and a recommendation for impeachment by the House Judiciary Committee — eventually forced Nixon to resign.

So, whether an impeachment takes place depends on the magnitude of whatever Mueller produces. Lawmakers on committees investigating Trump have said they will let Mueller’s investigation take priority.

The House has to be sufficiently rattled by whatever Mueller finds to vote for impeachment, which the Constitution simply lays out with this clause:

“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.”

Related Links:

Specter of Trump Impeachment Resurfaces

The ‘Trump Dump’ Might Already Be Priced Into Market

Image Credit: By Elvert Barnes from Baltimore, Maryland, USA - IMG_0965a, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons


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