KU Law Professor Explains House Democrats Rationale Behind Impeachment Articles

Now that the House Judiciary Committee is preparing to vote on the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, it’s probably best to define the terms of the articles themselves. The first article is abuse of power.

“The House of Representatives majority is claiming that this abuse of power is a other high crime or misdemeanor,” said University of Kansas Law professor Lou Mulligan. “The idea that abuse of power would constitute grounds for impeachment is an old one. It dates back, at least in our Constitutional history, to Alexander Hamilton’s in the Federalist Papers, in particular Federalist Paper 66.”

The ultimate question to be resolved from that article is, were the President’s actions with regard to Ukraine an abuse of his power as the executive, or simply a use of his power that does not reach the level of an offense for which he should be removed from office?

The second article accuses the President of obstructing the Congressional investigation into his potential abuse of power.

“Congress is saying, we were engaged in an investigation, the Constitution gives the House of Representatives the sole power of impeachment,” said Mulligan. “Their position there is, because the House has the sole power of impeachment, it has to have the tools to do it. The key tool is the subpoena power, which requires people to show up and answer questions as well as perhaps produce documents and that the President instructed his lieutenants not to comply with subpoenas. The argument is that is a violation of Constitutional norms.”

It is once again important to note that impeachment is not equivalent to removal.

“Impeachment is just like an indictment, bringing charges, it’s the beginning of the process,” said Mulligan. “To remove a President or any other officer from his or her office requires trial and conviction in the Senate and the Senate, then, is the sole trier. In the Senate, that conviction must be met by two-thirds, whereas, in the House of Representatives, a mere majority will get you to impeachment.”

Right now, there are 233 Democrats in the House. They would need 218 for a majority.