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GOP’s House Judiciary Chairman Clueless on Impeachment

July 14th, 2014 - 10:40 am

The Beltway fixture that Republicans have placed in charge of the House Judiciary Committee—i.e., the committee that, by its own description, functions as “the lawyer for the House of Representatives,” and claims an “infrequent but important role in impeachment proceedings”—is ignorant when it comes to the Constitution’s impeachment standard.

Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R., Va.) took to one of the Sunday shows to demonstrate his cluelessness. After explaining that “the Constitution is very clear as to what constitutes grounds for impeachment of the president of the United States,” he proceeded to mangle that very clear standard, opining that President Obama “has not committed the kind of criminal acts that call for that.”

In point of fact, no “criminal acts” are necessary before a president may be impeached. The very clear standard the Constitution prescribes calls for impeachment upon the commission of treason, bribery, or high crimes and misdemeanors. Treason and bribery are, of course, well known criminal acts. As I illustrate in Faithless Execution, “high crimes and misdemeanors” is a term of art borrowed from British law. It does not refer—at least, not necessarily—to criminal acts that violate the penal code. Instead, it captures what Hamilton, in Federalist No. 65, described as:

the misconduct of public men, or in other words from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated political, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.

The concept conveyed by “high crimes and misdemeanors” is executive maladministration, whether out of imperiousness, corruption or incompetence. In that sense, it is more redolent of military justice offenses than criminal acts that violate the penal code. Like a soldier, one who owes fiduciary responsibility is liable for acts that would not be considered criminal wrongs if committed by an ordinary civilian. Dereliction of duty, conduct unbecoming, profound deceitfulness, and the failure to honor an oath, to take a few obvious examples, would qualify as high crimes and misdemeanors even if they might not be indictable offenses if committed by one in whom high public trust was not reposed.

Top Rated Comments   
Of First importance is for the Republicans to take the Senate in November and not do anything stupid
Before then. Any talk of impeachment before then can only rally the Left and probably
Alienate many of the undecided voters. Everything Obama's doing and saying
Now, particularly his clever. & outrageous handling of the southern border
Crisis is calculated to provoke an over-reaction on the right. The Republicans need to be
Very cool right now. If they take the Senate all things may be possible but if they
Lose it.....turn out the lights, America!
5 weeks ago
5 weeks ago Link To Comment
What is so hard to understand about needing 2/3 of the Senate to convict? The Republicans could never get that in a wet dream. Proceeding with impeachment would tear the country apart, and insure nothing else was talked about except racist Republicans trying to commit a coup againt the American people, instead of Obama's lawbreaking and incompetence, which is all the media has to cover now.
5 weeks ago
5 weeks ago Link To Comment
The Palooka Party has put someone in charge whose job is to throw the fight.

Is anyone---anyone at all---surprised?
5 weeks ago
5 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (53)
All Comments   (53)
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Replacing RINOs is the most important issue in politics for people that care about the country. Look at it this way, if you had an arsonist running around your town setting fires it would be important to put out his fires. However, if your Fire Chief, his Captains and many of the Lieutenants were sympathetic to arson and they didn't bother keeping the fire trucks and firefighting equipment in good order, the first priority would be replacing the inoperative Fire Dept so you could fight the arsonist.

We have played this sucker's game for years of overlooking the failings of the RINOs, electing them, and then pretending the people that we just elected with their obvious faults will then do the right thing. NO. THEY. WON'T.

If you elect a RINO, against all the warnings, you have no right to act frustrated and confused when they do what they always do, make peace with the commie-libs and advance the commie-lib agenda.
5 weeks ago
5 weeks ago Link To Comment
Goodlatte is an establishment tool.
The truth is that there aren't two parties in Washington, D.C. There are one and a half: the statists, and half a party's worth of Constitutionalists.
5 weeks ago
5 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well, one can applaud the earnest sincerity and all that, but here on earth this article comes across as deeply crappy.

Our future will not be determined by lawyers dedicated to special pleading. Article 2.4 actually speaks of 'conviction' not, as the author misleadingly implies, 'commission'.

Yes, there are a myriad possible interpretations, BUT... Put politely, to root around in the footnotes of Federalist papers and mouldy case law in search of a dangling modifier to rehang, or an infinitive to split, or an obsolete comma to expunge, or a conjunction to be read disjunctively not conjunctively (gasp!) is ...well, pathetic. In the real world it all adds up to distinctions without a difference, a colossal waste of time and money. The effect is to preserve the status quo, propping up a decaying society whose defenders dance on pinheads.

The rule of law established by the Founders is now effectively dead, corrupted by unaccountable judges and the rule of lawyers and legalisms. Today's legal profession bellies up to the trough like the rest of the usual suspects, an integral part of our perverse crony culture -- same problem, same smell.

Writers as different as Mark Steyn and Niall Ferguson outsell Andrew C McCarthy by orders of magnitude, for good reason: reality won't go away. The lawyers have done enough damage. Time for direct action, by the people.

BTW, what's wrong with a motion of no confidence, analogous to a 'sense of the Senate' vote? We all know ours is not a parliamentary system (blahblahblah), but so what? Just think of the headline value, and that's just for starters....
5 weeks ago
5 weeks ago Link To Comment
Pointing out ruling class quislings by calling them on their disingenuous performances serves a useful purpose. Outselling? A motion? Headline value? LOL "In the real world it all adds up to distinctions without a difference, a colossal waste of time and money."
5 weeks ago
5 weeks ago Link To Comment
calling them on their disingenuous performances serves a useful purpose.
...which is what, exactly, aside from a chance for you to pose?
If you're not willing to do anything -- and you're not -- then why not go for a headline that will at least attract attention. You're smug, inert and busted and you don't like it. Oh well.
4 weeks ago
4 weeks ago Link To Comment
Win the senate, pass some simple perfectly clear laws that solve some real problems, watch the criminal refuse to enforce them, THEN impeach him.
5 weeks ago
5 weeks ago Link To Comment
LOL The Senate! More and clearer laws!
5 weeks ago
5 weeks ago Link To Comment
Exactly right, Andrew. Of course those of us of a certain age remember going over most of this back in the Clintoon days. And like then history repeats itself: Clintoon should have been impeached and convicted and removed from office for filegate and travelgate, which were each more than sufficient. We need never have heard Monica's name.

And now Obama has already commited half a dozen acts any one of which is more than sufficient for impeachment, conviction, and removal. The IRS scandal, the failure to fess up, the failure of the FBI to investigate and prosecute, are *each* sufficient. The current border situation is more than sufficient *politically* even if, strictly speaking, the law requires some of it - or all of it! One could make a laundry list of other items, including Obamacare waivers, which are as near as daylight corruption as one could ask for. Failure to act on Benghazi is very nearly sufficient. But the laundry list is distracting politically, it should not be presented in any trial.

And what prevents? You know the answer, we all do: Harry Reid.

Which reminds me: the simple failure to submit and pass a budget as required by law, should be sufficient to remove a president as incompetent or traitorous.

--

ps - we have a guy in Congress named Goodlatte? are you sure he was elected, rather than ordered by a majority at Starbucks? OMG.
5 weeks ago
5 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well, with comprehension like yours - i.e., stating that the President should have been impeached and convicted base upon the alleged crimes of the First Lady - we can see that the fans of Andy McCarthy are all on solid Constitutional grounds here.

Sheesh!
5 weeks ago
5 weeks ago Link To Comment
The first lady has no legal standing at all, friend. Whatever abuse of power that occurred is all Bubba's responsibility. Frankly I don't give a rat's end which of the Clintoons was responsible, and have huge trouble believing that both did not know about it, at least.

However you raise additional interesting issues, what IF it's the first lady who is guilty of government malfeasance? Actually let me turn that around, what IF a sitting president abuses government for the benefit of his wife, as Bubba did to get Hildabeast elected to the Senate? I would suggest that further statutory and even constitutional laws might be appropriate, although I'll bet there are long existing federal laws that already forbid it.
5 weeks ago
5 weeks ago Link To Comment
Welll said Mr. McCarthy.
5 weeks ago
5 weeks ago Link To Comment
Lerner should be incarcerated.
Holder should be impeached.
Not need to go after the big fish, if you can't get the employees that do his dirty work.
5 weeks ago
5 weeks ago Link To Comment
The only useful actions are to win elections, and file the House's lawsuit against Presidential lawmaking. Everything else is just political self-abuse.
5 weeks ago
5 weeks ago Link To Comment
Really?
Have you looked at the sort of candidates we're getting from the GOP-E?
5 weeks ago
5 weeks ago Link To Comment
Everything? Come on. Holding someone, somewhere truly accountable for something would be a watershed that could quite conceivably build to a tsunami. The people are dying for it.
5 weeks ago
5 weeks ago Link To Comment
And here we thought the many shovel-ready slush funds went mostly to Democrat cronies. Must've been some left over.
5 weeks ago
5 weeks ago Link To Comment
>>>>Our Washington ruling class does not see itself as bound by our quaint Constitution.<<<<

To be fair, then the subject class is no longer bound, therefore, to obedience to the ruling class. Let the games begin.

Subotai Bahadur
5 weeks ago
5 weeks ago Link To Comment
When were Americans ever so bound?
5 weeks ago
5 weeks ago Link To Comment
"...(Goodlatte) proceeded to mangle that very clear standard, opining that President Obama “has not committed the kind of criminal acts that call for that.”

It's true, what you say. The Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee hasn't a clue as to the meaning of high crimes and misdemeanors.

"[George] Mason elaborated that “attempts to subvert the Constitution” would be chief among the “many great and dangerous offences” beyond treason and bribery for which removal of the president would be warranted."

The Constitution...you mean that document Obama referenced (before he clammed up) as a "charter of negative liberties" ?

"The one common denominator in all these accusations was that the official had somehow abused the power of his office and was unfit to serve."

Not even a smidgen of doubt about that one and this president.

"(Goodlatte) is not saying, “Look, we don’t have the political support necessary to proceed with impeachment”; he is saying rampant presidential lawlessness does not constitute a legal basis for impeachment.

Awash in ignorance wusses, these United States.
5 weeks ago
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