H.Res.646 — Impeaching Donald John Trump, President of the United States, of high misdemeanors
On December 6, 2017, Rep. Al Green introduced articles of impeachment against President Trump. Green introduced the resolution as a privileged motion and it was voted on the same day. As expected the resolution did not move forward, losing by 364–58 with all Republicans and most Democrats voting against it.
High crimes or misdemeanors
Green’s resolution, H.Res. 646: Impeaching Donald John Trump, President of the United States, of high misdemeanors, is not the first impeachment resolution against the President introduced this session. In July, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA30) introduced H.Res. 438 and in November, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN9) introduced H.Res. 621. However, both Sherman and Cohen focused on the crimes side of “high crimes and misdemeanors” and argued for impeachment based on what they believed to be the President’s obstruction of justice with respect to investigations relating to the Russian’s government’s role in the 2016 election and subsequent administration actions.
Green, on the other hand, focused on the misdemeanors side arguing that the President’s apparent support of white supremacy in a variety of policies, press conferences and via Twitter causes harm to the United States. In a letter to colleagues, he argued that the framers of the Constitution intended to provide Congress with a method for removing any President who does so. Green’s resolution, had it passed, would have impeached the President for being, in Green’s words, openly and explicitly racist.
The resolution accuses the President of
- bringing “disrepute, contempt, ridicule and disgrace on the Presidency”
- “associating … the presidency with causes rooted in white supremacy, bigotry, racism, anti-Semitism, white nationalism”
- “inciting hate and hostility … on the basis of race, national origin, religion, gender, and sexual orientation”
What supporters say
Representative Al Green (D-TX9), sponsor of articles of impeachment against President Trump
The articles of impeachment make two primary points: the first is that President Trump’s bigotry causes greater and less easily eradicated harm than obstruction of justice because while crimes have specific punishments, poisoning public discourse and sowing discord do not. The second is that impeachment does not require a crime. He notes that article 10 of Andrew Johnson’s articles of impeachment reads:
“Which said utterances, declarations, threats and harangues, highly censurable in any, are peculiarly indecent and unbecoming in the Chief Magistrate of the United States, by means whereof the said Andrew Johnson has brought the high office of the President of the United States into contempt, ridicule and disgrace, to the great scandal of all good citizens, whereby said Andrew Johnson, President of the United States, did commit, and was then and there guilty of a high misdemeanor in office.”
If Andrew Johnson could be impeached for his public behavior when it disgraced the office of the Presidency, then Green believes President Trump can and should be as well.
What opponents say
Both the Democratic leadership and the White House opposed these articles of impeachment. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA12), the House Minority Leader, said that impeachment should not move forward until or unless there is evidence of crimes. The White House, as one might expect, does not believe that President Trump is a bigot or that he has disgraced the office. Raj Shah, a White House spokesperson, told Politico “It’s disappointing that extremists in Congress still refuse to accept the President’s decisive victory in last year’s election…Their time would be better spent focusing on tax relief for American families and businesses, and working to fund our troops and veterans through the holiday season rather than threaten a government shutdown.”
The vote against the resolution was decisive, losing by 364–58. Neither of the other resolutions of impeachment introduced this session have gone anywhere either — nor are they expected to.
Articles of impeachment against the President and related sorts of resolutions aren’t uncommon. President Obama faced at least one resolution of condemnation and President Bush a resolution of impeachment. Neither of those resolutions went anywhere either. The previous president, President Clinton, was impeached (but not subsequently convicted by the Senate).
Another open question is the definition of what constitutes an impeachable offense. In 2014 and 2015, bills were introduced to define impeachable offenses. Both sponsors were Republicans, but while the 2015 resolution seemed to be tailored to President Obama, the 2014 resolution was tailored to whoever won the 2016 election and appeared to be addressing at least as many actions of the Bush Administration as the Obama Administration. These too never went to committee or received votes.