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The framers never intended for impeachment to be a political weapon, former federal judge tells Levin

The framers never intended for impeachment to be a political weapon, former federal judge tells Levin

On Sunday night's episode of Life, Liberty & Levin on Fox News, LevinTV host Mark Levin was joined by constitutional expert and former federal Judge Michael McConnell to discuss how the framers constitution really intended for impeachment to work.

During the discussion, McConnell — who is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and director of Stanford University's constitutional law program — explained that impeachment is far more than just a political issue, or at least that's what the framers intended for it to be.

"The phrase 'high crimes and misdemeanors' was specifically chosen to be a very high bar" for impeachment, McConnell explained. "And the reason for that is that our framers wanted the president to be independent of Congress. One of the main functions of the president was to be a check, one of the checks and balances against Congress, which they thought — you know, perhaps inaccurately — was going to be by far the most powerful and most dangerous branch of government."

"So they did not want Congress to be able to toss the president out on the basis of any low standard at all," McConnell continued, so they deliberately chose the phrase 'high crimes and misdemeanors,' which had a history in the common law, because it referred to misdeeds of a public nature of a very serious sort amounting to abuse of power."

Some proponents of impeaching President Trump have made the case that such proceedings are more about politics than they are about law, like a Vox op-ed from 2017 on the subject, which referred to previous presidential impeachments as "trivial acts of political vengeance."

Earlier this year, House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., publicly said that impeachment was a "political act" and rested upon the "will of the American people" while explaining the supposed justification for impeachment proceedings against the president.

In contrast to these ideas, Levin asked the constitutional scholar about how this view played out during the Constitutional convention, specifically bringing up a dispute between James Madison and George Mason over whether or not impeachment should happen over charges of "maladministration" — i.e., doing a bad job.

"George Mason proposed that the president be impeachable for 'maladministration' and Madison objected to that, saying that that would effectively make him serve at the pleasure of the Senate — meaning that they could get rid of him whenever they wanted to and that would destroy his independence," McConnell explained. "It's pretty clear that Madison, at least, believed that the president needed to be insulated from impeachment for anything that isn't really truly a high crime or misdemeanor."

The two also went on to discuss House Democrats' recent efforts to impeach President Trump and subpoena his tax records and members of his administration.


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