Trump's actions may require his own party to take drastic action — including creating a means to remove him from power without using impeachment.
It’s an idea that President Donald Trump came up with himself years ago — that the chief executive, if he or she is deemed grossly “incompetent,” should be impeached for being unable to carry out the duties of the president.
Are you allowed to impeach a president for gross incompetence?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 4, 2014
President Trump has certainly proven himself as incompetent to serve in this past week, let alone the first eight months of his term in office. He’s divulged secrets to the Russians, violating the trust of our allies. His uncontrollable rage on social media has cost him court cases. His rhetoric has heated up the possibility of nuclear war.
And in the past 12 hours, he’s defended the white supremacists, Nazis and racists that gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia, who wreaked havoc and caused harm to dozens of counter-protesters, including one death caused by an intentional collision into a crowd through use of a motor vehicle driven by a white nationalist.
Gwen Moore, a Democratic member of the House of Representatives from Milwaukee (who coincidentally represents the district I once lived in), spoke today on her wish to impeach the president.
“I really think it’s really time for us to sort of forgive ourselves and really just admit that we made a mistake in electing this president, that Republicans being in the majority have got to take some responsibility for making whatever legal efforts there are to remove this man from office,” she told Milwaukee’s WISN on Tuesday.
There’s a problem, however: Moore doesn’t mention any crime that the president may have committed. And while investigations into his involvement with Russia during his presidential campaign are still ongoing (including the possibility of obstructing justice), no formal charge has yet been raised against the president.
The U.S. Constitution states that the president can only be impeached for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” So while we may want to impeach the president for being a loud-mouthed embarrassment to the office he holds, that alone cannot force him from office. The American people cannot be given a “mulligan” when it comes to who they elect.
But what if they could? What if the American people could be given the chance to see a president removed from office before his term expired, not for any criminal misdeeds, but for being a lousy president?
A system to recall the president, by allowing the nation to vote on whether he should stay in power or someone else should take his place, may be necessary. The idea isn’t wholly original: in February this year, the New Yorker detailed how Sen. Robert Hendrickson, a New Jersey Republican who served more than six decades ago, offered up the idea of a Constitutional amendment that would, if two-thirds of the state legislatures across the nation asked for it, allow a presidential election to come early.
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If the idea seems absurd, it shouldn’t. Elections needn’t be held at regular intervals, and indeed they’re not elsewhere in the world (the “snap” election in the UK, for example, came years ahead of when the next scheduled ballot should have commenced). And presidential recalls wouldn’t become commonplace under this model — the idea that a two-thirds majority of state legislatures agreeing upon the idea grants tremendous legitimacy to the notion that a new election would be warranted, given how difficult it would be to garner the necessary votes to produce such an outcome.
Still, the idea would require a Constitutional Amendment of its own, a path that would be nearly impossible to take given the current makeup of state legislatures across the country. Most are currently held in the hands of the same political party as the president, and Republicans wouldn’t want to risk getting political egg on their faces unless they were absolutely forced to do so.
But the trajectory of this president may force their hands. If Trump continues to sink his own presidency even lower than it’s already gone, and if he threatens to bring down his party with him, it may behoove the GOP to consider all options for removing their own president — it may become more embarrassing for them not to act.
Should that happens, and if they cannot rightfully impeach Trump, they may want to revisit the idea of installing a means for allowing the people to recall the president.