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Ways to Remove a President from Office: Articles of Impeachment

Only a few times in U.S. history has an attempt been made to remove a president from office. It is an uncommon act for Congress to undertake due to the extraordinary burden of proof necessary to prove wrongdoing. Article 2.4 of the Constitution of the United States spells out the circumstances for the articles of impeachment to be issued as: “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

These terms are rather broad and unspecific. To clarify, legal scholar Ronald Arthur Lowry states four interpretations that lead to ways to remove a president from office.

Congressional Interpretation

Articles 1.2 and 1.3 of the Constitution grant powers to the House of Representatives and the Senate, respectively, to issues articles of impeachment. Congress has the ability to interpret the evidence and collectively decide if impeachment proceedings are necessary.

“The only honest answer is that an impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given time in history; conviction results from whatever offense or offenses two-thirds of the body considers to be sufficiently serious to require removal of the accused from office…” said Congressman Gerald Ford in 1970.

The last time this occurred was the attempted impeachment of John Tyler in 1842. He vetoed a bill and angered lawmakers who then attempted impeachment as retribution. The attempt failed.

In exploring ways to remove a president from office, this is the least common application of Article 2.4. The application of this interpretation would mean that the president is serving at the pleasure of Congress.

An Indictable Crime

The second view is based on the interpretation that Article 2.4 relates to an indictable crime that must be present. Article 3.2 section 3 confirms the idea that the Constitution views impeachment as a criminal offense and “the trial of all crimes, except in cases of impeachment, shall be by a jury.”

President Richard Nixon fell into this category and it is believed by U.S. politics expert Tom Murse that if it was not for Nixon’s resignation, he certainly would have been impeached because of indictable crimes relating to the Watergate scandal.

Misdemeanor

The third perspective is what many legal scholars deem the most applicable. The perspective is that when exploring ways to impeach, only a misdemeanor offense is necessary to initiate proceedings. The original wording of Article 2.4 was “treason, bribery, or corruption.”

Corruption was eventually removed and replaced with “high crimes and misdemeanors.” When the Constitution was ratified, the term misdemeanor had no criminal connotation. According to Lowry, that is what makes this the most popular application of Article 2.4.

Relating to the President’s Official Duties

The last interpretation states that no indictable crime needs to be present. The impeachable offense can be a “bad act or may not be a crime but it would be more serious than simple maladministration.”

A successful impeachment has never occurred in the U.S., and Murse believes the reason for this is that it is a huge political undertaking for Congress. It needs to consider both the extraordinary burden of proof and the consequences that will come as a result of removing a democratically elected president.

However, it is through the above four interpretations that Congress can identify the ways to remove a president from office.

Brian Faust

Photo: Flickr

How Many Senators Are There
How many senators are there? The United States Senate is comprised of 100 Senators, two from each state.

While it may sound simple, developing this representative structure caused a lot of debate at the Constitutional Convention where the U.S. Constitution was drafted. Though only thirteen states existed at this point in 1787, the delegates from these thirteen would form the federal government whose authority would eventually span across fifty states.

These statesmen concluded that a body of elected representatives would be the best way to form laws for a country that was broken up into smaller entities. Delegates from larger states created dissension by arguing for representation based on population. The delegates from smaller states felt cheated and refused to agree to this proposed structure, known as the Virginia Plan.

A delegate from New Jersey, a small state, responded by introducing a plan that proposed equal representation for each state. This suggestion was called the New Jersey Plan and mirrored the structure outlined in the Articles of Confederation, the document acting as a sort of temporary constitution at that time. Both sides of the debate threatened to leave the convention if their plan wasn’t used, and the situation looked grim.

It was Roger Sherman, a delegate from Connecticut, who offered the Great Compromise as a solution. His bicameral (two-bodied) system would satisfy both large and small states: he proposed a House of Representatives that would represent states proportionally by population and a Senate that would represent all states equally. Thus began the representative system seen in the U.S. today.

As each new state was added to the union over time, two more senators were added to the Senate. In 1959, the present body of 100 senators was complete, with two senators representing each of the 50 states.

Each senator serves a six-year term with the chance of reelection at the end of this period. In order to be elected as a senator, an individual must be at least 30 years old and have been a U.S. citizen for nine years. Leading this body is the Vice President, who is elected alongside the President every four years.

Senators also belong to smaller bodies within the Senate called “committees” that handle specific tasks. These committees are usually composed of 7 to 15 members, each of whom has extensive power.

Jacob Hess

Sources: FAIR.org, Senate.gov
Photo: Flickr

tunisia_womens_rights
On January 26, 2014, the national assembly of Tunisia passed a new constitution that created a full democracy in the country. The constitution was the first in the Arab world to provide full equality for men and women.

Article 20 guarantees male and female citizens equal rights and equal treatment before the law. Article 45 of the constitution requires the state to protect women against violence and guarantee equal presentation of men and women in elected institutions.

Ms. Lobna Jeribi, a member of the Ettakattol party, described the article as “a revolution in itself. It’s a big, historic step, not only for Tunisian women”.

But has this new constitution truly given women their rights? Will women be seen equal by the law after the passing of this constitution?

In September 2012, Meriem Ben Mohamed was out with her fiancé in Tunis, the capital city of Tunisia. Two policemen took turns raping her in a police car, while her fiancé was forced by a third policeman to hand over cash money.

On March 31st, the three policemen were convicted in a Tunis courtroom. The two men who raped her were given seven years in prison, while the third policeman was convicted of extortion and was given a two-year sentence.

However, Ben Mohamed’s road to justice was long and full of obstacles. When she first accused the policemen of sexual assault, the Tunisian security services charged her with “public indecency”. After public outcry, the president of Tunisia, Mocef Marzouki, gave her an official apology.

The policemen denied the charges of rape and accused Ben Mohamed of seducing them on that night. During the trial, medical evidence was presented, which demonstrated that Ben Mohamed was sexually active before the policemen raped her.

In Arab countries, sexual activity before marriage is taboo. Instead of focusing the attention upon the perpetrators, much criticism during the trial was launched towards Ben  Mohamed herself, in a standard case of victim blaming.

Ben Mohamed currently lives in France and has described her ordeal in a published book called “Guilty of Being Raped”. When she walked out of the courtroom, Ben Mohamed shouted, “when I demand justice, they insult me”.

In Tunisia, the maximum jail term for rape is 25 years. Because the policemen were only given seven years in prison, Ben Mohamed’s legal team will appeal for a longer sentence.

Ben Mohamed’s case demonstrates the fierce opposition Tunisian women face in day-to-day life. Despite the newly adopted Tunisian constitution that guarantees women protection against violence and equal rights before the law, there is still a long road before women can walk the streets of Tunis, unafraid.

– Sarah Yan

Sources: The Economist, BBC, Iol