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Tags: 2020 Elections | Donald Trump | Hillary Clinton | Trump Impeachment | Voting Rights | ballot | box

Impeachment Does Not 'Overturn' an Election


(Alejandro Fernandez/Dreamstime)

By Tuesday, 28 January 2020 02:43 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Donald Trump has consistently charged that his impeachment represents an attempt to "overturn" the results of an election. His argument may have been a useful political talking point, but it is disappointing that his lawyers have elected to employ it in their presentation to the Senate. As a legal or constitutional matter the "overturning an election" argument is outrageous, and lawyers who can use it with a straight face should probably be disbarred.

The Founders authoring the Constitution certainly didn't intend for the impeachment clause to be null and void. The Constitution provides both for electing and for impeaching presidents.

Except for presidents who inherit the office due to the death, resignation, or disability of their predecessor, all presidents gain their office through an election. Impeachment clearly doesn't apply only to presidents — like Lyndon Johnson or Gerald Ford — who were not elected to their office.

In any event, if a president is impeached and convicted, this does not "overturn" the election which placed that president in office any more than the death of that president would. That election still has important continuing consequences. Presidents and vice presidents are elected as a "package deal." Unless the vice presidency is vacant, the vice president becomes president if the incumbent president is removed.

If Mr. Trump is convicted, Mike Pence will become president, a direct consequence of the previous election.

Furthermore, the president would have made decisions with continuing consequences. Cabinet members appointed by the ousted president would remain in line for the presidency in case the next three people in the line of succession (the vice president, the speaker of the House and the president pro tem of the Senate) were not qualified to be president or refused to serve.

Executive orders issued by the president would remain in effect. Appointments to the courts would remain as a presidential legacy, for better or for worse. Ambassadors removed by the president would remain removed. Legislation signed by the president would remain on the books.

A number of federal judges (but none on the Supreme Court) have been impeached and removed from office. But like a president who has been ousted, these judges had already decided many cases the outcomes of which were not affected.

The use of the "overturning an election" argument by President Trump's lawyers weakens their case. Why waste time making a legally idiotic argument when you have good arguments? It rather suggests that you do not have better arguments.

Of course it is not just the disingenuous "overturning an election" argument that is disheartening here. We are seeing once again that in politics people often invoke principles in an unprincipled manner. It was sad to see senators swear to do impartial justice when many had already indicated how they would vote before the trial even began. First the verdict, and then the trial?

It sounded like "Alice in Wonderland."

If members of Congress cannot behave honorably, we are in continuing big trouble that will not be fixed just by ousting one president from the White House.

The Constitution states the rules for electing and removing presidents. It gives the "voice of the people" expressed at the ballot box great weight. But its provision for an Electoral College produced victory for Donald Trump, who received about three million fewer popular votes than Hillary Clinton.

Those arguing that impeachment would negate the votes of the nearly 63 million people who supported Trump should be reminded that the Electoral College system prevailed despite the nearly 66 million people who voted against him.

Trump won the election fair and square under the constitutional rules, and if he is removed it will be done fairly and squarely under the same rules.

Paul F. deLespinasse is Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Computer Science at Adrian College. He received his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 1966, and has been a National Merit Scholar, an NDEA Fellow, a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and a Fellow in Law and Political Science at the Harvard Law School. His college textbook, "Thinking About Politics: American Government in Associational Perspective," was published in 1981 and his most recent book is "Beyond Capitalism: A Classless Society With (Mostly) Free Markets." His columns have appeared in newspapers in Michigan, Oregon, and a number of other states. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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Trump won the election fair and square under the constitutional rules, and if he is removed it will be done fairly and squarely under the same rules.
ballot, box, electoral, college
Tuesday, 28 January 2020 02:43 PM
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