Are These Articles of Impeachment Constitutional?

Featuring Cato Institute

You don’t have to commit a crime to be impeached.

The two articles of impeachment brought against the president focus on misuse of official power and violations of the public trust.

Article I charges President Trump with “Abuse of Power,” for misusing the powers of his office “for corrupt purposes in pursuit of personal political benefit.”

It accuses him of conditioning a state visit and delivery of military aid on the Ukrainians announcing an investigation of his 2020 rival Joe Biden.

Article II charges President Trump with “Obstruction of Congress” based on his “indiscriminate defiance” of lawfully issued congressional subpoenas in the impeachment inquiry.


Federal officers have been impeached for offenses ranging from corruption, to neglect of duty, to degrading public confidence in their fitness to wield power.

In our 232‐​year constitutional history, fewer than 1/3 of the impeachments approved by the House have invoked a criminal statute or involved a crime.

Criminal law is designed to punish and deter.

Impeachment aims at removing federal officers unfit for continued service.


Both articles have close precedent in the articles of impeachment / that drove Richard Nixon from office in 1974.

But impeachment is part law and part politics.

Legal analysis can’t tell you whether removal is prudent, necessary, or a good idea.

As the Federalist Papers warn, there is always “the greatest danger” that the decision to impeach will come down to the comparative strength of parties, instead of real demonstrations of innocence or guilt.

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