On May 22, 2018, Laurence Tribe and Joshua Matz, authors of the book To End a Presidency, spoke at the Cambridge Public Library. My rough notes follow:
Laurence Tribe: The abuse of Presidential power is the lynchpin of an impeachable offense. There has to be an abuse of Presidential power.
When you have a President with no sense of shame and no moral compass removing him from office without a national explosion is difficult.
2016 was the first election in which both sides thought the winner should be impeached.
Trmp has been in violation of the emoluments clause since day one but that is not, in itself, an impeachable offense.
The underlying problems in American democracy will remain even if Trmp goes.
There is an overwhelming net of acts of obstruction of justice.
There appears to be kleptocracy on steroids.
As long as Mueller, Rosenstein, and the Southern District of NY investigations continue, impeachment may be counter-productive, although it’s a close call.
Joshua Matz: The aim of the book was to write something that would be relevant in a decade.
How do you build a consensus on removing a President?
What is this power, why is it there?
The violation of norms may be impeachable.
Partisan impeachment is wrong but at times might become necessary.
Under what circumstances is impeachment allowed?
VP Aaron Burr was not impeached after killing Hamilton, murder charges in NY and NJ were dropped, and he went back to Washington DC. where Burr presided, as president of the Senate, over the impeachment of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase.
Congress decides whether the President is no longer viable as the executive of a democracy, only the Congress has that power.
What is the right move for Congress in order to preserve democracy?
Requiring a supermajority in the Senate for impeachment is unusual in the Constitution and history.
Why are we talking about impeachment so widely now and since the 1990s? Impeachment has been a political constant since Clinton, a new thing.
The impeachment movement may actually empower the President.
Can impeachment help in the present political climate? It requires a level of bi-partisanship and consensus that may not now be possible.
Impeachment is not a magic wand or a doomsday device.
We need judgment, to think this through.
Laurence Tribe: if Democrats win the House in 2018 the temptation to impeach will be unstoppable but the Senate, as currently constituted, will acquit resulting in Trmp’s re-election in 2020. Censure is another option as well as indictment.