More than 700 historians call for Trump to be impeached as key vote looms
• ‘We … have concluded that Donald J Trump has violated his oath’
• Signatories include Ron Chernow and David Blight
Martin Pengelly in New York
@MartinPengelly December 2019 The Guardian
Personal Note: Following this first article, the second one below is another petition signed by American Law Professors seeking Impeachment against Donald Trump.
‘It is our considered judgment,’ the historians wrote, ‘that if President Trump’s misconduct does not rise to the level of impeachment, then virtually nothing does.’
More than 700 American historians have called for the impeachment and removal of Donald Trump.
“We are American historians devoted to studying our nation’s past,” began an open letter posted to Medium, “who have concluded that Donald J Trump has violated his oath to ‘faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States’ and to ‘preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States’.”
Two articles of impeachment will be voted on in the House of Representatives on Wednesday. They concern abuse of power, in Trump’s attempts to have Ukraine investigate his political rivals, and obstruction of Congress, in his refusal to allow key aides to testify in impeachment hearings.
Despite extensive evidence laid out in those House committee hearings, the president denies any wrongdoing.
The articles are expected to be approved, virtually on party lines, setting up a trial in the Senate in January which Republican senators, nominally impartial jurors, have said will be swift and run in close cooperation with the White House and will ultimately acquit the president. Democrats have cried foul.
The president’s offences … arouse once again the framers’ most profound fears
Only two presidents have been impeached: Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1999. Both survived Senate trials. Richard Nixon resigned in 1974, before he could be impeached.
Brenda Wineapple, author of The Impeachers, about the Johnson trial, signed the open letter, as did Rick Perlstein, author of Nixonland, and Sidney Blumenthal, a former Clinton aide and author of The Clinton Wars and so far three volumes of a five-volume life of Abraham Lincoln.
“President Trump’s numerous and flagrant abuses of power are precisely what the framers had in mind as grounds for impeaching and removing a president,” the historians wrote.
“Among those most hurtful to the constitution have been his attempts to coerce the country of Ukraine, under attack from Russia, an adversary power to the United States, by withholding essential military assistance in exchange for the fabrication and legitimisation of false information in order to advance his own re-election.
“President Trump’s lawless obstruction of the House of Representatives, which is rightly seeking documents and witness testimony in pursuit of its constitutionally mandated oversight role, has demonstrated brazen contempt for representative government.
“So have his attempts to justify that obstruction on the grounds that the executive enjoys absolute immunity, a fictitious doctrine that, if tolerated, would turn the president into an elected monarch above the law.”
Among other signatories who cited revolutionary authorities including George Mason and Alexander Hamilton were Ron Chernow, Pulitzer prize-winning author of biographies of Hamilton, George Washington and Ulysses S Grant; Eric Foner, the author of seminal works on slavery; David Blight, author of a Pulitzer prize-winning life of Frederick Douglass; and Erica Armstrong Dunbar, author of Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge and She Came to Slay, a new biography of Harriet Tubman.
The University of Liverpool historian Amanda Foreman, author of A World on Fire, a history of Britain and the American civil war, also signed the letter. So did Ken Burns, the documentary maker whose work on the civil war, the west, jazz, baseball, country music and Vietnam, among other subjects, has made him a pillar of US public life.
“Collectively,” the historians wrote, “the president’s offences, including his dereliction in protecting the integrity of the 2020 election from Russian disinformation and renewed interference, arouse once again the framers’ most profound fears that powerful members of government would become, in Hamilton’s words, ‘the mercenary instruments of foreign corruption’.”
The letter was co-ordinated by Project Democracy, an advocacy group which last month released a similar letter signed by more than 500 law professors.
“It is our considered judgment,” the historians wrote, “that if President Trump’s misconduct does not rise to the level of impeachment, then virtually nothing does.”
Protect Democracy Statement Supporting the Impeachment of President Trump
Project Democracy, an advocacy group which last month released a similar letter signed by more than 500 law professors.
Today, Protect Democracy issued the following statement:
The stoking of hatred and violence.
The praise for dictators.
The disinformation and lying to the American people.
The attacks on our public servants.
The political interference in the enforcement of the law and obstruction of justice.
The attacks on our First Amendment.
The subversion of our Separation of Powers.
The attempts to delegitimize elections.
The near constant violations of his oath of office.
The Founders created for us a Republic, in the words of Benjamin Franklin, “If [we] can keep it.” It rests on the principle that No One Is Above The Law. Donald Trump has sought to place himself above the law over and over again, betraying the most basic premise of our constitutional system. If we allow this to continue further, we risk failing the test the Founders set for us as self-governing citizens.
Donald Trump’s admission that he used the American presidency to pressure a foreign government to interfere in an American election is not his first impeachable offense, it is merely the latest.
But the fact that he engaged in this act mere days after Robert Mueller testified in the investigation into whether Trump and his campaign had conspired with a foreign government to interfere in the last election makes clear that Trump was not chastened by that investigation, but rather emboldened by it. The failure to hold him accountable for past breaches of his oath has made him believe that he can get away with lawlessness. That cannot be allowed to continue.
As an organization made up of liberals and conservatives committed to protecting American democracy, we have concluded that the House must begin formal impeachment proceedings. That is the remedy our Constitution provides for when a President engages in “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
But Congress must do more than that. Because Donald Trump is merely a symptom of a more dangerous phenomenon sweeping the world: the rise of autocratic strongmen who are attempting to dismantle representative democracies. The Trump era in America has exposed that our democracy has vulnerabilities, and it has laid bare many of the long-standing imperfections in our democracy that have caused people to lose faith in it.
We would fail this moment if we did not address these underlying problems as well. Protect Democracy has proposed a set of reforms designed to fix many of the vulnerabilities Trump has exposed and improve our democracy for future generations.
Congress must act on these, lest we leave ourselves vulnerable to another Trump rising in the future — a Trump 2.0 who is more competent than the current autocrat in the White House and able to more effectively dismantle our system of government.
Our Constitution calls on the Senate to try cases of impeachment. But at the end of the day, the ultimate jurors are We The People. The House should begin impeachment proceedings and use its full powers, including the power of inherent contempt, to present evidence to the American people leading to a vote on articles of impeachment. Then the American people can render an ultimate verdict.”