History agrees with Lord Acton who said, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely
America, by most standards is still the most powerful and greatest country on earth, 250 years after its birth. But greatness is not a birthright nor is it an entitlement.
It is earned on the battlefields of the collective mind of a people who desire greatness and who are willing to pay the price that greatness demands both for its acquisition as well as for its maintenance.
The President of America is arguably the most powerful person on earth, but he does not derive his superior power from the great Constitution of America. He derives it from the power and the greatness of America which he inherited and is sworn to advance, or at least maintain.
In my book, “Put Him Back… America!”, several pages are dedicated to the efforts that our Founding Fathers made to enshrine checks and balances in the Constitution, so that the extensive powers granted individually to the Executive, the Legislature and to the Judiciary branches will serve as restraints on each other’s exercise of the powers granted to them.
These checks and balances are at the heart of the Constitutional greatness of America. However, for as long as they exist only on the pages of our Constitution, their value is limited to that of the paper on which they are written.
Our Constitution is a living document that must be kept alive by the most powerful and largest branch of Government… and that branch is, “We The People”. We are the ultimate custodians of our own democracy.
We are the ones who get to have the last word… last word over the Executive… last word over the Legislature and last word over the Judiciary.
Of course this fact is little known, less understood, and when utilized, is done by a percentage of the more than 250,000,000 electors in America, may I suggest, a far too small percentage, and this is done only once every two years. The proper execution of the responsibilities of supervising our democracy requires daily attention to the actions and inactions of those who ask us to grant them the privilege of representing us.
When We the People execute our Constitutional duties, we will ultimately be in control of the power of impeachment and possibly, conviction. This is how it works. Article 1 Section 2 Clause 5 provides, inter alia, that – “The House of Representatives shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.”
Article 1 Section 3 Clause 6 provides, inter alia, that – “The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments.
Article 1 Section 3 Clause 7 provides that:” Judgment in Cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.”
Article 2 Section 4 states that: “The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”
“Put Him Back… America!” contains a detailed section that treats with the original intent of what constitutes an impeachable offence. In my conclusion I write, “It would seem to me that because of the clear legal distinction in 18th century American law between ‘high crimes’ and ‘misdemeanors’, the more appropriate construction would be ‘treason, bribery and other high crimes and [also] misdemeanors’.
The justification for including ‘misdemeanors’ was to ensure that there is as broad a net as possible to prevent any targeted official from escaping on grounds of limited inclusivity.
At the same time, the framers maintained a high enough bar for qualification to be impeached by restricting the victim of the injury to the State, or more specifically, the United States. A very clear intention was that for an impeachment to be justified, the state must be injured, and manifestly so.”
The value of impeachment, is most relevant to the Judiciary, only because Federal Judges and Supreme Court Justices are non-elected, appointed by partisan Presidents, enjoy life-time tenure and cannot be forcibly removed except by Impeachment and subsequent conviction. I will treat with this in greater detail in another video.
However the baseline is that only one Associate Supreme Court Justice has ever been impeached. That was Associate Justice Samuel Chase. He was impeached in 1804 at the instigation of President Jefferson, but was acquitted by the Senate majority of Jefferson’s own party in 1805.
No wonder this experience influenced President Jefferson’s expressed opinion in a letter to Spenser Roane in 1819: “For experience has already shown that the impeachment it [the Constitution] has provided is not even a scarecrow.” Jefferson was wrong.
Of the 15 Federal Judges and the Associate Justice to be impeached between 1797 and 2010, only 4 were found “Not Guilty” at trial. Eleven were either convicted, or resigned before trial. Of the three Presidents to be impeached, Johnson escaped conviction by a single vote, Clinton easily survived by a margin of 11 votes, and Nixon resigned before what would have been his certain conviction. Senator Blount was impeached in 1797 but was summarily expelled before his Senate Trial.
War Secretary William Belknap resigned hours before the House impeached him in March 1876, was forced to submit to trial after the Senate agreed that it retained jurisdiction over former Federal Officers, but escaped a 2/3rd majority on all five Articles of Impeachment, and so was acquitted
The complex procedure of impeachment with its checks and balances, can be effective, and is definitely a very effective scare-crow against the abuse of power . It remains the only tool in the hands of We The People for the removal of non-elected Federal Officials with life-time tenure.
Associate Justice Chase appears to have enshrined a precedent that Supreme Court Justices are beyond removal by impeachment… Think again!
I contend that we owe it to them and to ourselves to periodically remind or Supreme Court Justices that they are neither despots nor royalty, but non-elected servants of the people, into whose hands have been entrusted the solemn duty of interpreting and applying the Constitution to every case they decide, without political or personal bias. And I do just that in Put Him Back/… America.