The political elites who continue to prattle on about how President Trump’s firing of special counsel Robert Mueller would “spark a constitutional crisis” are wrong.
Were Trump to fire Mueller—or in some way engineer the removal of the man who is leading the inquiry into Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election—that would not spark a constitutional crisis. That would be a constitutional crisis.
The response to such a crisis has been well understood, and well defined, from the founding of the American experiment. The Constitution tells us 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.”
The deliberately vague term “other high Crimes and Misdemeanors” was designed to address constitutional crises of the sort that arise when a president removes the veteran law enforcement man who is investigating allegations of wrongdoing by that president and his inner circles. It answers the questions posed by George Mason as the Constitutional Convention was deliberating on the question of presidential accountability. “No point is of more importance than that the right of impeachment should be continued,” Mason explained. “Shall any man be above Justice? Above all shall that man be above it, who can commit the most extensive injustice?”
The impeachment power was established to prevent lawless presidents from abusing the powers of their position in order to place themselves above justice. Donald Trump has been abusing the powers of his position since the day he took office. But any attempt to remove Mueller—as the president’s recent tweets suggest is a real prospect—would represent a next stage of abuse that could not be neglected or denied.
Responsible members of the House of Representatives have already filed resolutions containing articles of impeachment, and they should be taken seriously. Congressmen Al Green (D-TX) and Brad Sherman (D-CA) have proposed credible impeachment resolutions. So, too, has Congressman Steve Cohen, the ranking Democrat on the constitution subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee, who says: