PADUCAH — Allegations continue to swirl around the White House over the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump. It's further dividing the nation, to no great surprise, along political lines. The latest USA Today/IPSOS poll shows 74% of Democrats support impeachment while only 17% of Republicans do.
As the inquiry intensifies, it's important to reflect on this rare and often fraught process. Impeachment can be a subject of debate in and of itself. In our country's history, it's been threatened far more than it's ever been carried out. The way the impeachment process is designed is an American Truth.
In 1776, our founding fathers declared independence from British rule. Thirteen American colonies made history on July 4 that year. The Declaration of Independence is the most important document in the history of the United States.
By 1787, a document that's arguably just as important was written — the U.S. Constitution. It established America's national government and fundamental laws, and it includes the framework to remove federal officers.
Article II Section 4 reads: "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."
"It's for every generation, every Congress to decide what is a high crime, what is a misdemeanor, what is worth undoing an election and removing a president from office," Presidential historian and author Jon Meacham said.
Meacham said the founders feared that the president's office held powers that could be abused.
"That they were particularly concerned about foreign influence in our domestic politics in our search for a more perfect union, there's an explicit provision in the Constitution that you can't accept a foreign title of nobility. There's this sense that we know how the 240 years have gone. We've been an independent country. We've fought off threats and endured. The (Founding Fathers) had no idea whether we would last," Meacham said.
So, what's the process? First, a House committee decides whether to recommend impeachment. Then, the full House votes. Finally, the Senate holds a trial with the U.S. Supreme Court chief justice presiding. A two-thirds vote is required to remove the president from office.
In 1868, the House impeached Abraham Lincoln's successor Andrew Johnson over political conflict and fallout in the aftermath of the American Civil War. The Senate did not convict him.
More than 100 years later, President Richard Nixon faced impeachment over the Watergate scandal. As impeachment loomed, Republican senators went to Nixon to tell him he should resign, which he ultimately did before being impeached.
Skip ahead to the late 1990s, and President Bill Clinton's scandal involving Monica Lewinsky divided the nation and was nearly Clinton's downfall. The House impeached Clinton, but the Senate acquitted him.
In 2019, there's a new inquiry surrounding President Trump sparked after his phone call with the president of Ukraine. It's happening in a political climate unique in our nation's history.
"I do hope there are Republicans that will make this argument: Let's let the facts speak. Let's see what the facts say. Let's see what this memorandum of conversation says. Let's see what the whistleblower report says and then make a rational decision. You can do nothing more true to the founding principles of this country than to make a rational decision about a passionate and divisive topic," Meacham said.
Elected lawmakers are asked to now not think about the next election, but rather the health of the Constitution. It's an American Truth that's perhaps easier said than done.