FELDSTED -- When political parties engage in all out war, the people they claim to serve are left in the cold
The term ‘impeachment’ as used in the US constitution refers to the process of Congress, having held hearings and examined evidence, recommending that charges against a government official, including the President, be sent to the Senate acting as a properly constituted court.
The Senate will consider the charges and evidence presented by Congress but may call more witnesses and additional evidence if it so desires. The entire Senate is the jury and eventually Senators will vote on whether President Donald Trump should be removed from office. Removal from office requires a two-thirds majority vote of Senators present.
The impeachment process is troubling in many ways. Because the process is rarely used, there are no rules in place as to how impeachment proceedings are to be conducted.
That seems unfair to anyone subjected to the impeachment process as a lack of rules precludes the protections of the principles of natural justice -- in effect in any civil or criminal proceeding -- such as full disclosure and disallowing hearsay evidence.
Impeachment at the federal level is limited to those who may have committed "treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors". There is no constitutional or legal definition of “other high crimes and misdemeanors”. Incidents of commission or omission can be considered.
“Impeached” is the equivalent of being “charged” for doing something inappropriate to the office of a public official or failing to take appropriate action. The premise is that every elected or appointed official is bound to act ethically and honestly in all matters. That is a very wide net open to broad interpretation.
Congress has voted to send two articles of impeachment for alleged Trump misdemeanors to the Senate. The Senate, acting as a court, will decide if removal from office is warranted. President Donald Trump will be on trial but so will Congress. Filing articles of impeachment without adequate evidence will not be taken lightly and can rebound on those voting in favour of impeachment.
The impeachment proceedings have consisted of almost three years of hype, hyperbole and high drama. The Senate trial, which will be presided over by the US Supreme Court Chief Justice, will be less dramatic and focused on the business at hand. When the charges have been heard, evidence reviewed and witnesses heard, the Senate will deliberate behind closed doors, vote and announce a verdict.
The Senate trial will seem pale in comparison to the impeachment process. Most people will not notice as they will be caught up in the parallel media trial as high drama sells newspapers and attracts TV viewers. The media will continue the impeachment process during the trial period because the media is as politically biased as the legislative arm of government. Neither side will take prisoners which is an affront to democracy.
The impeachment process has been sucking up all the oxygen in Congress for many months, leaving little time for legislative matters. That is not in the best interests of the American people and highlights the dangers of highly partisan politics.