IMPEACHMENT : THE HISTORY

Bron Latimer

^ Possibly a bronze of William, 4th Baron Latimer, impeached by the “Good Parliament” in 1376 — the earliest known impeachment process in our inherited political practices and precedents

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Quite soon now, the President will be impeached, and a trial of the articles of that impeachment will take place in the Senate, with Chief Justice Roberts presiding.

In this column I will talk about impeachment’s steps, but first, a little history : what is impeachment, and how did it get into our political system ?

The verb “impeach” comes to us from French, in which language the verb “empecher” (pronounced omm-pesh-ay)  means ” to prevent.” Thus the objective of impeachment is to prevent the impeached person from continuing in the office he or she occupies.

Our legal and political arrangements are taken directly from British law and government as these were arranged in the 1770-1780s. Impeachment is much older than that, however. To quote wikipedia :

Parliament has held the power of impeachment since medieval times. Originally, the House of Lords held that impeachment could apply only to members of the peerage, as the nobility (the Lords) would try their own peers, while commoners ought to try their peers (other commoners) in a jury. However, in 1681, the Commons declared that they had the right to impeach anyone, and the Lords have respected this resolution. Offices held “during good behaviour” are terminable by the writ of either quo warranto[2] or scire facias, which has even been employed by and against well-placed judges.[3]

After the reign of Edward IV, impeachment fell into disuse, the bill of attainder becoming the preferred form of dealing with undesirable subjects of the Crown. However, during the reign of James I and thereafter, impeachments became more popular, as they did not require the assent of the Crown, while bills of attainder did, thus allowing parliament to resist royal attempts to dominate parliament.

Bills of attainder are expressly forbidden in our Constitution. Impeachment is that document’s instrument of sanction against “high crimes and Misdemeanors” it accuses executive officers and judges of committing. (Congress members cannot be impeached. The process for disciplining them — censure or expulsion — is set by House and Senate rules.) It might be interesting to compare our modern impeachment process with that of the first recorded impeachment : When Parliament was called in April 1376, known as the Good Parliament and led by Peter de la Mare, the members wanted to remove corrupt advisers from court. Latimer, Neville, London merchant Richard Lyons and Alice Perrers were accused, and the charges against Latimer were that he had been guilty of oppression in Brittany; had sold the castle of Saint-Sauveur to the enemy, and impeded the relief of Bécherel in 1375; that he had taken bribes for the release of captured ships, and retained fines paid to the king, notably by Sir Robert Knolles, and the city of Bristol; and finally, that in association with Robert Lyons he had obtained money from the crown by the repayment of fictitious loans. Seconded by William of Wykeham, de la Mare sought to have Latimer immediately convicted, with the Commons acting on behalf of the king. They were unsuccessful and a trial took place.[4] The charges were proven and he was removed from his positions in the royal household and on the council, fined and imprisoned.

The record does not tell us stuff we might really like to know : ( 1 ) who devised the procedure by which this action was carried out ? Who gave this action the name “impeachment,” and why ? How come the King allowed it to proceed — at a stage in British history when Kings held almost all power, other than that of taxation and such accords as were guaranteed to peers in Magna Carta ? In any case, a much later action by parliament, the trial of Charles I, in 1649, provides our own impeachment with a direct antecedent.  This was a treason trial — treason is one of two specific crimes cited in the Constitution’s impeachment clause — judged by a Court set up ad hoc by act of Parliament : Charles was accused of treason against England by using his power to pursue his personal interest rather than the good of England.[8] The charge against Charles I stated that the king, “for accomplishment of such his designs, and for the protecting of himself and his adherents in his and their wicked practices, to the same ends hath traitorously and maliciously levied war against the present Parliament, and the people therein represented”, that the “wicked designs, wars, and evil practices of him, the said Charles Stuart, have been, and are carried on for the advancement and upholding of a personal interest of will, power, and pretended prerogative to himself and his family, against the public interest, common right, liberty, justice, and peace of the people of this nation”.[8] The indictment held him “guilty of all the treasons, murders, rapines, burnings, spoils, desolations, damages and mischiefs to this nation, acted and committed in the said wars, or occasioned thereby”.[8]

Although the House of Lords refused to pass the bill and the Royal Assent naturally was lacking, the Rump Parliament referred to the ordinance as an “Act” and pressed on with the trial anyway. The intention to place the King on trial was re-affirmed on 6 January by a vote of 29 to 26 with An Act of the Commons Assembled in Parliament.

Our own impeachment follows the same design. The House — equivalent to Britain’s Commons — files the impeachment accusations, and the Senate — our House of Lords — tries them. British impeachments were tried before a bench of royal justices; ours are heard by only the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court — a presidential appointment (equivalent to Royal nomination), but very likely not appointed by the president being impeached (if the trial is of a president; any Federal executive officer or Federal judge can be impeached, and some are convicted.) And now to the enabling language of our impeachments :

first, the Text of  Article 1, Section 2, clause 5 : The House of Representatives… shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.

second, language from Article 1, Section 3, clauses 6 and 7 : The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two-thirds of the Members present.

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.

third, the text of Article 2, Section 4: 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.

As impeachment is brought solely by elected politicians, and the articles judged by elected persons, impeachment in the Constitution is a political act only. It is NOT a legal trial. To what extent the basic legal rules apply, of due process and of evidence, is not prescribed. The House in  the current case has chosen to act like a grand jury, taking testimony in secret, for good and sufficient reasons given by Chairs of the Congressional Committees conducting the inquiry. Articles on impeachment, when finally presented, will read very like a bill of indictment, and such they are: but NOT a legal indictment, only a political one, as the sole punishment, if there’s a conviction, is removal from office and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor.

Note also this language from Article 2, Section 2 : [The President] … shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.

If President Trump is convicted in the impeachment trial, he cannot pardon himself.  If any of his triable officers are impeached and convicted, before he is convicted, he cannot pardon them. If Mike Pence becomes President upon a conviction of Mr. Trump, he cannot remove the impeachment by pardon either.

I would not bet against a conviction in the Senate. By his utter betrayal of the Kurds, and the weak and surrendering follow-up that has now taken place, Mr. Trump has alienated all but his stubbornest defenders. His incompetence has been shown, and his personal priorities. The articles of impeachment could be very,m very many, if the House is of a mind to tally them all up. The only questions remaining are these : what exactly is meant by “an office of honor” that a convicted Mr. Trump cannot again hold ? Judgeships, certainly, and any office requiring taking an oath. Perhaps that’s it.

Impeachment is coming, and, in my opinion, more than deserved. Conviction is not at all out of the question — again, in my opinion, warmly deserved. Of course my opinion is hardly the governing one. 20 Republican Senators hold Mr. Trump’s fate in their hands. We will see soon enough ho wit all turns out.

Until then, read up on your Constitution and about the history of impeachment in our common law and what it inherits from Great Britain.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

JOE KENNEDY III IS WAGING A US SENATE CAMPAIGN FROM THE LEFT. WHY ?

Kennedy

^ Joe Kennedy III goes to East Boston, where his ancestor first landed in Americva, to announce his Senate candidacy

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Almost certainly Joe Kennedy III, currently the 8th District’s Congress,an, will win his primary fight against Senator Ed Markey. Polls show him way ahead — show Markey shockingly unknown among Democratic primary likelies –and they could easily favor him more and more. Yet Kennedy is running a campaign — from the Left — quite foreign to who he actually is. Why is he doing this ? The hard-core left isn’t going to support him; many are hitting him with the dreaded “entitled” epithet — and to be fair, he is, as a Kennedy, most definitely entitled in the eyes of most of our voters — and are flocking to the side of the ancient-looking, career politician Ed Markey, the very embodiment of what the Left recently has salivated to run against.

Why is the Left doing this ? Especially when Joe K has done everything but change his name to Bernie in assuring the Left that he supports its entire wish list, from medicare for all to “environmental justice,” whatever that is,  to the so-called Green New Deal, a double shot of  layer cake of “climate Crisis” and “public transportation whether you like it or not.”

But maybe the Left has a point. Do you believe Joe K actually supports these things ? I don’t. The Kennedys have never adopted wish-list positions. It was Ted who, explaining why he was never unwilling to compromise with opponents,  famously quoted Voltaire’s dictum that “the perfect is the enemy of the good.” Before Ted there was John, a centrist Democrat who often politicked more like a Yankee Republican than the Irish Democrat he was. And of course there was Robert, who in his tragic 1968 campaign pushed aside the Vietnam protest candidacy of Eugene McCarthy in favor of his own nuts and bolts, labor union and civil rights priorities.

Like Ted, Joe, if elected to the Senate, may well espouse the Left’s wish list;but if he does that, can anyone doubt that he will seek compromise, not conquest ? I suspect that the ultras now embracing the ancient Ed Markey rather than the candidate of their generation — in contrast t,o what many did during the Ayanna Pressley and Mike Capuano fight — see the same vision that I see : Kennedy won’t “die on their desired hills,” as one of the currently trendy political phrases has it.

I feel very confident that the Left has it right : that Kennedy is not their champion, albeit he likely shares their desire for reforms — just not as many reforms, nor as drastic. Kennedy’s campaign apparatus and vote base, no matter what he says, will almost certainly be private industry labor unions and centrist primary voters generally as well as the Kennedy family’s still huge personal following. As such, I’m inclined to support him rather than Markey, who has embraced the Left’s grossly expensive public programs, not to mention how those programs will accrue to Washington yet more of our money and yet more authority over our daily lives.  Personally, I think Markey’s effectiveness as a leader of the climate-crisis Left is overrated. Others are the actual leaders, and Markey’s move into the climate world feels like catch-up. Sincere, his move surely is; it gives him a mission that suffices beautifully because it will never be achieved, not if he were to live to be 100 and serve six terms until age 98. Politicians love to advocate issues popular with their base but that can never be achieved, because the advocacy, not the accomplishment, is the thing. Accomplish your mission, and you’ve done your work — NEXT ! Much better to pursue unfinished — unfinish-able — business.

But then, if you’re unlucky, along comes a young Kennedy….

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

WHY I CELEBRATE COLUMBUS DAY — AND SO DO YOU

Columbus Monument In Genoa Hdr

in Genoa, statue honoring Cristoforo Colombo, whose birth day we honor — for fundamental reasons of inheritence and example

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My Mom was born on October 12 in Dr Morrison’s patient care room at 80 Princeton Street in East Boston.

So even though I am not of Italian heritage by family, I am so by inheritance & location.

I have visited Genoa, Cristoforo Colombo’s home city (some say he was from an outlying area, not in the City prtoper, and definitely of humble merchant descent) , and it is beautiful & of a noble and combative history. Genoese seamanship and daring had a long history already behind it when Colombo made his mark.

He commanded a voyage of exploration on behalf of the king of Spain, but his boldness was Genoese. 500 years before him, Genoese seamen in their spunky little galleys, in alliance with seamen from Amalfi and Pisa, beat back the Saracen pirates who had all but closed the Medierranean Sea to commercial traffic. 300 years later a Genoese Grimaldi took possession of the Rock of Monaco — and his descendants still govern it today.

In that tradition sailed Cristoforo Colombo and his intrepid followers in their three tiny galleons. His and their discoveries changed the world, and we are here as a result. Columbus Day is America’s gestation day, and I honor it and him and the magnificent spirit of imagination, commerce, artisanship, municipal freedom and governance, and adventure that defined Italian civilization — and Genoa in particular — of the 11th through 16th Centuries.

We too are a commercial nation and, like medieval Genoa, governed, mostly, by a commercial and hard-working, often artisan citizenry. Our very national name — America — honors another Italian, Amerigo Vespucci of Florence, yet another city led by commercial men, artisans, adventurers and — Florence’s special obsession — lovers of art and literature. These, too, have come down to us here in Amerigo Vespucci’s nation as an inalienable part of our national character and inspiration.

Perfect, Columbus was not, nor were any of the Genoese and Florentines whose civilization we are the inheritors of. Columbus was cruel; the most dominant Genoese leaders were hard-headed, artless bean counters; and the Florentine big shots nursed indelible family feuds even as they funded immortal art.  But no human endeavor is free of the bad genes within it — within us all. We must be governed by our better natures despite all, and despite all, Columbus and his fellow Italians of the discovery era founded the world in which we as Americans do our best, most of the time, to live up to the heritage of those bygone cities of invention and opportunities seized.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

CHANGE IS COMING TO BOSTON’S PLANNING PROCESS. GOOD OR BAD ?

 

Lydia Edwards

^ reform is coming to Boston’s zoning process. Councillor Edwards’s proposals invite serious discussion even if the details merit adjustment

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Several proposals have come forward recently to change how the City of Boston makes its planning decisions. They’re drawing plenty of  attention, too, thanks to the coincidence of a zoning board scandal and an ongoing, almost city-wide unease with development projects and how they get approved.

All of us have read of the bribery scandal involving a former member of the Zoning board of Appeal (ZBA) and a developer who sought the extension of a development permit without undergoing ZBA review. A member of the Board resigned soon thereafter when it was revealed that he acted as broker for the sale of properties whose ZBA variances he voted for. His doing so was not illegal, but it wasn’t well received by Bostonians who feel that the ZBA approves zoning variances regardless of the law governing them.

Last week Councillor Lydia Edwards — who represents East Boston, Charlestown, and the North End — called for reforming the way ZBA members are appointed. I will discuss her proposal later in this column. Its ante has now been upped by Councillor at-Large Michelle Wu, who today called for abolishing the BPDA — Boston’s Planning and Development Agency, which oversees all development proposals from beginning to permit grant. I will discuss Wu’s proposal, too.

Before I talk assess the two proposals, Edwards’s and Wu’s, let’s talk about the ZBA. It is a seven-member body, appointed by the Mayor, which votes on whether or not to grant a “variance” from the requirements of the Zoning Code. Article 80 of the Boston Zoning Code sets forth the entire process as administered by the BPDA. ( You can read Article 80 here : http://www.nabbonline.com/files/A_Citizens_Guide_to_Article_80.pdf ) There is also the State zoning law, found in MGL c. 40A, which you can read here : https://malegislature.gov/laws/generallaws/parti/titlevii/chapter40a. The Massachusetts statute establishes zoning purposes and guidelines, and even though the City of Boston has its own zoning code, the law of variances is governed by c. 40A.

What are variances, and what is the law that regulates them ? ( 1 ) a “variance” is an exception to a particular zoning requirement ( 2 ) it is supposed to be granted SOLELY because it enhances the purposes of the law that it is an exception from. In other words, for example, an owner wants to build an extra bedroom onto his home, but that extra will extend into the side setback requirement of the “residential 2-family” district the property is in. The owner argues that granting him this exception, i.e., this variance, will strengthen his (and the property’s) commitment to maintain a two-family residence. Or, an owner may want to raise the height of his roof beyond the, say, 35 foot height restriction governing his zoning district. He proposes that his third floor apartment have a large picture window, say, that will require lifting his roof to 40 feet, five feet beyond the 35 foot height restriction. Abutters may object to this lift as impeding their view or their sunlight, and such objection will be entertained by the ZBA. Nonetheless, the ZBA may well grant the roof lift variance as improving and thus stabilizing the three family dwelling the owner wants to renovate.

In all such cases, the zoning law expressly states — and Massachusetts courts have repeatedly affirmed — that any such variance from the code must conform to the zoning law in force and even strengthen it.

Yet for the past several years, and especially during Mayor Walsh’s years in office, the ZBA has seemed to grant almost every variance request that comes before it, many of them appearing, at least to me, to defy flagrantly the applicable zoning restrictions. Properties are built to the street, or to the very lot line; or they propose 9 units where 3 are allowed and exist; or they offer half as much as parking — or less — as the code requires; or they propose five stories and even six, where the code envisions a limit of three. Or they propose many of these variances altogether. State zoning law makes clear that zoning restrictions are intended to safeguard a neighborhood’s character. Yet the ZBA constantly approves proposals that alter neighborhoods radically.

Little wonder that residents in the most developed zones of Boston — East Boston, South Boston, Roxbury, Dorchester, Mission Hill, the Seaport, South End — have had enough and are finally in a mood to take no prisoners. The neighborhoods I name face hundreds of current requests for zoning variance, few of which — so residents worry — will be denied.

Voters sense — correctly, I think — that the free-for-all on variance grants result from Mayor Walsh’s insistence on the City creating 69,000 new housing units by 2030.

Into this already angry situation comes the ZBA scandal. Is it any wonder that residents and their political voices want the whole avalanche of variance and building to take a serious time out ?

Now to Lydia Edwards’s proposal. The East Boston Times summarizes Edwards’s comprehensive proposal thus :

“…real estate interests would be removed from the board and no named organizations or interests would have a permanent seat. Members and alternate members (seven each) of the ZBA would represent perspectives from affordable housing, civil rights and fair housing, environmental protection and climate change, urban planning, homeowners, renters, and expertise in zoning and the general laws.

Staff for the ZBA would be prohibited from engaging in other permitting, planning, development or real estate functions, and prohibited from engaging in private business in these areas…”

This is stiff medicine. I do not support removing real estate interests from a board that regulates real estate interests. Nor does it make sense for the ZBA to include civil rights and environmental interests. The ZBA is not a Court, and it is not a planning agency. It is tasked with one duty only : enforcing the zoning code and the purposes a variance must adhere to.

That said, it is smart for the seven member ZBA to represent actual neighborhoods. Perhaps ZBA membership might be expanded, so that all the larger neighborhoods of Boston would have at least one member, regardless of whether said member be a real estate person, or an architect, or a planner.

Edwards’s desire to see civil rights advocates, environmental people, fair housing interests, owners and tenants involved in the development process makes more sense when we think about reforming the BPDA. The agency’s public comment hearings and design approval tests were devised to give all of Edwards’s interests a required voice in planning decisions. I support some means by which Edwards’s interests are regulated into the planning process. (I am being general here because this column is already long, and specifics might be the subject of a follow-up column.) One difficulty with BPDA public comment hearings is that, in general, only those opposed to a project show up at hearings. Because that is so, and the City knows that it is so, the BPDA seems to take the position that it is free to represent — and to favor — the proponents of a project, who are certainly there even if they do not attend and speak up at a public comment hearing.

Another difficulty with the BPDA’s public comment hearings is that notice is given only generally to the public, and few voters are aware of where to find these notices. Even when aware, it is hard for someone to find a particular notice. The best locus is on a neighborhood face book page, where activists usually post meeting notices. I think the City owes us at least that much diligence. Perhaps if the City made an extra effort to notify us, it might find a greater number of supporters of a project coming to the comment hearing ?

And proponents are indeed there. Density advocates say that the City’s prosperity requires greater residential density. Business es that depend on there being more customers want developments that will bring in new residents who will then patronize those businesses. Owners of buildings know that if developments are approved, the value of their own property likely goes up.

In any case, greater diversity of opinion at public comment hearings might satisfy Edwards’s desire to see all interests heard and spoken for.

Now to discuss the Michelle Wu proposal:

Wu asks that the BPDA be abolished and that City planning be entrusted to neighborhood-based citizen’s groups. I vigorously oppose such a proposal. It would be the triumph of NIMBY and the end of unified planning that adjusts for traffic, transportation, water and waterfront access. Boston before the BPDA and its predecessor the BRA was a hotch-potch of commercial, residential, and industrial parcels jumbled all together, a public health mess as well as a guarantee that people living in it would leave as soon as they could — as they did. Councillor Wu will have to do better than her blanket abolition of central planning before I’m likely to get aboard.

That said, I recall current Mayor Walsh saying, at candidate forums during his 2013 campaign, that he would abolish the then BRA. Thus Wu’s call isn’t something unheard-of. Walsh’s argument at the time was that the BRA’s planning process was too centralized and so too high-handed. This is the same argument that Wu and her supporters now make.

When Walsh took office, he soon found out that city planning had to have a central point of decision. The City’s neighborhoods are quite different, and they have separate histories, but if planning becomes localized, all kinds of disconnect can ensue. Streets cannot do one thing in neighborhood A and another thing in neighborhood B. The City’s housing policy can’t go in one direction in Neighborhood C and another in neighborhood D. At some point the neighborhoods have to have common practices with respect to public works, zoning codes, school location, and access in and out. Thus the BPDA cannot simply be done away with and planning ceded to un-elected neighborhood activists. All such activists claim to represent “the neighborhood,” but they don’t. They represent one point of view. Others exist, as I have shown. Why should planning for a neighborhood be limited only to its residents ? Neighborhoods contain businesses, and work places, and they attract visitors who spend money there. Don’t these businesses, work places, commuters, and pleasure visitors have a money interest in the neighborhood as well as the residents ? Only a central planning agency can represent these other interests.

Wu knows this very well but for political reasons has chosen to evade the facts. Everybody knows that she is planning a challenge to Mayor Walsh in 2021. That’s fine, that’s her right, but it is not her right to go un-responded to. I can well agree with her that residents of a neighborhood have a proprietary interest in maintaining the character thereof, and I agree that the ZBA must be reformed so that it doesn’t as a matter of course override the law of variances because the Mayor wants 69,000 units of new housing built pronto. But it is NOT BPDA public comment hearings that’s the problem. At those, neighborhood residents have, if anything, overwhelming control of the discussion because supporters of a proposed development barely show up. The problem is the ZBA. In which case Lydia Edwards’s proposals are to the point, and Michelle Wu’s miss the mark.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

 

THE NEXT CONGRESS SHOULD TAKE BACK POWERS IT SHOULD NEVER HAVE GRANTED TO A PRESIDENT

trump

^ impeachment must be only the beginning of assuring that this sort of lunacy never happens to America again

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We have all seen that Mr. Trump has zero respect for the rule of law and basically thinks that a President can do whatever he wants. Unfortunately, plenty of the outrages he has done arise at least in part from authority that prior Congresses have given to the holder of Article 2’s office. The next Congress should take back authority that never should have been given in the first place.

Before I get to my list of legislation I hope the next Congress enacts, it’s useful to look at Article 2 of the Constitution, Section 3, which tasks the President :

He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information on the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.

Also needing your consideration is Article 1, Section 1 :

All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

BUT : Article 1, Section 6, gives the President a check on said power, namely, a veto, which may be overridden if both houses of Congress vote to override the veto by “two-thirds of that House.” “Two thirds” is not defined, but the common meaning would seem to be two thirds of the membership rather than two thirds of those voting.

—>> I have highlighted the “take Care” clause of Article 2, Section 3 because in so very many cases, Mr. Trump has undermined, if not outright refuse, to take such Care. With respect to immigration laws, he has basically made his own, violating all sorts of basic rights and procedures. Same for environmental protection, for civil rights, and for the conduct of foreign policy. In addition, he has refused to comply with the entirety of Congress’s powers of oversight and investigation of his performance of office.

That said, much of what he has done, by way of executive order and otherwise, he has done pursuant to legislation that gives him such authority. With respect to immigration, to declarations of national emergency, and in his engagement with his cabinet officers and their departments, he has perverted their duties to the service of his won, personal and political needs. He has also done the same with his personal conduct of foreign policy.

As Article 2, Section 2 says in part —  He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law — all heads of the executive branch’s departments charged with “taking Care that the laws be faithfully executed” are nominated by him, subject only to the Senate’s confirmation. Because all such department heads serve at his pleasure, and can be terminated for any reason, they are vulnerable to the President’s asking them to do other things than their appointed “take care” tasks. Mr. Trump has bent both his Attorney General and his Secretary of State entirely to his political purposes, and he has abused almost as badly his Secretary of the Treasury, the Commerce Department, Housing and Urban Development, Education, and Interior, to cite the most obvious examples.

When he has not outright perverted his departments, he has set them upon an agenda which is his only, entirely apart from the law. He has forced Defense, Commerce, Education, Housing, Environmental Protection, and Homeland Security to disregard the law, discard requirements, and substitute his policy whims.

Most significantly, and the occasion for his impeachment, finally, by the House, he has violated laws in place, criminal and otherwise, by pressuring and even extorting foreign governments to participate in his election needs.

He has been to get away with these many violations of his oath of office because the Senate has a majority belonging to the same political party that he claims to belong to; and in modern America, political party is everything. It’s the vehicle for big donors and money influence of all kinds, it’s the cloak covering all sorts of corruption and shell games, it’s the obstacle to useful legislation and, as we saw from Senator McConnell in 2016, it’s the instrument by which the Senate violated the Constitution in refusing to grant its advice and consent to the nomination by then President Obama of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.

The only practical antidote to the destruction of Constitutional government by the Republican party these past 7 years is to assure that Congress and the Presidency are controlled, starting in 2021, by the other party, the Democrats. I am under no illusions as to the Democratic party’s flaws. Its leaders are not saints. They’re subject to the same sorts of  donor and special interest pressures that have corrupted Republicans. That said, the Democrats have so far stopped short of putting their party priorities ahead of the nation’s interests. I am ready to trusty that when they take full control in 2021, that they will legislate changes to prior enabling laws and will, hopefully, also clarify Presidential authority which, up to now, has assumed basic good faith on said office holder’s part.

Mr. Trump exhibits no good faith in it at all. If laws are not enacted, another Trump can come along, be elected, and do the same as Mr. Trump has done. Here’s how we can make it much harder for a future Trump to do stuff :

( 1 ) revise the National Emergency Act so that the President can only declare a national emergency and use emergency powers, if authorized by a vote of 60 Senators.

( 2 ) clarify the laws authorizing “executive orders,” so that it is clear that no executive order shall contravene legislative purposes, or use emergency or other exception to override Federal law, and that any executive order that appears to do so shall be void ab initio

( 3 ) require that any tariff the President wishes to impose, pursuant to authority to do so, must be confirmed by a vote of at least 60 Senators.

( 4 ) enact legislation forbidding any Executive Department, and its officers, including the Department head, from in any way using Department powers to further the President’s purely political or campaign interests, and include a substantial fine, personal to the individuals found to have done so.

( 5 ) clarify that no claim of “executive privilege” shall apply to any public record sought for investigative purposes by a duly authorized committee of Congress or Congress generally.

( 6 ) enact that any withholding, by an executive official, of a duly requested public record, absent excusable time for performance, shall be a criminal contempt resulting in a fine personal to such officer and, in case of a second offense, imprisonment until the contempt is cured.

( 7 ) clarifying that the “advise and consent” clause of Article 2 includes a presumption of good faith, and that such advice and consent must be given to Presidential nominations as promptly as feasible, including during an election year.

These suggestions will do for starters. I invite readers to suggest additional measures.

Lastly, i wish to remind readers that impeachment and removal from office need not be all the sanctions that a removed President might face. Here I offer you another quote from the Constitution we claim to honor :

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.

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere