Impeachment talk has been focused exclusively on President Trump. That’s unfortunate.

Bob “Again” Carney Jr. is a Minneapolis writer and inventor. His most recent book is Break Glass Impeach Trump. 

Talk of impeachment has been exclusively focused on President Trump himself.  That’s unfortunate.  The real problem with Trump isn’t just that he’s a corrupt individual (he is) – but that for decades he’s been the head of a corrupt organization.  Heading into his third year, President Trump continues to strive mightily to force the executive branch into his Trump Organization operating model.

To end this threat we need a broader discussion -- with a fresh look at the House’s raw Article I power of Impeachment as it relates to “Coadjutors” (assistants) – a word used by James Madison and others at the Constitutional Convention.  More specifically, we’ll consider Paul Manafort’s impeachment as an example of how House impeachments can prevent a corrupt President from pardoning his “Coadjutor corruptors” -- and thereby converting the Executive branch into a criminal operation.  

Future President James Madison argued at the Convention for impeachment as a safeguard against: “the incapacity, negligence or perfidy of the chief Magistrate [who] might pervert his administration into a scheme of peculation or oppression…”  Madison said a President’s, “loss of capacity or corruption was more within the compass of probable events, and either of them might be fatal to the Republic.”  Pennsylvania delegate Gouverneur Morris added this crucial point: a President “can do no criminal act without Coadjutors who may be punished.”

“Conventional Wisdom” tells us that only office holders can be impeached, and only for “high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”  But the Constitution doesn’t actually say that.  English history includes the 1710 impeachment of then-famous Rev. Henry Sacheverell – a minister, not a government official – for preaching and publishing incendiary opinions.  Rev. Sacheverell was literally a kind of early media forerunner of President Trump.  As punishment, two of his sermons were publicly burned, and he was suspended for three years.

Here are four crucial points:

First, as Gouverneur Morris suggested, an effective, practical corruption-busting impeachment system must uproot both corrupt Presidents and their “Coadjutors”

Second, the raw Article I House impeachment power of the U.S. House is identical to the House of Commons: unlimited.  The Constitution says only: “The House… shall have the Sole power of Impeachment.”  

Third, we have ignored a crucial and automatic Article II consequence of House Impeachment (emphasis added), the President can: “…grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.”

Fourth, while the Senate can try all impeachments… they don’t have to.  Making an impeached person unpardonable is a formidable standalone power of the House – sometimes requiring no further action.

We’re ready now to consider an example -- an Article of Impeachment for Paul Manafort:

“Paul Manafort is hereby impeached for – see attached.”

… with a stapled copy of the Federal Jury form convicting him of eight Federal felonies.

Obviously, no Senate trial is needed for an already-convicted and now-unpardonable Mr. Manafort.  Knowing he can’t be pardoned, Mr. Manafort might finally start cooperating.

Here’s the broader direction Manafort’s impeachment could point us towards:  The House could not just use their legal power to obtain all Trump tax returns – personal, family and corporate.  They should start holding hearings to consider impeaching any Trump Organization or Trump charity employee… and all involved accountants, lawyers, lobbyists, politicos and consultants… who are found to even potentially have had a role in advancing any scheme that might have been illegal.  Those willing to cooperate with all investigations should have their cooperation taken into account as the situation develops.  Whatever else happens, the House should issue a massive, detailed report on everything they find.  

The Senate should simply ignore any House impeachments passed only to prevent Presidential Coadjutor pardons.

This could lead to the reforms America needs.

Here’s the hoped-for final result: The simple threat of an entire “Trump-plus-Coadjutor-Family” list of House Articles of Impeachment -- followed by the expectation of criminal prosecutions if and when appropriate for everyone, with weight given to cooperation -- could lead to Trump’s resignation as part of an overall, publicly negotiated deal to end to the Trump Presidency.  This should include mass blanket pardons from a “National Reconciliation and Caretaker President Pence.”  Remember: by resigning before the House impeached him, President Nixon preserved the opportunity to receive his own blanket pardon.

Whatever President Trump thought he might be getting into when he announced his candidacy, it sure wasn’t this.  That’s reason enough to err on the side of amnesty and mercy.  Our priority isn’t to “lock ‘em up” – it’s to end the danger from President Trump’s continuing push to establish the Trump Organization operating model in the White House.

 

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