No one expects Donald Trump to be a constitutional scholar — or a scholar of anything, for that matter. But one might think that the man who could become only the third president to get impeached would attempt to understand that simple process.
In a tweet Wednesday morning, Trump revealed that he hasn’t. “The Mueller Report, despite being written by Angry Democrats and Trump Haters, and with unlimited money behind it ($35,000,000), didn’t lay a glove on me. I DID NOTHING WRONG. If the partisan Dems ever tried to Impeach, I would first head to the U.S. Supreme Court,” Trump tweeted.
The Court, of course, plays no role in the impeachment process. The Constitution says the House “shall have the sole Power of Impeachment” and the Senate “shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments,” which can be brought for “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
Less than three decades ago, the Court reaffirmed the congressional duties to carry out impeachment proceedings, ruling in 1993 that the powers lie with Congress and “nowhere else.” If Trump thinks that a Supreme Court to which he has appointed two justices would let him off, he appears to be mistaken. As Brett Kavanaugh himself wrote in 2009: “If the President does something dastardly, the impeachment process is available. No single prosecutor, judge, or jury should be able to accomplish what the Constitution assigns to the Congress.”
None of this would preclude Trump from trying to tie up the issue in courts, but as attorney Joshua Matz told the Washington Post, “If the President were to seek judicial intervention in that fashion, the courts would almost certainly refuse to hear the case on the ground that it is a ‘political question’ textually entrusted to Congress by the Constitution.”
In another tweet, Trump wrote, “Not only are there no ‘High Crimes and Misdemeanors,’ there are no Crimes by me at all.” If his quibble is that there are no grounds for impeachment because he hasn’t been convicted of a crime, then he’s on shaky footing there too. The definition of “High Crimes and Misdemeanors” has been debated for years. As Politico notes, former President Gerald Ford once defined “an impeachable offense” as “whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history.”
On Monday, Trump sent a tweet with a similar message. It said, “Only high crimes and misdemeanors can lead to impeachment. There were no crimes by me (No Collusion, No Obstruction), so you can’t impeach.” As law professor Steve Vladeck wrote on NBCNews.com Tuesday, “The House certainly can impeach the president — or any other government officer — for non-criminal misconduct.” What’s unclear at this point is if they will.