Excerpts from an article by Rob Natelson via The Epoch Times – Impeachment law isn’t for amateurs. It rests on English parliamentary history extending at least as far back as the 1300s. Furthermore, impeachment standards evolved over time. To understand the Constitution’s rules, we must know what the standards were when the Constitution was adopted. We can do so by consulting 18th-century parliamentary records and legal materials.
Here’s some of what they tell us:
- The term “high Crimes” means, approximately, “felonies.”
- The phrase “high … Misdemeanors” refers to what the founding generation called “breach of trust” and what modern lawyers call breach of fiduciary duty. Fiduciary duties are the legal obligations imposed upon those who manage the affairs of other people—bankers, corporate executives, accountants, guardians, and so forth. In broad outline, fiduciary law when the Constitution was adopted was similar to what it is today. …
The core of the case against Trump is that he used his political position to seek reelection assistance from a foreign government. Although there’s dark talk of crimes committed, the principal charge is fiduciary rather than criminal. In other words, a “high … Misdemeanor.”
House Democrats have struggled to define Trump’s alleged offense. Initially, they described it as a “quid pro quo.” Then they employed the term “bribery.” The legally correct designation is “self-dealing.”
Self-dealing is betraying your employer’s interests to enrich yourself. It’s a violation of the fiduciary duty of loyalty.
We can assume the president might benefit from a Ukrainian investigation, but that doesn’t mean asking for an investigation was self-dealing as defined by fiduciary, and therefore by impeachment, law. There’s nothing unusual or improper about a president asking a recipient of U.S. foreign aid to address corruption. …
For defining the Constitution’s phrase “high … Misdemeanors,” the most important precedents (although not the only ones) lie in 18th-century impeachment and fiduciary law. … All [the] cases boil down to stealing public property. They don’t look like the Trump–Zelensky dealings at all.
Another part of the answer lies in whether Trump violated the national interest. As a general rule, self-dealing generally isn’t just enriching yourself. It’s enriching yourself at the expense of your employer. If Trump’s interests were aligned with those of the country, there was no fiduciary breach. …
Still another part of the answer lies in how similar officials act in similar circumstances. … We need testimony about how other officials conduct themselves. We know, for example, that then-Vice President Biden explicitly made aid to Ukraine conditional on firing a Ukrainian prosecutor. If that conduct wasn’t impeachable (and I don’t believe it was), then Trump’s more tepid conduct certainly isn’t impeachable.
Read the rest @ The Epoch Times. Rob Natelson is senior fellow in constitutional jurisprudence at the Independence Institute in Denver, a constitutional historian, and a former constitutional law professor. He is the author of “The Original Constitution: What It Actually Said and Meant” (3rd ed. 2015).