Donald Trump complained on Tuesday that America’s founders didn’t want presidents to be impeached, going so far as to say it is something they “never thought possible.” Trump’s comments came just before he presided over a Cabinet meeting.
“It’s a scam,” Trump said of the House impeachment inquiry. “They’re doing something that the founders never thought possible, and the founders didn’t want. And they’re using this impeachment hoax for their own political gain to try and damage the Republican Party and damage the president.”
Trump falsely claims that the impeachment hearings “have had the opposite effect,” saying with no evidence that “I’m the highest I’ve ever been in the polls.” In fact, a recent poll showed the majority of Americans support impeaching Trump, and his average approval rating continues to hover at just 41 percent, according to FiveThirtyEight.
The House is in the midst of an impeachment trial centered on Trump’s alleged attempts to coerce Ukraine into opening investigations into his domestic political rivals, including former Vice President Joe Biden and the Democratic National Committee.
Far from not envisioning the political nature of the constitutional impeachment process, the founders contemplated the very idea Trump raised.
Alexander Hamilton, one of the founders, wrote about the topic of impeachment in the Federalist Papers. While arguing in favor of the impeachment process laid out in the Constitution, Hamilton acknowledged that the process would be inherently political.
Impeachment deals with “misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust,” Hamilton wrote. “They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated POLITICAL, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.”
Hamilton also predicted that impeachment would inflame partisan divisions, warning that “such cases there will always be the greatest danger that the decision will be regulated more by the comparative strength of parties, than by the real demonstrations of innocence or guilt.”
Despite the shortfalls of an inherently political impeachment process, Hamilton nevertheless argued that the two-step process — impeachment in the House and a trial in the Senate — was the most practical way forward.
Hamilton published these arguments in favor of the impeachment process in March 1788, and the U.S. Constitution was ratified three months later.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.