Congress watchers and academic experts in American government are voicing concerns following the highly partisan impeachment of President Donald Trump that the exercise will now become a common method of dealing with opposition leaders, in conflict with what the founders envisioned.
Last week, House Democrats returned two articles of impeachment against the president that appear to be wholly political in nature, rather than being based on actual “high crimes and misdemeanors,” the constitutional standard, experts noted.
One charge, obstruction of Congress, has no legal precedent and was levied before President Trump was able to litigate in court his refusal to allow current and former members of his administration comply with House subpoenas.
The second, abuse of power, applies to the president’s dealings with Ukraine, but there is no evidence suggesting Trump demanded a “quid pro quo” from that government in exchange for military aid.
Experts also pointed to the fact that not a single Republican in the lower chamber supported either article.
Josh Blackman, a professor at South Texas College of Law, said he worried about the precedent set by the Trump impeachment.
“This vote could turn any political act the opposite political party disagrees with into an ‘abuse of power,’” he told The Washington Times.
The same week Trump was impeached, liberal group Common Cause called on House Democrats to do the same to Attorney General William Barr, arguing he has abused his power by putting the interests of the president over the nation.
Liberal organizations also targeted Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh in the past several months, claiming he should be impeached over unproven and uncorroborated claims of past sexual abuse.
“It will become more common, become sort of dumbed-down, if you will,” Harold Krent, a professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law, told the Times. “This will be kind of a tit for tat and the risk is people will forget how extraordinary impeachment is.”
Keith Whittington, a law professor at Princeton University, told the paper that it was well-known Democrats were likely to impeach Trump over political differences.
“The more significant precedent will be the political one. If the Trump impeachment is perceived to be politically and electorally successful for the Democrats, then I do think it will encourage additional partisan impeachment efforts down the road,” he said.