A Lesser Judgment?

February 9, 1999

Ironically, the same Senate Republicans who reject censure as unconstitutional are flirting with what has been called "affirmation without removal." As I discussed yesterday, the Senate is considering a plan where two votes would be taken: one on the presidentís guilt and another on whether he should be removed from office.

Alexander Hamilton writing in Federalist paper #69 wrote, "The President of the United States would be liable to be impeached, tried, and upon conviction of treason, bribery, and other high crimes or misdemeanors, removed from office." In July 1988, James Iredell (an attorney general of North Carolina and one of the first Supreme Court justices appointed by George Washington) told the North Carolina ratifying convention: "If he [the president] commits any misdemeanor in office, he is impeachable, removable from office, and incapacitated to hold any office of honor, trust or profit." He added, "The punishment annexed to conviction on impeachment, can only be removal from office, and disqualification to hold any place of honor, trust or profit."

These and other passages (including Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution) require removal from office upon conviction. Current attempts to separate these two actions do not seem possible based upon the language of the constitution, the Federalist papers, and other contemporary statements and documents.

The framers in their debates made it clear that the Senate should only have the power of removal. The phrase "shall not extend further than removal from office" does not provide for lesser judgments. It was an attempt to limit the then-British practice of impeachment which included fines, imprisonment, or even execution. They did not say "up to and including removal from office." They simply said removal from office.

The current search for a compromise in the Senate trial will merely serve to subvert the Constitution. The framers didnít leave a two-vote loophole in the Constitution.

Iím Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and thatís my opinion.

© 1999 Probe Ministries International