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Can impeachment appear legitimate in a hyper-partisan universe?

Washington Post: “…Placing this power in Congress rather than the courts makes impeachment as much a political process as a legal one. But calling it political does not denigrate impeachment; it elevates it. Impeachment should be political, reflecting the nature of impeachable offenses and the judgments that should be brought to bear when considering it. The endlessly parsed phrase “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” does not cover policy differences, unpopularity, personal animus or simple “maladministration” on the part of the president, a term the framers considered but dismissed as so vague that it would leave presidents at the mercy of Congress. In fact, an impeachable offense need not involve the commission of a crime. Rather, it must feature misdeeds that “so seriously threaten the order of political society as to make pestilent and dangerous the continuance in power of their perpetrator,” wrote the late legal scholar Charles L. Black Jr. in his classic 1974 study, “Impeachment: A Handbook,” reissued last year. Impeachment ought to follow egregious abuses of power that constitute, in Engel’s description, wrongdoing “against the entire American people.”

In “Impeachment: A Citizen’s Guide,” law professor Cass Sunstein acknowledges the political dimensions of impeachment but emphasizes the high standards and judgment that should be brought to bear. “It is in part because the standard is high that political opponents of presidents have so rarely resorted to the impeachment mechanism,” he writes. “Despised presidents, and bad presidents, have hardly ever been impeached, which is a tribute to the Rule of Law.” The problem is not that the process could be political but that it could easily become too partisan, another weapon in a permanent campaign. “When an impeachment is purely partisan, or appears that way, it is presumptively illegitimate,” Tribe and Matz warn…”

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