February 2, 2018

The Week in Impeachment: 1/27/18 — 2/2/18


In this weekly seriesThe Week in ImpeachmentBarbara A. Radnofsky, author of A Citizen’s Guide to Impeachment, takes a look at some of the potentially impeachable executive behavior that’s made headlines over the past seven days. Read it, then figure out how long it’s been since you called your congressperson.


This week, we’ll be looking at three of President Trump’s behaviors that could give rise to impeachment charges through the harm they create: enhanced risk of global catastrophe, oppression, and interference with the administration of justice.

First Charge: Enhanced risk of global catastrophe

There can be little doubt that substantially increasing the risk of global catatrophes—including those of such scale that they actually threaten the continuation of human civilization—constitutes impeachable harm in the most immediate and resonant sense.

Examples this week:


Second Charge: Opression

As I wrote last week, Trump is susceptible to charges of oppression on the basis of what’s sometimes been called the “Trump Effect,” the promotion of oppression, animus, and even violence on the basis of race, nationality, gender, or sexuality, as well as attacks on the freedom of the press.

Examples this week:


Third Charge: Interference with the administration of justice

Unlike in federal criminal proceedings—for example, a trial for obstruction of justice—impeachment is a non-criminal process, and does not require a showing of intent; harm worked through negligence, ignorance, or incompetence provides grounds for impeachment as solid as harm worked deliberately. Thus, the president’s political and legal inexperience do nothing to insulate him from allegations that he has done harm by interfering with the impartial administration of justice — universally a hallmark of democratic government.

The harms arising from this conduct are many, and include violation of the separation of powers between Congress and the Judiciary (in his attempts to influence or discredit witnesses, and equally in his refusal to enforce laws duly passed by Congress), reducing the capacity of federal officials like FBI agents to perform their law enforcement jobs in the field, relinquishing efforts to protect our electoral system from further attacks (which includes creating the risk that evidence will be lost, augmenting the initial harm), subverting the rule of law, and creating an unnecessary constitutional crisis.

Examples this week:



Based on precedents in the writing of Alexander Hamilton and in the Articles of Impeachment against both Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, President Trump is now liable via impeachment for acts and omissions he has taken, regardless of his underlying intent, “to the manifest injury to the society, people, constitutional system, government, and interests of the United States, undermining confidence in and the integrity of the Presidency and Executive Branch, bringing disrepute on the office, betraying his trust as president, and acting in a manner subversive of the rule of law and justice and degrading to the honor and dignity of the United States.”



Barbara Ann Radnofsky is a mother, wife, teacher, mediator and arbitrator. A lawyer since 1979, she was the first woman Texas Democratic U.S. Senate nominee and later the first woman Texas Democratic Attorney General nominee. A magna cum laude graduate of the University of Houston and the University of Texas School of Law, she was honored as the Outstanding Young Lawyer of Texas in 1988 and has been listed for more than 25 years in “Best Lawyers in America" in multiple areas. She lives in Houston, where she is one of many co-owners of the Brazos Bookstore, and is the author of A Citizen’s Guide to Impeachment, available now. Follow her at @TXBarbaraAnn!