From the Judiciary Committee hearing on grounds for impeachment
Our Constitution begins with the words “We the People” for a reason. Our government, in James Madison’s words, “derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people.” And the way it derives this power is through elections. Elections matter—both to the legitimacy of our government and to all our individual freedoms because, as the Supreme Court explained more than a century ago, voting is preservative of all rights.”
So it is hardly surprising that the Constitution is marbled with provisions governing elections and guaranteeing governmental accountability. Indeed, a majority of the constitutional amendments we have ratified since the end of the Civil War deal with voting and terms for elective office.
Among the most important constitutional provisions is a guarantee of periodic elections for President—one every four years. America has kept that promise for more than two centuries. It has done so even during wartime. For example, we invented the idea of absentee ballots so that Union troops who supported President Lincoln could stay in the field during the election of 1864. And since then, countless other Americans have fought and died to protect our right to vote.
But the Framers of our Constitution realized that elections alone could not guarantee that the United States would remain a republic. One of the key reasons for including an impeachment power was the risk that unscrupulous officials might try to rig the election process. At the Constitutional Convention, William Davie warned that unless the Constitution contained an impeachment provision, a president might “spare no efforts or means whatever to get himself re-elected.”And George Mason insisted that a president who “procured his appointment in the first instance” through improper and corrupt actsshould not “escape punishment, by repeating his guilt.” Mason was responsible for adding “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” to the list of impeachable offenses. So we know that that list was designed to reach a president who acts to subvert an election—whether it is the election that brought him into office or an upcoming election where he seeks a second term.Michael Gerhardt:
In addition to the president’s declaration that he can do no wrong and the assertions in Mr. Cipollone’s October 8th letter, reportedly signed and drafted at the direction of the president, the president and his subordinates have argued further that the president is entitled to absolute immunity from any criminal procedures, even an investigation, for any criminal wrongdoing, including shooting someone on Fifth Avenue; the president is entitled to order everyone within the executive branch not to cooperate with and to refuse compliance with lawful directives of this Congress; the president is entitled to keep any information produced anywhere within the executive branch confidential from Congress even when acting at the zenith of its impeachment powers and even if it relates to the commission of a crime or abuse of power; and the president is entitled to shut this impeachment inquiry down – and any other means for holding him accountable – except for the one process, the next election, that he plainly tried to rig in his favor. The power to impeach includes the power to investigate, but, if the president can stymy this House’s impeachment inquiry, he can eliminate the impeachment power as a means for holding him and future presidents accountable for serious misconduct. If left unchecked, the president will likely continue his pattern of soliciting foreign interference on his behalf in the next election.