Prof. Peter Irons, in a recent piece on NBCNews.com, argues that Trump’s proven pattern of racism should be the basis for Trump’s impeachment inquiry and draws parallels to the impeachment indictment of President Andrew Johnson as a template.
Irons is professor of political science emeritus at the University of California, San Diego, and the author of “A People’s History of the Supreme Court.” He was the attorney who initiated the coram nobis cases of Gordon Hirabayashi, Minoru Yasui, and Fred Korematsu through his discovery of original documents that proved a fraud on the Supreme Court in 1943 and 1944 cases that were later overturned by teams of lawyers, including Irons.
Given Trump’s lifelong pattern of racist speech and behavior, I think an impeachment inquiry is required by the Constitution, for an obvious (at least to me) reason: By definition, an overtly racist president cannot obey his (or her) constitutional oath to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” Presidents are free to oppose and criticize laws passed by Congress, even over their vetoes, but not to frustrate or block their execution for reasons of racial animus.
Irons shares how racism was the basis for President Johnson’s impeachment in 1868:
Johnson’s deep-rooted racism, along with his verbal excoriation of his congressional foes as “treasonous” — something our current president has also done — led to his impeachment in 1868. Article 10 of his impeachment indictment provides a legal basis and historical precedent for making a president’s racist speech an impeachable offense, by itself, as evidence of unfitness to hold the highest and most powerful office in the land.
Article 10 provides this basis by making clear that speaking contemptuously about Congress and its members, with “intemperate” and “inflammatory” attacks based on racial animus — as both Johnson and Trump did on multiple occasions — brings the presidency into “contempt, ridicule and disgrace.”
The House of Representatives would have a more solid and easily provable case for Trump’s impeachment if it immediately opened proceedings along these lines rather than continue to weigh the more complicated and legally fraught obstruction issue.