In more modern times, before issuing his executive amnesty in 2014, President Barack Obama consistently threatened to use his “pen and phone” if Congress didn’t pass the laws he desired when it came to immigration policy. Similarly, committee chairmen routinely threaten to take away unruly lawmakers’ committee assignments if they fail to vote in accordance with congressional leadership’s desires.
To treat such cajoling as a high crime — and impeachable if the US president does it — would render governing impossible.
How can the duly elected president of the United States be removed from office for engaging in constitutionally protected speech aimed at getting a foreign leader to investigate corruption and past election meddling?
In Federalist 65, Alexander Hamilton defined the Constitution’s “high crimes and misdemeanors” impeachment criterion as an “abuse or violation of some public trust.” How can the president’s use of constitutionally protected speech — in pursuit of his foreign policy, however idiosyncratic — amount to such abuse? It plainly can’t.