Trump and the Nixon Impeachment

2 mins read
Ollie Atkins [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I’m old enough to remember – with bitterness — the Nixon impeachment. Bitterness not because he was impeached, but because of what he was not impeached for. The House Judiciary Committee considered five articles of impeachment. Two of them related to the Watergate break-in and subsequent cover-up of crimes committed against the Democratic Party. The third related to Nixon’s refusal to respond to congressional subpoenas. Those three were adopted and sent to the full House for action. 

But two articles were not adopted by the committee. One accused Nixon of cheating on his taxes through deliberate fraud and also of enriching himself from the public purse (my tax dollars). The second was that he ordered a secret and illegal bombing of Cambodia in violation of Congressional power to declare war and then he lied about it to both the public and Congress. Tens of thousands of Cambodians were killed or maimed and the Vietnam War prolonged. 

By not impeaching Nixon for his financial crimes, the House condoned acts that would have sent an ordinary citizen like me to jail. By not impeaching Nixon for waging a secret illegal war, the House condoned the abrogation of their own constitutional authority over use of military force. Had Nixon been impeached for his financial crimes, it would have put subsequent presidents on notice that their high office did not confer upon them impunity. Had Nixon been impeached for waging a secret and illegal war it might have made it more difficult for those who followed him into the Oval Office to unilaterally bomb and invade countries all over Asia, Africa, and Latin America. 

Now we have a president whose crimes go far beyond abuse of power against the Democratic Party and its candidates — sabotage of the environment, incitement to racial violence, violation of fundamental human rights, collusion with foreign enemies, and on and on. If the House does not impeach him for at least some of those crimes then in essence they condone them. And future presidents will take careful note of that precedent.


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Bruce Hartford is an active member of IndivisibleSF in California. He was a Civil Rights Worker in the 1960s, a freelance journalist covering the Vietnam War, and a founding member and officer of the National Writers Union (UAW/AFL_CIO). Today he is webmaster of the Civil Rights Movement website and on the board of the SNCC Legacy Project.

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