tv The Presidency and Impeachment CSPAN November 18, 2018 6:54pm-7:56pm EST
of the studio. we're are only doing our job if the story moves on, growing in stature in the city in which the music was made. it only happened here in memphis, tennessee. >> our cities staff recently traveled to memphis, tennessee, to learn about its rich history. learn more about memphis and other stops at c-span.org/cities tour. americanatching history tv, all weekend every weekend, on c-span3. >> next, on american history tv, constitutional scholars philip discussand akil lamarr and interpret how impeachable defenses are defined for the
president. bobbitt was the legal counsel to the iran contra committee and is the co-author of "impeachment, the new edition handbook, originally published in 1974 during the water rate -- watergate crisis. the new york historical society hosted this one hour-long event. [applause] >> good evening, everyone. welcome to the new york historical society. i'm the manager of public programs here and is always it's a thrill to welcome you to our robert h net auditorium. tonight's program is part of our bernard and irene schwartz distinguished speaker series and is always the would like to thank mr. swartz for his support, which has enabled us to invite so many scholars here to new york historical.
i would like to recognize and patricia andstees, alan, as well as the chairman's councilmembers who were with us for their great work and support. tonight's program will last one hour and include a q&a session, question and answer. of some of our volunteers in the audience were handing out cards and. if you didn't get one, staff members will be circulating through the auditorium in giving goes out and we will collect those later on and hand them off to the moderator so that they can answer some of your questions later on. there will also be able to signing tonight with philip , out in theakil smith gallery, where the books will be for sale. we do hope that you join us for that. we are very happy to welcome -- welcome bobbitt,
maximum bob and murphy center for national security. he has or does the counselor on international law at the state department, legal counsel to the itate iran council committee is the author of new material in the expanded edition of the charles black impeachment handbook. we are also pleased to welcome a sterling professor of law and the author ofnce, several books on american law and the const he wrote the forward to the second edition of the impeachment handbook. in 2017 he received the american bar foundation's outstanding rewards. we are grateful that he is also a member of our board of .rustees our moderator for the evening is the former president of yale university and former dean of columbia school of law, the
principal author of the 1974 book published by the association of the bar of the city of new york on the law of impeachment and removal and has served as ceo and chairman of the edison's, now edison learning, one of the world's leading innovators in primary, tertiary, and secondary nation and we are grateful that he is a member of our board of trustees and we ask that you please silence any cell phones in turn off electronic devices and join me in welcoming our guests. >> regarding impeachment, the text of the constitution is pretty straightforward. section two, clause five, states that the house of representatives shall have the sole power of impeachment.
section three, clause six of the same article adds that the senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachment. when the president of the united states is tried, the chief justice shall preside. and no person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two thirds of the members present. section four, states that the president, vice president, and all civil officers of the united states shall be removed from office on impeachment for and conviction otherason, bribery, or high crimes and misdemeanors. philip, let's start with what might be certainly learn the most fundamental questions we could ask about the process of
impeachment and removal. is it a political process or a legal process? philip: i think it is a legal process. that is the point we should insist on. -- the bodyvious that tries the senate is a political body, the senate. the body that indicts is the political body, the house. but the text you just read specifies that whatever the grounds for impeachment in the house, and those are legal in nature, specified, treason, bribery, other high crimes and misdemeanors, those are legal criteria. whatever the indictment, the proceedings in the house, the senate must try the case.
that is not a term we use in politics, it is a term we use them all. law.hief jeff -- we use in that chief justice presides, as you heard. judge. he convenes and conducts judicial proceedings. senators who sit as a jury must oatha special which specifies that they must try the case according to law. so the talk i hear sometimes in journals, on the electronic media, this is not really a legal proceeding cover it is a political proceeding and that is at best a half truth, and a very insidious one. along that path lies impeachment which divides along party lines and undermines, i
think, the rule of law. benno: do you agree ? philip: some further support for this idea? process, as a mixed philip told you, it partakes of particular,l, in misdemeanors, i don't think it is a technical criminal term, i think we can think about it as misbehavior of some sort, violating a technical criminal law for definition of a crime might be neither necessary for efficient, but here are some words, which are very much law words. and i will give you one final one sectionarticle three, judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than blah, blah, blah -- and again come i took some of party convicted shall nonetheless be liable -- liable to punishment according to the law. we are talking about punishment in cases of impeachment and
judgment. here is one other way to say it. high crimes and misdemeanors is a bit of a term of art and not an ordinary criminal law term, that is why is not given to an ordinary judge or jury. but here is one easy way to see how it cannot merely be enough that you politically don't like the fellow, whether it is a .resident or someone else let's take the president, because this is a particular president. the constitution says that in to overcome a presidential veto, he has to have two thirds of the house and two thirds of the senate. surely come i cannot be the case that the constitution is set up so that you could be tour around about by getting rid of the veto himself just because of a
good-faith policy agreement because you have a two thirds majority in the house and senate. it is a lower vote than it is to overcome a veto, but that is because it is not a mere policy disagreement. he has a good-faith view on policy, you have a different the -- andrew johnson, first president in a the impeachment crosshairs in a serious way, his veto was over, about 15 times. endyet, it was only at the of the process but he eventually was impeached and ultimately acquitted, even though they were overturning his vetoes are again and again and again. mere good-faith vetoes cannot be a high crimes misdemeanor, and that is in the structure of the constitution as well as the text. we are all students of the great trials black, -- great trials , who wouldack
want to focus not only on the text, but the structure of the institution. >> i should mention that andrew johnson was impeached for trying to fire the secretary of war stanton, and in doing that, he violated an act that said that certain positions, including the secretary of war, the person holding that office could not be removed by the president without the advice and consent of the senate. plainlyitself unconstitutional. akhil: the tenure of office act. president, because a cannot be an executive in office unless he can fire those who work for him. akhil: and washington insisted on that. in congress agreed with him. benno: right, and you cannot
have it any other way unless you have an executive. there is one very large consequence to the argument that hil have, with which i can fully agree, that impeachment is a legal proceeding and not purely political. the essence of a legal proceeding is that cases have to be decided -- like cases have to be decided like. so the grounds of impeachment you impeach aif president whom you don't like, who is not of your party, with whom you have areas disagreements, you have to be prepared to say that you would also impeach a president that you did like, of your own party, who had undertaken the same set within the definition of high crimes and misdemeanors. we should say quickly, the first thecrimes laid out in
treason andact, bribery, are quite simple in definition. they may be acutely complex evidentiary questions, particularly around brian barry, but the constitution defines treason narrowly. we know what bribery is, the element of quid pro quo for something valuable bestowed, and i taken that-- so we would disagree with gerald of theen he was speaker house in the potential impeachment of william douglas, that grounds of impeachment or whatever the house says they are on any particular day. philip: i think even president ford regretted having made that often quoted remark. -- whenwhat people people drift into the abyss, it
is over the case "high crimes and misdemeanors." these are not crimes, that you find in title 18 of the criminal code. but that doesn't mean that they are something you can really concoct. 's argumentses black is an argument you would've heard in the courts of this country many times in the 19th century. phrase,es on a latin something that law students used to always study, and it simply ." ns "things like about so if i say, i would like you to go to the store for a party tonight, please get some whiskey, some gin, some wine, some beer, and to come back with a corvette, i think you were not
really following my instructions. this is crucial for this potent phrase -- treason, bribery and other high crimes and misdemeanors. so whatever they are, these high crimes, crimes against the state, crimes of that threaten the integrity, vitality and stability of the state itself, must be like treason and bribery. and that doesn't mean that they can be just whatever the hell you would like them to be some of because you are so vexed at .he incumben benno: one other element of that is a violation of public trust. thatphilip, do you think for impeachment and conviction and removal to be valid, there has to have in a crime committed , and actual crime ?
philip: i don't think that, and one reason i don't think that, wasecause aaron burr indicted for murder both in new york and in new jersey after his notorious deal with alexander hamilton -- his notorious duel with alexander hamilton. back toand then he went washington and continued on as vice president. akhil: and furthermore, he presided over the impeachment trial as president of the senate, of justice samuel chase. philip: for which he was widely praised. akhil: leading want to say that in most countries, murder is arraigned before the judge -- here in america we have the judge being arraigned before the
murderer. [laughter] can see how we fell into these area. sometimes these mistakes feed on each other. if you think high crimes and misdemeanors is an open it invitation to a political trial, then you will want to a cabin that my saying, well there must be some underlying crime. in fact, as of drawing the circle tighter, you have really just made the second error prompted by the first one. benno: so it criminal act, for example, a president to announce that he or she was going to rome for a six-month holiday and business,o public that would not be a crime but it would certainly an impeachable offense. a violation of the public trust that any president has with the
people, which is to do the work of a country, and not go to rome for six months. akhil: and also the demeanor, how one behaves, we could think of it as a certain kind of gross misbehavior of a certain sort. whether or not strictly speaking, criminal in the ordinary sense. neither necessary, nor deficient. it is a slight difference than an ordinary crime. benno: one of the interesting questions about this matter from other has to be some element of violation of the public trust, is -- what about a serious crime committed by a president before he or she was elected president? for example, tax evasion. [laughter] i mean, we have an example of it just the other morning, i picked up my "new york times" and read that the president may have been guilty of evading the most $500 million of taxes, i mean, a huge
amount. by that was a long time ago. do you think a criminal act, although that may not be proven, but if it were proven, do you think there would be grounds for impeachment? philip: i don't think so. 60 five ofn a number the founder list, says that it must be a -- in a number 65 of the federalist, he says it must be a political crime. i don't see text revision in a that category -- tax evasion in that category, and it is that you can be impeached for decadesg fo before you took office. having said that, if a candidate for office were to engage in some kind of conspiracy to pervert the course of an election, we would not want the candidate to be the beneficiary of his or her wrong, so that the
thoughn process itself, it was perverted by someone not yet in office, i think it could be a predicate for impeachment. benno: by the same token, if a president who was not part of this conspiracy was the beneficiary of it, through no ceongdoing of his own, who on in office tries to prevent the investigation of the conspiracy, i think that would be a predicate for it. philip: i do agree that private tax evasion. akhil: idea from it. invading wants taxes as president, and using the irs to avoid detection, that starts to look like an abuse of government power. philip: one of the charges ,gainst nixon was that
i that he had invaded 400dea from the she had emitted for under thousand dollars worth of taxes while president. and the house did not go for offense.n impeachment akhil: there but for the grace of god go many of them that may have thought to had this is politicians and judging other don't want, and you to set the bar too high, because what goes around comes around for president. at here is where i have slightly different take. this treason is committed by --y young man or woman, but and then much later, that person becomes president, i think i would take the position. because treason, even committed by a private person, is the most obvious threat to the integrity of the state.
i might take the position that it was impeachable. ,ow, what did the voters know and when did they know about it? some deepever cured crime in one's past by improving vote -- by approving a vote? here is one hypothetical -- philip mentioned, there is actually a precedent on that. since we are talking about law, the things of that the senate have actually done, tried impeachment, are indeed precedents of a certain sort. i testified against a very corrupt judge from new orleans in the senate judiciary committee. he took all sorts of bribes as a
state judge. he became a federal judge and actually was acting in improper ways. by that was hard to prove. his defense was -- nothing i did became in article three judge can count, it is only my official misconduct. and i took the position, and of the house agreed with me, you lied it during your confirmation hearing. you weren't a federal judge yet, but lying in order to get this job was surely impeachable, and youjust what happened after took your article three oath of office. .nd in the house agreed with me benno: this raises a couple of questions. first, the issue of treason. v by that reasoning, none of the offices of the men in the confederal -- none of the officers of the confederate army
could have served in state office. thaneneral would have been our best the generals would have been vulnerable to impeachment. -- they would have been it vulnerable to impeachment. in terms of that example of the judge, i think we all agree, because we discussed this before , that the standards for impeaching a judge are different . akhil: this point is very important. let us actually talk about it a bit. benno: let's talk about whether acts that are impeachable may given the person who may have committed the act. while it may be not impeachable for a president, it might the impeachable for a federal judge, for example. philip: there is something whoing about asking someone has been tried and sentenced by
a judge who ha is known to have lied in a tribunal. it makes the system seem as though it has been fouled before the trial even started. when there is a supreme court hugoice who, like you will black, one of our great justices, may have misled the senate when he denied that he was a member of the ku klux aan, -- i think it is different issue. box,esident is in one he is a politician and not a judge. a supreme court justice is in one box, he is a trial judge, someone will actually decides facts on crimes and criminal cases.
the text is the same, but the structure is different. akhil: so another way of saying that point -- charles blacks book, which is a new edition, there is a whole new section by the professor, and i commend this book -- very important book, especially with philips addition. akhil: it is very slender and easy to read and it is about all the precedence on presidential impeachments. when we say structure, here is one example of what we mean. when the senate of the united states, as an impeachment court votes to convict, let's say, a cabinet officer, or a judge, they are voting to undo a commission that they basically participated in. they made that person by their
advice and consent, a cabinet officer, a judge. it is one thing to undo their own -- the judge became a federal judge because the senate made him a judge and he lied to them in the process. it is one thing to undo an action that you yourself help to make. it is a very different thing for the senate to undo a national election. i just made a structural argument, it is a textual argument. told you,and benno the text reads the same. treason, bribery, high crimes and misdemeanors. and does not distinguish between judges, presidents, cabinet officers. benno: let us turn to some factual situations that have in rattling in the news of late.
philip, do you think electronic hacking into the emails of the committee intional 2016 before the last presidential election, is that comparable to the break-in at numberse, where the planted -- where the plumbers planted microphones into the office of the democratic national committee? philip: i think it is virtually identical. the methods are different, but the ingenuity of burglars is always cutting edge technology. [laughter] philip: i think it is very much the same. benno: so if it could be shown that a president authorized or new about in advance and did not hacking or encouraged it, colluded in it,
that would be an impeachable offense in your view? philip: i think that it's right it is important to realize that doctrine and precedent are not confined to courts. that the action of the senate and the house, the action of presidents and policy, all provide constitutional ce.ceden i would answer a question you do not ask their weird i would say, of course you are right, that a president who contrived to have the headquarters of the opposing party burgled and their private andments purloined published and used in some intimidating way, would be subject to impeachment. but i would also say, from the nixon precedent, that a president who contrived to have the actions of such burglars not who used the or
federal government to mislead the investigators, even if -- i think this was true of nixon -- even if he was not aware or had not directed or planned the original burglary, yes, i think that would be a predicate for impeachment. akhil: here is one other very important element of the nixon precedent. it is different say, from the clinton precedent. i am said the clinton a fair, and you were going to laugh when i did not say that -- nixon was brought back and ousted by a bipartisan process in which at the end of the day, he had to go because members of his own party said so. fred thompson,ke howard baker -- at the end of the day, like mr. republican
barry goldwater who told president nixon, you don't have even a dozen votes in the senate and i am not with you anymore, wants theent -- on smoking gun tapes came out. it only takes a simple majority in the house, but it takes two thirds of the senate and in today's world, that will mean a buy-in from both parties. >> and i think it is abusive for the house to begin a process in hyper partisan ways because you will not be about to get a conviction. now clinton, democrats never o the impeachment in the house, so very predictably, you didn't get anything close to two thirds in the senate. so i am a photo of partisan foe ofhment -- i am a
partisan impeachment. senators take in all's to do impartial justice. an oath to taketake do impartial justice. imagine what you would do if the political shoe were on the other foot, which is a deep theme of book.s black's it is ordinary to say well, that , it is the republican platform to do this, it is the democratic platform to do that. i don't love obamacare, come it is not perfect tax-cut, but this is what we promised. but that is not what impeachment above, it should not be partisan. benno: the first question put to us is so crucial. c if impeachment were just a
political question we would not be disturbed by a breakdown in the senate or the house, we would expect that it. but if you went to a jury or a and found that their assessments broke down along strictly partisan mind, you would be appalled -- partisan lines, you would be if called, or you should be. [laughter] how about the disinformation to help by the russians one candidate and hurt another candidate in the presidential election? that the be to shown candidate favored by the russians colluded or encouraged that activity by the russians in some way, would that be an impeachable offense in your view ? akhil: probably, it would depend
on who the foreign power was? philip: what the extent of the conspiracy was, the candidates , but yes, perverting the course of an election by siding with a hostile power goes right to the heart of the grounds for impeachment outlined in the federalist papers. hope my colleagues disagree -- i would be surprised if they disagreed, but the federalist papers are perhaps our best resource for what ratifiers .eally intended benno: i would agree with that. could a president be lawfully for directing his subordinates to mislead or not cooperate
with investigators with respect to investigations related to activities in a presidential campaign? philip: i don't think there should be much doubt about this. we sometimes hear commentators sophisticated commentators who say -- that because the president has the discretion to direct the orncies to comments drop investigations or proceed orng such promising lines drop lines of that might threaten foreign relations or maybe less promising, other complexities -- because he has that discretion, he therefore cannot possibly be impeached for doing something less than that simply by saying, let's shut down this part of the investigation. i don't see it that way. presidento me that a who took the heat for turning
in ahe investigation is very different position with respect to the public, then one who tries to use the officers of his administration to mislead investigators, or to announce public things that are not true, as the alleged result of their investigations. sometimes you will hear people say that a president cannot possibly abstract himself. and, of course, that is probably true. but he can abstract the operations of the government. it is like the old joke -- someone is asked, do you believe in baptism? and the man says, believe in it, hell, i have seen it done we saw this at watergate. , and i don't think there is much question that a president could be impeached on that basis. benno: could the presidential use of pardon power either bases of impeachment?
philip: i think it would depend on what basis the party was given. some people would say, the pardon power is unlimited and therefore, it would be an implicit limitation on that text. or we to impeach for any use of the power. bert think about it for a minute, is it possible that you could secure a pardon for a bribe and that bribery would not be a predicate for impeachment? i think that is nonsense. akhil: because the text itself treason, bribery or other high crime or misdemeanor. briber is impeachable, even if the bribe is to get a pardon. benno: suppose the reason for the pardon is not a bribery, but so that a party that is being
has no incentive to cooperate with investigators -- what about that use of the pardon power? philip: if the person who is pardoned is an official, that is a bribe. we think a bribery simply in terms of the president taking a bribe, but he is also forbidden from offering a bribe. benno: can a president pardon himself? [laughter] philip: i think it is nonsense, cannot imagine it being lawful for a president to pardon himself. it is not only that we have these long-standing, cultural convictions that go back beyond the founding of this country. the lawyers and the audience -- no man mayse be a judge in his own case.
there are many other reasons why we would not permit a president to pardon himself. the language of granting a pardon, we don't typically grant things to ourselves. it but if you step back and say, how outrageous that would see. professor, i think i just heard you say it, take the example of --resident who is pardoned whose pardon, procured by a is impeached, then he pardons himself -- [laughter] eno's paradox. akhil: i will tell a lawyer joke -- well a law joke. think theyople don't who presides, --
this is a law joke. who presides at the vice president's impeachment trial, if you actually read this literally? , and tried by the senate he is a presiding officer of the senate. and of course, it cannot be the case that the vice president presides at his own impeachment trial. it was so obvious that it went without saying, or they didn't say it. here is what they did say they said, when a president is tried, the chief justice presides. why? because who otherwise would have presided, it would've been the vice president whose student again -- who stood to gain. you would have this insurmountable conflict of interest. but because it was slightly
different than presiding in your own case, that needed to be sent. but nobody thought it needed to be said that you could not presiding own case, of course you can't. that is what the essence of the his.of law goes all the way back to cicero in roman times. if you cannot be a judge in your own case, you cannot be a pardoner and your own case either. benno: the framers and ratifiers did not specify some of these bars because they thought better of us. [laughter] what about criminal behavior against your political opponents or candidates, opposing candidates? do you think and i position of criminal behavior that was
unfounded and known to be unfounded at the time it was made by the accusing party, do you think that would be an impeachable offense? >> i think it is a matter of degree. you were to try to intimidate your political opponents by criminalize the behavior, throwing them in prison, claiming that they have committed a series of crimes, and you made these claims with a reckless disregard for the facts, that seems to me the kind of thing that would really covered the electoral process. and that is at the heart of a constitutional crime. not an ordinary crime, although, it might very well be a tort to say that someone is guilty of a crime without any evidence, or in the teeth of contrary evidence. benno: before we turn to questions, how does the 25th amendment relates to impeachment
? philip: the 25th amendment, probably everybody in here knows, was a consequence of the assassination of president kennedy, the concern that if the president had lingered for some months, as a james garfield did before his demise, that the government would have been in this kind of shadow world. we know more now about president wilson's disability than what people did at the time. johnson, lyndon johnson come had a very serious ,eart attack back in the 50's and it is not inconceivable that he could of had another one that killed him just a couple of years later after he left office. he might've had a stroke that him.acitated so the people of his generation became concerned about this after the kennedy assassination. that we ought to find some way to legitimate the removal of a
president who is unable to carry out his duties. --roviding a specified legal process for doing so. that is the intent of the amendment. but the language is broader. the language is not limited to a disability. that have been some people in the last few months was suggested that this is an alternative route to impeachment. i am skeptical of this myself, but the text is bare. akhil?o you think, akhil: were they thinking about mental disability. benno: one of the provisions of the amendment says that even if a president does not agree that he or she is a disabled, that if the vice president and a majority of the cabinet come orward and say --
philip: or a group specified by congress -- benno: if they come forward and say the president is disabled, then the congress can add on that disability. akhil: two things -- maybe three things, to remember. first, we are talking now about possible mental disabilities that kerry now certain of imputation of wrongdoing -- that no imputation of wrongdoing. it is not a have done something wrong, it is just that you cannot discharge the duties. so it is not more lies, the way that actually trials and punishment in cases of impeachment are. so it is very different, it is not moralized. it depends entirely on the actions of the vice president. on vice president is not board with this, nothing can
happen, under the 25th amendment. the vice president has to put him or herself forward. third, if the president disputes it, the end of the day, congress decides, and there have to be two thirds of each house. so in some ways, it is a lower -- a dozen requirements conduct, but it requires a higher vote in the senate and the house as well, in order to prevent this from being too easy and end around impeachment. benno: let us turn to questions from the audience. apply trial in the senate particular rules of evidence? could a president to be convicted on the bases of hearsay, for example? philip: well, i would be happy to defer to my colleagues here because i don't know the slightest thing about criminal trials, and evidence, but as a constitutional lawyer, yes, i
can easily imagine the rules and ofdence -- the rules evidence not being of the same stringency and rigor that we have in an ordinary criminal trial. what we are trying to determine is a political crime, not politics, which is still something that strikes at the heart of the state. many of these acts are not things that leave a paper trail ---- they require inference sometimes it is something hidden in plain sight. benno: and also, the penalty for removal based on the senate conviction is not going to jail, it is just that you are out of office. toil: and it leads fro disqualification from all future office holding. and the only people impeachable .re former officeholders so i am not impeachable because i have never held an office.
think he is impeachable, and he could be disqualified from holding any office of honor, trust or profit in the future. and even though he is out of office, the reason he would be impeachable is that we wouldn't want somebody won a nano second ahead of the impeachment to gavel coming down on conviction to be able to escape the qualification. so i would say that former officers are impeachable, but not mere private citizens. philip: i may be taking this too personally. [laughter] akhil: it is not just about you. [laughter] onno: would you two comment the relevance of the emoluments clause? as you know, this is one area where people have made accusations against the current president, that he is receiving emoluments in the form of business for his properties from
foreign governments, from others -- philip: if you take it as an experiment that a president is receiving substantial amounts of income from foreign governments, , that inssumption itself does not strike me as a serious crime against the vitality of the state. it makes the recipient look -- doesn't seem to me, to discredit or disable the whole constitutional enterprise. which is what is contemplated by impeachment. "emolument" is such an interesting word, such an 18th-century ring to it. sometimes we miss other words in a sentence which are important
to remember. -- no person holding any office, profit or trust in the united states shall without the consent any8 gress accept emolument from any other president, king of any other state. once say,s can, if it it is ok by us, which is why think it is very important as a practical matter to ask the question whether the president's party controls both houses of congress. just saying. [laughter] >> who presides over the senate in a trial of impeachment of a example,udge him a for the vice president? akhil: the vice president. -- aaron burr, when
he is being tried, he keeps his job because the justices of the senate vote not to impeach him. benno: here is a question about a historical episode reared our research and that if nixon had -- historical episode. are we certain that his next and had not resigned, he would have been impeached by the senate? philip: i am certain about as i , it wasy other event forestalled by resignation, yes. akhil: and barry goldwater goes to the oval office and tells you that he has less than 10 votes in the senate. -- do here is a question you think of structuring of "highe can fit the term
crime or misdemeanor" and be in impeachable offense? philip: yes, i do. sometimes we hear people say that the attorney general is the chief law enforcement officer. i bet you heard that bandied about. that is not right. the cause edition is not provide for an attorney general. congress could abolish the office of attorney general -- notconstitution does provide front attorney general. congress can abolish that office. but they cannot abolish that office. they cannot abolish the presidency. a president is the chief law enforcement officer in our constitution. imagine the chief law enforcement officer taking pain stops talked the conduct of the law of the united states. it seems to go to jessica and of things that the framers and ratifiers had in mind, because it is unique to the office in
itself. you are using the powers of the disable and frustrated .he powers of the government best: and in fact, the charge against andrew johnson was not that the he violated the act, which was unconstitutional in itself when it said the president cannot fire his secretary of, without getting approval -- cannot fire his secretary of war. i have always thought that the soundest article of impeachment was the last one. that basically said, you are trying to frustrate systematically the enforcement in the south.s was thought that was actually the best article of impeachment.
but they did not have to thirds for that either. benno: we know from a historical note, or at least if we think at thee accurate, that constitutional convention, hamilton and madison both responded to the charge, that having a unitary executive as president, president of only one person rather than a committee, that that was on the road to monarchy. replied that -- with the four-year elections, you could vote the scoundrels out, and impeachment was a guardian against a president assuming the status of a monarch . we know in the ratification debate as well, that concerns about the executive becoming too powerful in several states were answered,
again, by citing the impeachment clause as well as the frequency of elections, so that in the ,onstitutional forming age impeachment was a rather important part of the overall structure that would keep the executive power in check. akhil: it is huge. we are coming to the end, but it is such a big point. some of the biggest things hide in plain sight. think about it. they are reacting to the world -- when they were schoolboys, it was a monarchy. and here are the two basic features about the monarchy: you don't pick the guy, and you can't get rid of him except by chopping his head off. that is the english civil war and revolution. and now, oh, you will be able to
pick him up front, and he has to be subject to periodic reelection, and if he misbehaves, you have a democratic way of ousting him that does not require you to chop his head off or claim that he has abdicated their so, james england doesn't have a good way of dealing with someone who is unfit and you don't have the front and chekov election. so -- if you don't have a front check of election. that is the difference between america's presidency and britain's monarchy. philip: and i wanted to add to that, if you look around the world, you see president who, if they lose or abort an election, they simply refused to leave office. i think it is a point of great pride in this country that in the middle of the civil war, we held an election right on time
in the middle of world war ii. akhil: and lincoln, as late as 1854 things he is going to lose. he gets every cabinet officer to notarize it, and what they are signing is his land, that if we lose the election, we will do our best to win the war until the end of our four-year term and then we will hand over the keys to the next fellow and it is up to him, then. >> we are the only democracy that has elections during wartime. akhil: he was about to tell you about what the brits did, philip . philip: it was madison during the war of 1812 foo held at the precedent and that every four years, there is an election, even if we are at war. philip: in britain, october 31
speechhurchill gives a that nobody under 21 has voted for a member of parliament -- they suspended elections between a 1935 and 1945, basically. that is what they do. and we hold elections on time. if impeachment was such an important part of the structural debate during the convention and ratification process, are you surprised that we've had only three instances of presidential impeachment in our history? really.not benno: we have had a lot about presidents. [laughter] philip: i think it has sanctioned as we promised the ratifiers. it really succeeds when it gets , senators and congressmen, and presidents to obey the will of law.
and doesn't succeed it just when it is invoked and carried to conviction. thuscceeds when it deters, i know we are about to close, but i just wanted to make this one point --we began talking about how impeachment is a matter of law, not a matter of politics, and how one party divisions result in a impeachment votes, we are suspicious of them because they do not look ordinary. grandchildren, great-great-grandchildren, some of our successors, will have more perspective than we do on what our greatest contribution, the legacy of this country will be. i am convinced that it will be our adherence to putting the state under law. there is really nothing more precious than that.
it was unprecedented when we did that as a modern state. it is not just a fixation of law professors and lawyers. following the rule of law in the greatest matters as well as in the smallest, is something that we want to insist on in this country. it is not just something that we are ourselves or each other, as a matter of self respect, it is something we all the people who come after us, because of generations who bequeathed us this system have suffered so much to keep that tradition alive and make sure it florist. benno: ladies and gentlemen come our time is up. [applause] i would like to thank philip and akhil.
dearreat authorities and friends. akhil: once again -- host: we would like to invite you all to join us for the book signing. professor, thank you very much for moderating our talk tonight. thank you, all. [indistinct chatter] >> you're watching american history tv. 48 hours of programming on american history every weekend. follow us on twitter at c-span history for information on our schedule and to keep up with the latest news. weekend, american history tv joins our comcast cable partners to showcase the history of memphis, tennessee. to learn more abou