The Democratic Process of Impeachment

John Bonifaz is an attorney and leading activist specializing in constitutional law and voting rights.
Sarah Kendzior is a journalist, scholar and author of the essay collection “The View from Flyover Country.”
This is an interview from Gaslit Nation, a podcast covering corruption in the Trump administration and the rise of autocracy around the world.

Arguments for Impeachment
Sarah Kendzior: So I want to start out by asking a general question because there's a lot of confusion these days about what exactly impeachment is and how it works. So can you just tell us that? What is impeachment and how does it work?

John Bonifaz: Yes. Impeachment is a power that we the people have in our constitution to remove an elected official of the government, including the president, when that person has abused the office and abused the public trust. And it's important to note that there is no requirement whatsoever that there be a conviction of a crime under the federal criminal code, or even an indictment issued before an impeachment process can begin. And this is the way we deal with those in power, including a president who would so trample on the Constitution and abuse the power of the office that we don't wait until another election, because the threat is to the republic itself, to the body politic and the view that the framers had is that there must be a power within the Constitution to protect the republic in that kind of moment. And that's the impeachment power.

Sarah Kendzior: Do you see this as a political or a partisan process or more of a constitutional duty?

John Bonifaz: It's absolutely a constitutional duty, it's a nonpartisan process. It's about defending and protecting our Constitution and our republic when we're faced with somebody in the Oval Office, or in another office, who so abuses the power of that office and abuses the public trust.

Sarah Kendzior: Right. And back in 2019, as I mentioned, you wrote that op ed with Rashida Tlaib, and there is a lot of enthusiasm at that time. You know right after the Dems taken the house to go forth with impeachment proceedings. That was tempered somewhat by Nancy Pelosi coming out and calling against it and now has been reinvigorated in light of the Mueller Report. So, taking all of these different developments into consideration, what are to you, what are some of the most compelling reasons to begin impeachment proceedings now?

John Bonifaz: First I want to be clear that the most compelling reason that we began with respect to this impeachment campaign at free speech for people was on the day the president took the oath of office, Donald Trump was refusing to divest from his business interests and placing himself on a collision course with the two anti corruption provisions of the Constitution: the foreign Emoluments Clause and the domestic Emoluments Clause. He's been treating the Oval Office as a profit making enterprise at the public expense. And so that's why we launched this campaign with Roots Action: Impeach Donald Trump Now on the day that he took the oath in January 2017 for his direct violations of the emoluments clauses. That's the first impeachable offense. But sadly, as we know, this president has committed multiple impeachable offenses since that day. And we now see the most recent one becoming even more in the news here with obstruction of justice. Although, it was clear to us when he fired the FBI Director James Comey that he had committed obstruction of justice. But the Mueller report lays out very clearly for the nation and for Congress that this president, but for being president, would be indicted in a criminal court for criminal charges of obstruction of justice. And the only reason why Mueller chose not to indict is because of a Department Justice Policy which claims that a sitting president cannot be indicted. But the fact is, that impeachment is not about again whether there is an indictment. Impeachment is about whether there's been abuse of power and that obstruction of justice and repeated efforts to shut down the Mueller investigation demonstrate that this president has abused his power.