Democrats insist that a former president can be impeached. Frankly, I had always thought this was an open question. I assumed that an ex-president, i.e., no longer in office, could not be impeached, especially given that I long understood impeachment as part of a formal process for removal, especially as the process moved from the House to the Senate.
Article 2, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution deals with a president and impeachment. It states, “President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
We’ve always considered what constitutes high crimes and misdemeanors to be subjective, but not “shall be removed.” That language is about removal.
Likewise, Article 1, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution deals with a president and impeachment — again, explicitly a sitting president. It states, “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. Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office.” Importantly, the line continues, adding, “and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States.”
That “disqualification” no doubt is what Democrats (and some Republicans) hope to do with Donald Trump — namely, disqualify him from running for office again.
This is the position of Steven Calabresi, founder of the Federalist Society, who, in a recent op-ed piece in the New York Times with Norman Eisen, asserted,
Not everyone who wants to occupy the Oval Office is qualified to do so. The Constitution’s framers recognized that in establishing both qualifications and empowering disqualification. It is both appropriate and necessary to bar Trump from the White House even if, as incredible as it may seem, some voters might wish to vote for him again. We should not allow that to happen.
Whether Calabresi or you or I would vote for Donald Trump or would hope to see him disappear forever isn’t the issue. The overriding issue, it seems to me, remains whether the Constitution instructs us that an ex-president can be impeached.
Calabresi is among 170 legal scholars who signed a January 21, 2021, open letter to Congress on impeaching “former officers.” The letter is titled just that: “Constitutional Law Scholars on Impeaching Former Officers.” It asserts, “The Constitution’s text and structure, history, and precedent make clear that Congress’s impeachment power permits it to impeach, try, convict, and disqualify former officers, including former presidents.”
Given that Democrats insist that an ex-president can without question be impeached, I want to raise this prospect: Can a former, deceased president be impeached?
No. There is no explicit language in the Constitution about a former president. The language is about “removal” of a sitting president. Impeachment of President Richard Nixon by the U.S. Senate was stopped after he left office. There was no longer any point. You don’t remove a president already out of office. And let me say this: At the very least, I thought the question of impeaching a former president was unclear and unsettled and certainly debatable. Legal scholars do debate the matter (click here and here for just one point-counterpoint).
It’s clear that those pushing impeachment of ex-President Donald Trump are also hoping for some sort of uber-punishment for misconduct in office and relating to events at the Capitol on January 6. But again, the key question at hand comes down to whether an out-of-office president can be impeached, for whatever reason.
Democrats in the House and Senate claim to know better, with utter certainty and unanimity. They tell us that at the very least, that scoundrel of scoundrels — Donald J. Trump — can be impeached. He can be impeached twice no less, in office and then out of office. Perhaps next year, in 2022, he could be impeached again. Why not? Does the Constitution say he can’t?
Fascinatingly, the Democrats’ lead impeachment manager, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), who fought the certification of electoral votes in 2017 and who questioned the legitimacy of the 2016 presidential election (something that liberals tell us should not be done, or at least not for the 2020 election), was seeking Trump’s impeachment four years ago. He got it once, and now he’s seeking it a second time.
So, given that Democrats insist that an ex-president can without question be impeached, I want to raise this prospect: Can a former, deceased president be impeached? And as for those favoring Trump’s impeachment, don’t dare give me the excuse that the Constitution is silent or unclear on whether you can impeach a deceased ex-president.
Again, many of the constitutional scholars arguing for former President Trump’s impeachment insist that such is an appropriate super-censure for his misconduct in office. If that’s the charge, then let’s at long last serve justice: The impeachment of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt for the internment of Japanese Americans is not only long overdue but essential. It has been a long time coming, and with Democrats cracking open the door to impeaching ex-presidents, we must take up this case.
Constitutionally, FDR’s case seems much simpler than Trump’s. We need not even bother with the sticky disqualification-from-running-again thing, given that FDR has been dead for 76 years. We can focus much more easily on punishment for serious misconduct, if not high crimes and misdemeanors.
The smoking gun to indict FDR isn’t hard to find. In fact, I and countless millions of other ordinary Americans have seen it publicly on display, literally framed behind glass at the Smithsonian. It’s Executive Order 9066, and it’s right there in all your history books (even if your history book neglected to note the name of the president who signed it). That was the edict signed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on February 19, 1942, creating the Japanese Internment Camps. The Smithsonian sums up the travesty this way:
After Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and the United States entered a war in Europe and the Pacific, the nation was overcome by shock, anger, and fear — a fear exaggerated by long-standing anti-Asian prejudice. Ten weeks later President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, under which nearly 75,000 American citizens of Japanese ancestry were taken into custody. Another 45,000 Japanese nationals living in the United States (but long denied citizenship because of their race) were also incarcerated. Some forty years later, members of the Japanese American community successfully led the nation to confront the wrong it had done — and to make it right.
With Executive Order 9066, President Franklin Roosevelt authorized the removal and incarceration of “any and all persons” from areas of the country deemed vulnerable to attack or sabotage.
Well said, brethren. The executive order is chock-full of what the sensitivity experts at CNN and MSNBC would no doubt identify as xenophobic dog-whistles. Addressing his military commanders, FDR called out “alien enemies,” “espionage,” and “sabotage.” All are no doubt weasel words that in reality destroyed countless lives of law-abiding Japanese Americans singled out for their race immediately after Imperial Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.
How many lives were affected? Even Wikipedia gets that one right:
The internment of Japanese Americans in the United States during World War II was the forced relocation and incarceration in concentration camps in the western interior of the country of about 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry, most of whom lived on the Pacific Coast. Sixty-two percent of the internees were United States citizens. These actions were ordered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt shortly after Imperial Japan‘s attack on Pearl Harbor.
Talk about an abuse of civil liberties. This was a forcible rounding up, relocation, and mass incarceration. People died in those camps.
As historian Dwight D. Murphey noted, Executive Order 9066 actually “authorized the establishment of military areas from which people of all kinds could be excluded.” It did indeed. It was an open hunting license against whatever group the iconic Democrat president wished to target. But Americans of Japanese descent in particular suffered from FDR’s executive order. Without any due process, these people and their families were hastily shipped off to relocation and “assembly” centers. Sen. S. I. Hayakawa later described them as “dreary places: long rows of tarpaper-covered wooden barracks.” Each room for each family had nothing more than “a stove, a drop light, an iron cot and mattress.”
Was such abuse by excessive executive fiat an isolated occurrence by FDR? Hardly. Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed an astonishing 3,721 executive orders as president — far more than any other president by leaps and bounds. By comparison, Donald Trump signed merely 220. And Trump is the imperial president? No, no president ever wielded executive authority like Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Racial and ethnic insensitivity by FDR wasn’t limited to people of Japanese descent. If you want even more outrageous examples, do a little research on FDR and Jews: his eugenics project to “resettle” Jews during World War II, the evidence of how his bigotry derailed Holocaust rescue plans, his bizarre and chilling statement to Stalin at Yalta about giving the Saudi king “the six million Jews in the United States,” the tragedy of the Jews aboard the German transatlantic liner the St. Louis, or FDR’s opposition to the creation of the nation of Israel, which prompted President Harry Truman’s close aide David Niles to rightly observe, “There are serious doubts in my mind that Israel would have come into being if Roosevelt had lived.” And when you consider what FDR said about Jews in private, these public actions by FDR are no surprise.
I could go on and on with FDR racial insensitivities that liberal historians have allowed him to get away with. For some of his disturbing thoughts on people of color, see the memoir White House Witness: 1942-1945, by Jonathan Daniels, FDR’s press secretary, and the last survivor of the staff immediately around President Roosevelt. On page 165, FDR replies to one of his aides’ assertion that the venereal disease rate for the people of Liberia is 100 percent: “I suppose they all get it before they are grown, as I understand there is no such thing as chastity in Liberia after the age of five or six.” Or FDR’s remark (page 180) that he was anxious to help the West Indies produce more than “sugar and n*****s.” FDR figured that the white man could help those wretched savages. In the words of Daniels, FDR said that “one of the great ways to do this was through the [American] tourist.” Yes, the civilizing American tourist.
None of these examples of FDR’s ethnic prejudice seems irrelevant to the Japanese question. Liberals are aggressively canceling historical figures for racial insensitivities. But not FDR. He’s a hero to progressives, consistently ranked by liberal academics as the greatest president of the 20th century.
What FDR did to his own Japanese citizens in America is especially disgraceful.
Where are fighters for racial justice like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and U.S. Sen. Mazie Keiko Hirono of Hawaii, who was born in Japan?
Democrats really ought to join in. After all, they are addicted to impeachment. Every Republican president since Eisenhower (with the obvious exception of Gerald Ford) has been the target of impeachment by Democrats. Democrats have introduced articles of impeachment against every single elected Republican president since the beloved Ike. These people are barking mad over impeachment. And yet, none of those Republican presidents did what FDR egregiously did to an entire ethnic group of upstanding Americans.
So, surely Democrats, given their love of impeachment, will join this effort, correct?
Oh, that’s right. FDR was a Democrat. Well, forget that. Clearly, to Democrats, impeachment is a punishment reserved solely for post-Eisenhower elected Republicans.
But progressives en masse ought to be less partisan than elected Democrats. Surely they have higher standards. Will they not join me in calling for this righteous crusade against a grave injustice? Will they not write their congressmen?
Every good-hearted progressive ought to join arms with every Japanese American and, frankly, Americans of all colors, creeds, races, ethnicities, religions, genders, sexualities, sexual preferences, sexual attractions, sexual hang-ups, sexual frustrations, disabilities (and abilities), haters of bigotry, haters of prejudice, haters of racism, and haters of hate, to petition Congress to impeach Franklin Delano Roosevelt for this crime against humanity, let alone some trifling “crime and misdemeanor.”
This is long overdue. Justice must be done. For too long, Franklin Delano Roosevelt has gotten away with this. Now that we know that ex-presidents are absolutely and utterly impeachable, this should be taken up immediately.