cover image Impeaching the President: Past, Present and Future

Impeaching the President: Past, Present and Future

Alan Hirsch. City Lights, $14.95 trade paper (228p) ISBN 978-0-87286-762-8

Trump-haters beware: ousting a president is a complicated and uncertain endeavor, according to this perceptive study of impeachments by Williams College law professor Hirsch (A Citizen’s Guide to Impeachment). Andrew Johnson’s 1868 impeachment—he escaped conviction by a single (possibly bribed) vote in the Senate—was ostensibly about Johnson firing the secretary of war, but really about his pro-Southern, anti–civil rights politics, Hirsch writes. The impeachment proceedings that forced Richard Nixon’s 1974 resignation strike Hirsch as justified because of Nixon’s flagrant abuse of power to obstruct Watergate investigations and harass opponents. And Bill Clinton’s 1998 impeachment for obstruction and perjury concerning his sexual encounters with Monica Lewinsky was “not frivolous, [but] not compelling,” Hirsch contends. He warns against using impeachment for partisan point-scoring, arguing cogently that it should be used only when wrongdoing is serious, harm to the republic is significant, and popular support is strong. He shrewdly assesses the impeachability of President Trump based on his alleged offenses (Russia collusion—hard to tell; Stormy Daniels payoff—no; firing James Comey—possibly) and mulls the gonzo scenario of Trump pardoning his own crimes. Hirsch’s lucid prose and careful analysis make the book a fine corrective to cavalier popular rhetoric surrounding discussions of impeachment. (Oct.)