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Trump appears to misunderstand how impeachment works

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President Donald Trump appeared to misunderstand how the process of presidential impeachment works, remarking to reporters on Thursday morning that he “can’t imagine the courts allowing” Congress to impeach him, despite the fact that Congress can impeach the president without judicial involvement.

Asked by a reporter if he thinks he’ll be impeached by Congress, Trump replied, “I don’t see how. They can because they’re possibly allowed, although I can’t imagine the courts allowing it.”

Impeachment experts were quick to point out that Congress can vote to impeach the president without the involvement of the courts.

“The Framers quite deliberately vested the power of impeachment in the House, and of trial in the Senate,” Yoni Appelbaum, a historian and writer at The Atlantic, tweeted. “‘The courts’ have no role to play here whatsoever.”

Trump went on to call the term impeachment “a dirty, filthy, disgusting word” that has “nothing to do” with him and argued that, in order to be impeached, he would have to be found guilty of both “high crimes” and “misdemeanors.” The constitutional standard defines impeachable offenses as “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

“It’s high crimes and— not ‘with’ or ‘or’ — it’s high crimes and misdemeanors,” Trump said. “There was no high crime and there was no misdemeanor, so how do you impeach based on that?”

Appelbaum argued that the Constitution doesn’t require the president to commit both categories of offenses and that not all impeachable offenses are technically crimes.

“The president says, “It’s high crimes AND misdemeanors, not high crimes OR misdemeanors.” Which is true! But it’s not a dual requirement, it’s an eighteenth-century legal term of art,” he wrote. “Not all impeachable offenses are statutory crimes; not all statutory crimes are impeachable offenses. The president is making a basic category error here.”

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