Only a few months ago America saw four elite law professors testify before the House Judiciary Committee on whether the evidence put forth by 14 witnesses was enough to impeach President Trump on his dealings with Ukraine. In a strictly partisan vote, the House passed two articles of Impeachment against the president, but does that mean Trump is actually impeached?
Harvard Law Professor Noah Feldman wrote an op-ed in Bloomberg to express his concerns over House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s threats to not release the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate unless her demands were met.
“According to the Constitution,” Feldman wrote, “impeachment is a process, not a vote.” Though the Constitution does not specify how quickly the articles must be sent over to the Senate for a trial, “some modest delay is not inconsistent with the Constitution, or how both chambers usually work.” However, Feldman continues, “an indefinite delay would pose a serious problem.”
Impeachment is not just a vote in the House of Representatives, it’s a political process which includes both houses of Congress and a trial in the Senate. Without fulfilling every part, the impeachment is not yet complete, he argues.
“If the House does not communicate its impeachment to the Senate, it hasn’t actually impeached the president. If the articles are not transmitted, Trump could legitimately say that he wasn’t truly impeached at all.”
After last weeks vote, President Trump became the 3rd U.S. president to be impeached, but at what point does the impeachment become an official asterisk next to Trump’s name in the history books.
Feldman argues the impeachment process is only complete after the House managers, who are being withheld until the Senate releases procedures for a trial Speaker Pelosi deems ‘fair,’ officially declare Trump impeached on the Senate floor.
Feldman explains this with the technical terminology used in the impeachment process, saying “so far, the House has voted to impeach (future tense) Trump. He isn’t impeached (past tense) until the articles go to the Senate and the House members deliver the message.”
Without sending the articles to the Senate, the impeached president would not be given his constitutional right to defend his name against the two charges brought by the House.
“The framers’ definition of impeachment assumed that impeachment was a process, not just a House vote.” Feldman ends with, “but if the House never sends the articles, then Trump could say with strong justification that he was never actually impeached. And that’s probably not the message Congressional Democrats are hoping to send.”
As of now, the Speaker shows no intention on sending House managers to deliver the news to the Senate of the impeachment. Things may change, but as of now the process is entirely incomplete.