From 1974: Why the President should be impeached

Richard M. Nixon's resignation speech on Aug. 8, 1974, 12 days after this editorial was published (Wikimedia)

On May 9, 1974, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee began public hearings on articles of impeachment brought against President Richard M. Nixon. In late July of that year, three articles of impeachment (for obstruction of justice, abuse of power and contempt of Congress) were debated and approved by the Committee and sent to the floor of the House of Representatives for a full vote. Before the vote was carried out, President Nixon announced his resignation from office on August 8, 1974, effective the following day. The following editorial was published by the editors of America in the July 27, 1974, issue.

As the summer heat sets in and the inflationary pressures in our economy continue to escalate, it is understandable that most Americans would rather think about their vacations and the cost of living than about impeachment. Indeed, such a shift in the focus of public attention is particularly understandable in the light of the endless complexities of law and fact that have now become part of the impeachment discussions. In such a situation, where so much is at stake for the moral and political ideals of our country, it is essential that we cut through the complexities and ambiguities by a return to first principles and indisputable facts.

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The Presidency of the United States is a public trust, not a private domain. Any person who holds that office is under a solemn obligation to exercise its powers for the benefit of the public in conformity with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The President is accountable to the public, not only for the wisdom of the policies he advocates at home and abroad, but for the morality of his Administration. Even though elected by the people, the President has no irrevocable right to the Presidency. He can be defeated at the polls, or he can be impeached, convicted and removed from office.

From America, 1974: "The President is accountable to the public, not only for the wisdom of the policies he advocates at home and abroad, but for the morality of his Administration." 

A President can be defeated at the polls for many reasons, but he may lawfully be impeached only for treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors. The impeachment process consists of two very distinct steps: accusation by the House of Representatives and trial by the Senate. Although this process has certain analogies in civil and criminal law, it is a constitutionally unique process and must not be confused with civil or criminal trials. Impeachment, by the deliberate choice of the framers of the Constitution, is a legislative, not a judicial, function. In reaching their momentous decisions, neither the House nor the Senate is under any obligation to act exactly like a court of law.

The function of the House is to accuse or not to accuse. The function of the Senate is to acquit or convict. Clearly, the two functions are not the same and should not be governed by the same rules. The members of the House do not have to ask themselves whether there is sufficient evidence to convict. What they do have to ask themselves is whether there is sufficient evidence to justify, or even require, accusation.

The function of the accusation is to compel the President to defend himself. The question, then, before the House (presently, before the House Judiciary Committee, which is expected to make its recommendations before the end of this month) is whether the evidence presently available with respect to President Richard M. Nixon's involvement in Watergate and other scandals in his Administration exonerates the President or demands further explanation and defense of his activities. To this question, it seems to us that there is only one reasonable answer: the evidence, and especially the evidence made available by the President himself, demands further explanation and defense.

From America, 1974: "As matters stand, there is no way short of impeachment to save morality and constitutionality in American politics."

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There is only one sure way to get additional evidence: impeachment. Paradoxically, impeachment is also the only sure way President Nixon can clear himself. As long as matters are allowed to stand the way they are now, there can be no public consensus as to the guilt or innocence of President Nixon with regard to deliberate obstruction of justice or equally deliberate failure to execute the laws faithfully.

What we have now is a public consensus of suspicion. That consensus has been deeply reinforced by the recent convictions of Presidential aide John D. Ehrlichman, by the differences between the White House transcripts of certain tapes and the House Judiciary Committee's transcripts of the same tapes, and by the evidentiary reports issued by both the Senate and House Committees. It would be a betrayal of the most fundamental American political ideals of morality and justice for Congress to permit this consensus of suspicion to fester without remedy. Impeachment has become the only way to vindicate the national honor. If, in the process, the personal honor of President Nixon is also vindicated, we will all be the victors.

There is, of course, the possibility that, even when impeached, President Nixon will refuse to make any more evidence available to the public. We regard that, however, as only an abstract possibility. If it should prove to be more than that, the Senate will then have to decide if the existing evidence, plus the President's refusal to reply further, is sufficient for conviction. That issue, however, does not have to be decided at present. What does have to be decided now is the issue of impeachment. As matters stand, there is no way short of impeachment to save morality and constitutionality in American politics.

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Todd Witherell
4 weeks ago

Well done, editors then.
Well chosen, editors now.

It is time for another Republican liar and abuser of power and crook to get thrown down.

As Pope Francis (prophetically and repeatedly) said, “Populism is evil and ends badly.”

Todd Witherell
4 weeks ago

Percy Bysshe Shiva

A Spirit of Terror stalks the Land
Ruination now is near at hand
All eyes fix upon the man
Whose face doth sneer with cold command
Like unto Ozymandias of old
His claim to Greatness takes no hold
If the people cower, make no stand
The Empire itself reduced to sand
Surely Shelley would understand

Todd Witherell

P.S. "Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the human race."
Percy Bysshe Shelley

P.S.S. As you Jesuits are no doubt aware, Shiva is the Hindu God of Destruction. When he wakes up, some scary shit goes down. Destruction of illusions and egos and things like that.

Genuine best wishes to you, Fr. Malone. Be not afraid!

J Cosgrove
4 weeks ago

Isn’t this a little presumptuous? Was there an article done for Clinton too? Where is the underlying crime here? Being unlikeable is not a crime?

Maybe the editors might want to comment on discussions that this is not an attempt to get Trump, thought that would be desirable for the Democrats, but this is a way to sink Biden who will be made to look bad in any discussion of the Ukraine phone call.

Shayne LaBudda
3 weeks 6 days ago

Not at all presumptuous. Late to the game is more like it. A crime is not required for impeachment. Bill Clinton's hummer in the oval office did nothing to endanger our nation. Trump soliciting foreign help in an election does (as do so many other of his actions). Biden should and likely will pay a price for even the appearance of improper influence. Let's not get caught up in relative degrees of offense. Also, remember that the Senate's failure to convict Clinton was bipartisan. Wait and see how the gutless, traitorous Republican senators vote on the coming impeachment. Shameless.

J Cosgrove
3 weeks 5 days ago

Clinton lied under oath, a crime. I am pointing out that there is no crime where there was for Nixon and Clinton. Trump did not solicit foreign help in the 2016 election but Hillary and Obama's government did.

Robert Lewis
3 weeks 5 days ago

Can you READ?! The article clearly states that the process of impeachment offers the chief executive the opportunity of clearing himself and getting on with the business of governing. What we have in Washington right now is chaos, and it really doesn't matter, if we're talking about "national security," who or what caused it. It's got to stop. If Trump is to have any hope of being an effective President, he's got to be impeached and vindicated by a trial in the Senate--or are you actually fearful that he might not be vindicated? The Democrats should be fearful that he might be. Either way, impeachment is a loss for somebody, but a gain for the nation.

Douglas Fang
3 weeks 6 days ago

Is even Fox finally abandoning Trump?

https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/pelosi-trump-impeachment-jason-nichols

“…Trump governs our country like the leader of a poorly run business. The big city socialite and former Democrat has no core beliefs or political positions…” It is so accurate (a rarety from Fox)!

Crystal Watson
3 weeks 6 days ago

I was in college during the Watergate hearings/impeachment of Nixon. I never thought there would be another president who deserved impeachment more than Nixon, but Trump is so much worse than Nixon.

Jorge Rebasa
3 weeks 6 days ago

AMDG

Jorge Rebasa
3 weeks 6 days ago

AMDG

Adeolu Ademoyo
3 weeks 5 days ago

Thank you AmericaMagazine editors for this sense of history. A society which fails to learn from history is bound to re-live it- history's mistakes and errors. As I read this article, I mused aloud to my wife that what bothers me is that I find it uncomfortable and disconcerting that if we -my wife and I- still have kid(s) in elementary, middle or high school, and if the present president of the country is passing by our lovely small city, and my children's school wants to invite this president to visit the school to inspire, encourage and motivate the kids, and the school consults parents on this, that I will openly oppose it, because I cannot support such invitation to this person-who is president today-to visit an elementary, middle or high school. It will be a right under the constitution to speak up and oppose the visit of an un-ethical, immoral, corrupt, un-christian and irreligious person to the children- because a president is not the people, a president is not the country.

This is tragic because what is he going to say to inspire children when everyday he shows that he is not a model for children or for families? And sadly his core supporters-the so-called base in acceptance of the fact that this man is a chronically and an incurably corrupt and un-ethical human being and president say "eh we did not elect a priest." This so called base of the president forget to see that by saying "eh we did not elect a priest as president , so do not expect him to be a model to the country's children" have inadvertently admitted that this fellow-called a president is fundamentally unfit to be the president.

With this new betrayal of the nation, the people, the country, national security, the nation's constitution, the people's trust and the presidential oath of office in the attempt to again manipulate the 2020 election through this new Ukraine scandal and political cover up, I know that members of the so-called core political base of this fellow who occupies the White House will once again throw away patriotism, the country, ethics, conscience, truth and spin this new presidential corruption, rape and abuse of office in the self dealing in the new Ukraine scandal. The shocking thing is that the members of the so-called core political base of the occupier of the White House will once again look truth straight in the face and spit on truth, ignore it, lacerate and damn truth, while they still call themselves Christians. What is shocking is why they still manage to call themselves Christians when they trample so blatantly on truth which is an irreducible moral character of Christianity. It is a strange world which is getting stranger.

May God in His infinite wisdom continue to teach us His wisdom. God Bless you editors AmericaMagazine for your service to society, country and people of God.

Todd Witherell
3 weeks 5 days ago

"I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just. That His Justice cannot sleep forever." - Thomas Jefferson

Todd Witherell
3 weeks 4 days ago

Great Again

Chaos coming to these United States
The American Abyss beckons - and it indeed is Great.

- Todd Witherell

Todd Witherell
3 weeks 4 days ago

Please let it be duly noted here that both David Brooks and George Will have come out publicly now against the “prudence” of impeachment. I should also like to note I read George Will’s advocacy of “conservatism without theism” in his most recent book, the Conservative Sensibility. He is a “cheerful atheist” who uses the religious freaks in the Republican Party for social power against liberals. And, again, he is against impeachment. 20 Republicans will never come on board against Trump, he insists. Also, David Brooks, as noted by Rev. Bill McGarvey in this magazine, doesn’t like to read Thomas Merton. Too dry. Too monastic. Too, what shall we say David “Mr. Iraq” Brooks? Too anti-American violence.

We are now in late September. Brooks and Will say No. Imprudent.

Let’s see what happens. I do not myself claim to know if it will work.

But I do know the Wheel is still in spin.

And there’s no tellin’ who that it’s namin’

Watch and Pray!

Todd Witherell
3 weeks 4 days ago

Please let it be duly noted here that both David Brooks and George Will have come out publicly now against the “prudence” of impeachment. I should also like to note I read George Will’s advocacy of “conservatism without theism” in his most recent book, the Conservative Sensibility. He is a “cheerful atheist” who uses the religious freaks in the Republican Party for social power against liberals. And, again, he is against impeachment. 20 Republicans will never come on board against Trump, he insists. Also, David Brooks, as noted by Rev. Bill McGarvey in this magazine, doesn’t like to read Thomas Merton. Too dry. Too monastic. Too, what shall we say David “Mr. Iraq” Brooks? Too anti-American violence.

We are now in late September. Brooks and Will say No. Imprudent.

Let’s see what happens. I do not myself claim to know if it will work.

But I do know the Wheel is still in spin.

And there’s no tellin’ who that it’s namin’

Watch and Pray!

Todd Witherell
3 weeks 4 days ago

Please let it be duly noted here that both David Brooks and George Will have come out publicly now against the “prudence” of impeachment. I should also like to note I read George Will’s advocacy of “conservatism without theism” in his most recent book, the Conservative Sensibility. He is a “cheerful atheist” who uses the religious freaks in the Republican Party for social power against liberals. And, again, he is against impeachment. 20 Republicans will never come on board against Trump, he insists. Also, David Brooks, as noted by Rev. Bill McGarvey in this magazine, doesn’t like to read Thomas Merton. Too dry. Too monastic. Too, what shall we say David “Mr. Iraq” Brooks? Too anti-American violence.

We are now in late September. Brooks and Will say No. Imprudent.

Let’s see what happens. I do not myself claim to know if it will work.

But I do know the Wheel is still in spin.

And there’s no tellin’ who that it’s namin’

Watch and Pray!

Todd Witherell
3 weeks 4 days ago

Just one more, if I may.

In his book, Mr. Will claims the idea of “theism” arises to “assuage an ache”, an ache he apparently does not have.

Which makes me remember riding home on a Seattle ferry boat:

twilight blue sky above
Rainier snow-capped distantly
full moonshine we see
O Beauty! Ever ancient, Ever new!
Late have I loved Thee!

Terry Kane
3 weeks 4 days ago

Does anyone else find it surprising that the reprinting of this article coincides with the attacks on the most pro-life, pro-religious liberty, pro-America president in our lifetime?
Sad

Adeolu Ademoyo
3 weeks 4 days ago

The Church teaches that we as Christians should defend life from conception to death. The Church teaching on life is a holistic teaching about life. It is the correct teaching. So the question is: Can a racist who advocates for the death of people who do not look like him-a la Central Park Five- be said to be pro-life? As Christians can we pick and choose which life to defend? If the answer is yes, then how does that fit the holistic Church teaching on life which requires us to holistically defend life from conception to death? So, can a racist who advocates for the death of people who do not look like him-a la Central Park Five- be said to be pro-life?

Todd Witherell
3 weeks 4 days ago

Well said, Mr. Ademoyo.

The Donald is a racist and a sociopath. He is not in any way pro-life, just anti women. He has nothing to do with what you (rightly) call the Church’s holistic teaching.

His time is nearly done.

Best wishes to you!

Todd Witherell

Adeolu Ademoyo
3 weeks 4 days ago

Free and fair election is part of the heartbeat of the sovereignty of any democratic country. Free and fair election is part of the heart beat of western democracy. American democracy is part of western democracy. It follows that free and fair election is part of the heart beat of the sovereignty of the United States of America. An attack on the United States of America's election is an attack on the sovereignty and soul of the United States of America.

Therefore, it is a betrayal and a treachery ( which smacks of or close to treason) to the United States of America and the great and good people of the United States of America for any American or any person in America-low or high, of any ethnicity or race, of any class, of any political party or ideology, of any cultural background, of any religious orientation or belief to say privately or publicly that he/she does not care about the 2016 Russian interference-(led by the international thug and dictator Vladimir Putin)- in the 2016 American elections.

It is a betrayal and a treachery ( which smacks of or close to treason) to the United States of America and the great and good people of the United States of America for any American or any person in America-low or high, of any ethnicity or race, of any class, of any political party or ideology, of any cultural background, of any religious orientation or belief to privately or publicly collaborate with foreign countries e.g. Ukraine in the forthcoming 2020 American elections.

The two cases are immoral, un-ethical, are instances of treachery that smack of and are close to treason if not full blown treason against the United States of America and her great and good people.

rose-ellen caminer
3 weeks 4 days ago

I stand with the President on this.I do not see Trumps phone call conversation as an attack on our democracy.That phrase has become the go to phrase used to go after a president ; para politically it is designed to show how we are vigilant about our democracy which every elected president is on the verge of destroying, He has violated or is about to violate the bedrock of democracy; the constitution goes the game. It was said about Obama regarding the Affordable Care Act[ he's violated the constitution] it was said about Bush[regarding may things; I said it too but my opposition to his policies were first and foremost, that they were immoral,unjust;just plain wrong. ].. The Constitution like DNI Mc Guire basically said when he noted that in a Supreme Court decision which comes down 5 to 4, no side is Right and no side is Wrong! Why? How can that be? Because the Constitution can be interpreted to mean whatever [just enough] people in positions of power say it means.And it can be amended.

Biden is not the nominee for president of the Dem party for the upcoming election nor is he just another political opponent in an election season. He was the vice president during Trumps election campaign. The Ukrainian prosecutor at that time produced[ Giuliani says fabricated] documents used in a US court which ended up indicting Trumps campaign manager for crimes. Biden's administration and the Dem party were aligned with that Ukrainian administration; his son got sweet heart deals out of it. After Mueller ended his investigation Trump was relieved but wanted to get to the bottom of how the past administration during an election campaign had all the appearance of being in cahoots with parts of the Ukrainian government which was the beginning of the attacks on candidate Trump and led to the whole Russian interference' witch hunt scandal. The US has a treaty with Ukraine to work together on investigations.The Ukrainians were the ones it appears were meddling with Trumps election,i.e. US ELECTIONS and Trump wanted to get to the bottom of that. As that is illegal, he too by making that phone call to Ukraine was acting on behalf of our "national security' ; get to the bottom of whether and how the Ukrainians had interfered with our election, when Trump was running.

The real take away from this[imo] is how the US is an empire; Ukraine has a divided people; some are pro west and some are pro Russian. We have been meddling with their politics for decades siding with one group against the other. They are more of a territory or a wannabe territory of US then a sovereign state as all our dealings there reveal.
The more significant issue going forwards is that we are so divided politically that we no longer have faith in the executive branch. Appointees of the president are said to be partisan hacks [of the president ] unless they do what the Dems want and attack the president.A presidential appointee to the SC is portrayed as totally immoral and criminal, and Dept of justice Barr is without credibility or integrity for having been put there by Trump! In this climate, it is the very structure of the government that needs fixing. The president has too much power.We no longer trust the provision of executive privilege to be anything but a cover for a rogue president to hide behind, and the executive branch viewed by the opposing party as a den of corrupt sychopants of a president elected by hook and by crook. It is perhaps time to restructure the role function of the government and its executive branch .

The notion of anonymous whistle blower is also problematic. I get how a person who is an employee of powerful institutions with people in power over them, would be hesitant to identify themselves when accusing higher ups of corruptions and crimes. They could be retaliated against professionally. But there is something un American ish, anyway, [imo]in being able to make accusations against someone and for the accused not having to ever face his/her accuser. I can see how that is totally appropriate regarding minors, but adults in a democracy of the people, by the people, does not sit well with me[mo].

Jim Smith
3 weeks 2 days ago

A self-proclaimed sinner represents the Jesuits satisfactorily in the Vatican on the seat of St Peter and only a person of sinless perfection representing the Republicans may occupy the office of POTUS.

Adeolu Ademoyo
3 weeks 2 days ago

But the present occupier of the white house claims he is the only one that can solve all the problems of the United States of America, he claims that he is perfect, sinless and looking up to heaven, the present occupier of the white house also claims that he is "THE CHOSEN ONE." "Chosen one"?

We definitely live in strange times that get stranger everyday with the complicit in the blasphemy, in the un-patriotism, in the betrayal of the nation, and in the treachery of the present occupier of the white house by members of his .political base, some of who self describe as christians! Christians? These are strange times and they get stranger!

May God teach us his wisdom!

Todd Witherell
3 weeks 2 days ago

“In the end, there are only two kinds of men. The righteous, who know they are sinners. And sinners, who think they are righteous” - Blaise Pascal

Michael S
3 weeks 1 day ago

As God told Abraham to "find just one good man", so should we ask the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate to find one good person among them.
All of these politicians are self-serving hypocrites, who are quick to judge others while they continuously abuse the power of their office.
The impeachment hearing is not a matter justice, but of blatant hypocrisy.

Todd Witherell
3 weeks 1 day ago

The impeachment process is justice because the President betrayed his country. Treason.
And, Mr. Dylan is correct:

God said to Abraham, "Kill me a son."
Abe said, "Man, you must be puttin' me on."
God said, "No!"
Abe said, "What?"
God said, "You can do what you want Abe but,
The next time you see me comin'
You better run!"
Abe said, "Where do you want this killin' done?"
God said, "Out on Highway 61!"

The President and his party and his supporters are condemned, Michael S.
All the way from New Orleans to Jerusalem.

Douglas Fang
3 weeks 1 day ago

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/jeff-flake-tells-republicans-theres-still-time-to-save-your-souls

"...My fellow Republicans, it is time to risk your careers in favor of your principles..."

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