Professor Bowman’s Latest Op-Ed in Slate Provides Historical Context for Impeachable Offenses

Professor Frank O. Bowman’s recent piece in Slate, “Trump’s Foreign Policy Carnage Is an Impeachable Offense,” summarizes the history of impeachment and concludes that Congress would be within its constitutional authority to impeach Donald Trump.

From its origins in 1376, when first used by Parliament in Britain, he writes that “A persistent theme in British impeachments was the charge that the impeached minister had pursued a policy at odds with the nation’s basic foreign policy interests.”

The delegates at the Constitutional Convention of 1787 wrestled over what conduct would be impeachable and finally settled on treason, bribery and other high crimes and misdemeanors. Bowman explains that “the Framers’ choice of ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ sets the baseline minimum for the scope of American impeachments.” Adding that this “means American officials are properly impeachable for at least the range of conduct covered by British practice.” Given that British impeachments often were for policy at odds with basic foreign policy interests, he argues “that a president is impeachable for activities in the foreign policy sphere that seriously undermine the national interest.”