Just about everyone believes that President Trump is not going to fire Robert Mueller, but Sen. Angus King said on Tuesday that even if he did, it would not on its own be grounds for impeachment.
King, speaking with Hugh Hewitt, made this case even though he is a senator who caucuses with Democrats. He surely sent a different signal than what’s coming from his colleagues on both sides of the aisle.
So why would Sen. Angus King (I-ME) have said no to that question? Is this the beginning of a new shift of thinking in the Senate?
In the transcript of King’s interaction with Hewitt, you will see that he rests his case on a legal standard.
HH: Let me talk to you now about the Special Counsel investigation. And I’m going to ask this of Lindsey Graham next hour. If Mr. Mueller was fired, would you consider that to be an impeachable offense?
AK: No. I would consider it a crisis. I would want to think about it in terms of all the other material that we’ve seen. High crimes and misdemeanors is the standard for impeachment, and I have a high standard for impeachment. I don’t think impeachment should be used to change a government you don’t like. I think going back to Andrew Johnson in, you know, 1867, this is something we’ve got to be really careful with. We don’t want to change our form of government. But the problem is that if the President does this, I think it is a huge mistake. It adds weight to the argument that there’s been an ongoing obstruction of justice of trying to basically quash in investigation. I think it’s, I wouldn’t say it rises to the level of an impeachable offense, but I certainly think it’s going to create a real problem. And I think, I went down the list yesterday. There are 8 or 9 senators, including people like Orrin Hatch and Chuck Grassley and John Cornyn who have said this would be a huge mistake. Newt Gingrich said it would be a disaster. Lindsey said he thought it would be the beginning of the end of his presidency. So I think everybody’s concerned about this, and I think it would be a huge mistake from his point of view. If he’s really, if he’s innocent, which he keeps saying that he is, he ought to want this thing to go forward and be as thorough as possible so the American people can get the results, can be, have confidence and say yeah, look, this Mueller guy did a tough job and a thorough job, and there’s no evidence. That’s the result the President should want. If he cuts it off, half the country’s going to think hey, he’s trying to hide something.
The problem with King’s answer is his reliance on the phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors.” The standard for impeachment lies with the House, not the penal code. So even if the president commits a crime, the House could determine that it has nothing to do with the president’s execution of his office and doesn’t require impeachment.
But if the president commits a political act that undermines Congress or the judicial branch, that could, in fact, provoke impeachment. So “high crimes and misdemeanors” literally means whatever a majority in the House of Representatives decides it means in any particular instance. If two-thirds of Senators agree with that finding, a president gets removed from office.
So Congress has more or less defaulted on their check-and-balance responsibility in this situation. Therefore firing Mueller might ignite a political firestorm that could result in impeachment, but it doesn’t necessarily create a constitutional crisis.
However, Senator King has joined a growing group of Senators that have started to at least not question the President’s behavior toward the special counsel.
Credit: Hot Air