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Carter writes: "The framers of our Constitution likely never imagined a President like Donald J. Trump. And yet, they inserted impeachment provisions into the original text of the Constitution, some 230 years ago, to empower Congress to act in case a rube, tyrant, or criminal came to occupy the nation's highest office."

Even if Republicans won’t act, Democrats, like House Intelligence Committee ranking member Adam Schiff, should make their intentions clear. (photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters)
Even if Republicans won’t act, Democrats, like House Intelligence Committee ranking member Adam Schiff, should make their intentions clear. (photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Articles of Impeachment for Donald J. Trump

By Phillip Carter, Slate

18 May 17


A first draft of an impeachment bill for the president.

he framers of our Constitution likely never imagined a President like Donald J. Trump. And yet, they inserted impeachment provisions into the original text of the Constitution, some 230 years ago, to empower Congress to act in case a rube, tyrant, or criminal came to occupy the nation’s highest office.

It’s not crystal clear which Trump might be, but the president’s latest outrageous actions—the reported passing of highly classified intelligence to Russian diplomats in the Oval Office—should awake Republicans and Democrats in Congress to the dangers posed by Trump to the nation in case that wasn’t already obvious. His conduct now goes far beyond mere offense or incitement to constitute actual damage to U.S. national security, the very definition of “high crimes and misdemeanors” contemplated by the men who crafted the Constitution’s impeachment clauses. With this latest act, the time has come to commence the slow, deliberate process of demonstrating that Trump needs to be removed from office so he can harm the nation no more. A broad congressional inquiry should begin immediately, to inform drafters who will prepare articles of impeachment for consideration by the House and Senate. While Republican control of Congress means that such proceedings won’t occur anytime soon, it’s clear that they are warranted. We don’t yet know for certain what precisely such an investigation would yield, but there is enough public information already available to roughly map out what such articles of impeachment might—and probably should—look like.

Historically, impeachment articles have focused on broad violations of constitutional duty and specific discrete acts like clashing with Congress over Reconstruction, commanding the Watergate break-in, or testimonial perjury. In Trump’s case, there is ample evidence for both the more general violations and the more specific abuses, much of them admitted by the president through his own indelicate tweets (including admissions Tuesday morning regarding the passing of classified information to the Russians).

So what might an impeachment bill against President Trump include?

The Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton impeachment bills used common language to put their specific violations in context. Any Trump articles of impeachment should also include such language at the start of each article:

In his conduct while president of the United States, Donald J. Trump, in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of president of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has engaged in conduct that resulted in misuse and abuse of his high office:

Beyond this preamble, the Trump impeachment bill might include, but not be limited to, the following articles:

Article 1: Compromising the integrity of the presidency through continuing violation of the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause. From his first day in office, Trump’s continuing stake in Trump Organization businesses has violated the clause of the Constitution proscribing federal officials from receiving foreign payments. The true and full extent of Trump’s conflicts of interest remains unknown. For his part, Trump has transferred day-to-day control over these interests to his adult children and the management of the Trump Organization. However, he remains the ultimate beneficiary for these businesses, so the fundamental conflict of interest remains. These foreign business ties violate both the letter and spirit of the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, and arguably provide the clearest basis for impeachment based on the facts and law.

Article 2: Violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the duties of his office by disregarding U.S. interests and pursuing the interests of a hostile foreign power, to wit, Russia. L’affaire Russia began during Trump’s campaign for the presidency, during which several top aides reportedly had contacts with Russia and its intelligence service. His campaign manager also had reportedly worked either directly or indirectly for the Kremlin. These contacts continued, famously, into the presidential transition, when the president’s chosen national security adviser, Michael Flynn, had his ill-fated contacts with Russia. Beyond these contacts, Trump has substantively acted in myriad ways that benefit Russia, including dangerous diplomacy that has reportedly frayed relationships with our allies and allegedly put allied intelligence assets at risk. By offering classified information to the Russians, it was reported that Trump risked the intelligence assets of a Middle Eastern ally that already warned American officials that it would stop sharing such information with America if that information was shared too widely. In risking that relationship, Trump has opened up the possibility for the loss of that information stream for combatting terrorism, and potentially put American lives at risk from the loss of intelligence that could inform officials about future attacks on Americans at home and abroad.

Article 3: Impairment and obstruction of inquiries by the Justice Department and Congress into the extent of the Trump administration’s conflicts of interests and Russia ties. The Trump administration has systematically impeded, avoided, or obstructed the machinery of justice to obscure its business relationships, its Russia ties, and the forces acting within the Trump White House to animate policy. The most egregious and visible examples have been Trump’s firings of Acting Attorney General Sally Yates and FBI Director James Comey. [Update, 6:18 p.m.: The New York Times reported on Tuesday afternoon on an even more egregious case of apparent obstruction of justice, wherein Trump allegedly directly asked Comey to end the FBI's investigation of Michael Flynn.] Each termination had what appeared to be a lawful pretext; subsequent statements or admissions have indicated each had more to do with obstructing justice than holding leaders accountable. Alongside these sackings, the Trump administration has also worked to starve Justice Department inquiries of resources and refocus investigators on suspected leaks instead of the White House’s own Russia intrigues. The Trump administration also interfered with congressional inquiries through attempting to block witnesses like Yates from appearing or selective leaking of classified information to House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, compromising Nunes so badly he had to recuse himself from the matter.

Article 4: Undermining of the American judicial system through felonious intimidation of potential witnesses. In his desire to continue Comey’s public humiliation, and ensure Comey remained silent about Trump’s possible sins, the president threatened Comey on Twitter with disclosure of “tapes” of their conversations. This follows a pattern of Trump roughly treating witnesses and litigation adversaries that stretches back for decades before his presidency. Since taking office, Trump has also used the bully pulpit of his office to threaten intelligence officials for purported leaks and badger former Yates before her congressional testimony. In addition to falling beneath the dignity of the presidency, these verbal assaults also constitute obstruction of justice, prohibited by federal statutes on witness intimidation, retaliation against a witness, and obstruction of federal proceedings. These attacks don’t just harm the individuals who are targeted; they assault and undermine the rule of law. As such, they constitute further grounds for impeachment of Trump and his removal from the presidency.

Article 5: Undermining of his office and the Constitution through repeated assaults on the integrity of the federal judiciary and its officers. During the presidential campaign, Trump publicly attacked federal district Judge Gonzalo Curiel on the basis of his ethnicity, saying Curiel had been “extremely hostile to (Trump),” and that the judge had ruled against Trump because of his “Mexican heritage.” Since taking office, Trump has continued his unpresidential assaults on the federal judiciary, particularly after repeatedly losing court battles over his travel bans. At one point, he described a member of the bench as a “so-called judge,” undermining the premise of an independent judiciary. These statements also undermined both the dignity and power of the presidency, and threaten the rule of law by attacking the integrity of the federal judiciary.

Article 6: Demeaning the integrity of government and its public servants, particularly the military and intelligence agencies, in contravention of his constitutional duties to serve as chief executive and commander in chief of the armed forces. Trump swept into office with considerable disdain for the government and its military. Indeed, during his campaign, he insulted former prisoners of war, Purple Heart recipients, and Gold Star families; criticized the military for its performance in Iraq; and said today’s generals and admirals had been “reduced to rubble” during the Obama administration. Trump carried this disdain into the presidency, through his attacks on the “deep state” of military and intelligence officials that he believed to be obstructing his agenda. He also demeaned the military and its apolitical ethos through use of military fora and audiences as public spectacle—first to sign his immigration order in the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes, and then to deliver rambling speeches at military and intelligence headquarters suggesting that pro-Trump elements in those agencies were grateful Trump had taken power. Trump has also continued to wage political war against his intelligence community, suggesting as recently as Tuesday morning that it was sabotaging his administration through leaking and other nefarious activities. In doing these things, Trump has undermined his constitutional office as president and commander in chief of the armed forces.

Article 7: Dereliction of his constitutional duty to faithfully execute the office of president by failing to timely appoint officers of the United States to administer the nation’s federal agencies. Shortly after taking office, Trump administration strategist Stephen Bannon articulated his plan for the “deconstruction of the administrative state.” During its first four months in office, the Trump administration’s neglect of governance illustrates how this strategy is to be executed: delay of political appointments, failure to reach budget agreements with Congress in a timely manner, and deliberate neglect of governance and government operations. These actions and failures risk the health, welfare, and security of the nation, and represent a dereliction of Trump’s constitutional duty to faithfully execute the office of the presidency.

Any one of the offenses above could constitute the basis for rigorous investigation of the Trump White House and its failures. Together, the totality of Trump’s malfeasance—once proven after a rigorous investigation—would likely make clear that he “warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States,” to quote from the bill of impeachment passed against President Clinton.

The time has come for Congress to act and for leaders on both sides of the aisle to put country before party and politics. Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell ought to, in cooperation with Democratic leaders, begin the sequence of events that would likely lead to impeachment and removal proceedings for Trump. Given that this is unlikely, Democrats should make clear of their intentions to do what is necessary under our Constitution should they win back control of the House of Representatives in 2018. This process should be as full, fair, and transparent as our Constitution requires. Anything less would demean and harm the country even more than Trump has already done. your social media marketing partner


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+12 # newell 2017-05-18 09:28
No mention of Pence here. Is it a secret who would then be president? Please measure twice before you cut. Trump is a just a narcissistic buffoon who believes himself sane. Trump is a pathological liar (Bernie's words) but pathological liars don't think they are lying. And Pence? Pence is the guy who knows exactly what Trump is but lies to us and knows he is lying.........a nd you have to ask yourself, which would McConnell and Ryan want?
0 # diamondmarge7 2017-05-19 19:47
pENCE'S BRAND of fercent religion ought to scare the bejesus out of any thinking Progressive, as it does me. Pence wouldbe/will be much much worse. Ditto the IMBECILIC Ryand and Malevolent McConnell. We are so screwed.
OAT, closely related, I saw an interview by Lee Cammp, REDACTED TONIGHT, of the legal mind suing the treacherous, duplicitous DNC, which has stated that it DOES NOT HAVE TO HOLD FAIR primary elections!!! DWSchultz rigged the Democratic primaries, probably w/the blessing of many Establishment Democrats--so that instead of having BERNIE SANDERS AS OUR pRESIDENT, we had to choose between two evils--the corrupt warhawk and flawed decision maker HRC, or this buffoon Drumpf. THEY HAVE SAID THEY DON'T HAVE TO HOLD HONEST ELECTIONS@@@@@i AM SO PROUD to call myself a PROGRESSIVE who supported BERNIE SANDERS. Shillary and Obama and Trump and Pence Oy vay. Our elections are so rigged and dishonest. OMG
+11 # bardphile 2017-05-18 09:57
"Unlikely" is the operative word here. But consider this scenario: Trump continues to screw up, the Dems take back the House and make some gains in the Senate in '18, the House moves to impeach, it's tried in the Senate, and the Dems fall one vote short of the two thirds necessary to convict him. I believe that Pence would then cast the deciding vote. Which way would he go? Sayanara Trump, "for the good of the country (wink, wink). A nightmare scenario, to be sure, but this whole thing is a nightmare.
-4 # bardphile 2017-05-18 09:59
And what's with Dennis Kucinik defending Trump last night on Hannity? And Max Boot calling for Trump's impeachment in the LA Times?

And, where is everybody? Is RSN dyiing on the vine?
+6 # BluePill 2017-05-18 10:58
It's crystal clear to me that he is all of these things, a rube, a tyrant, a criminal and a delusional pathological liar. I think we are seeing Democrats becoming much more vocal about their intentions. But they do have to be circumspect and wait for the facts to be made public.
+7 # oakes721 2017-05-18 11:13
Republicans have developed an Impeachment impediment ~ the Speaker's gone mute and the Congressional millionaire's secretaries may have to look up the word: "Constitution"...
-3 # Citizen Mike 2017-05-18 11:29
The issue needs more time to properly ferment. Trump will do more and more damage to himself and become so greatly discredited as to defy any Republican tendency to defend him. Expect a Democratic landslide to change the makeup of both houses in 2018. A caretaker President Pence will function within the limits of the constitution and understands how the mechanisms of our government work, he will not cross the line into attempted dictatorship, collaboration with our adversaries, nepotism and gross corruption.
+9 # Farafalla 2017-05-18 15:36
"A caretaker President Pence will function within the limits of the constitution and understands how the mechanisms of our government work, he will not cross the line into attempted dictatorship, collaboration with our adversaries, nepotism and gross corruption."

You don't know Mike Pence. He is a Christian fascist who is convinced that everything that happens is Scriptural and that the US should be led by Christian fascists like himself. He will want to cement the dictatorship that Trump is failing at. Jeff Sessions and Mike Pence are some of the most dangerous extreme right wingers in the administration right now.

It is possible that we are at a moment in history where the delegitimation of institutions ends up in an authoritarian government. Yes, it can happen here.
+2 # newell 2017-05-19 13:55
Not only can Pence not dine with a woman but he is ready for the apocalypse--I'm not and neither is Trump, no matter how batshit crazy he is.
+1 # diamondmarge7 2017-05-19 19:49
+2 # logical1 2017-05-18 11:53
There is no use talking about impeachment until the Congress is shifted from a Republican majority. Trump has done what may be the biggest unchangeable damage already (in the Supreme Court.) Pense and Ryan may well be as bad or worse, and possibly aware enough, to not violate the constitution enough, for impeachment. With a changed majority either of those could be held in check by checks and balances designed in the constitution.
+9 # jazzman633 2017-05-18 13:44
I will wager half my wealth (it's not that much) that Trump has not even read the Constitution.
+11 # Moxa 2017-05-18 14:21
Two points:
1. It seems very odd and wrong that in the case of impeachment the vice president should take over the government. The veep is hand-picked by the president. He has not really been elected, since he comes in with the president as the president's indisputable choice. Why should the corrupt world put together by a president too corrupt to continue his job remain intact?

2. I don't think we should assume that Democrats are going to make significant gains in 2018. The Democrats continue to make the same mistakes that cost them the 2016 election. Their main talking point is that they are not Republicans. (Hillary not being Trump was supposed to get her through.) Other than that they have some vague and largely meaningless chatter about "our values". They have not coalesced around any strong issues such as universal health care, $15 minimum wage, free college tuition, etc. It is not enough to be "not as bad" as the other side.

What we need is a new progressive party. Please go to and sign the petition.
+2 # lfeuille 2017-05-18 19:39
1. It may seem wrong to you, but it is mandated by the constitution. It can't be changed without a constitutional amendment which likely cannot be accomplished before Trump leaves office, either at the end of his term or earlier. It can't be changed because he wasn't individually elected or because most people don't like him. I think it would be good to start a campaign for an amendment to mandate a special election if the president doesn't serve out his/her term, but it will take a long time and won't help in this situation.
-6 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2017-05-18 17:11
1. "pursuing the interests of a hostile foreign power, to wit, Russia. " Russia is not a hostile power. Russia is a very important ally, especially in the fight against terrorism.

2. "systematically impeded, avoided, or obstructed the machinery of justice" You'd really have to demonstrate that there is any "justice" going on. This is a witch hunt. That's not justice. All of his is a partisan fight driven by sore losers in the democratic party. They are destroying their own party just to piss at Trump. It is very disgusting.

the rest of the points are too weak to comment on. They could have been written about any president.

Why can't we get down to talking about real issues:

1. Trump/Ryan have failed on Obamacare reform. What are the democratic party ideas.

2. Syria with Russia's help is close to defeating ISIS. Why can't the US help with the final push and elimiate ISIS and al Qaeda once and for all.

3. Trump promised to bring jobs back to the US. One plan is infrastructure work. Why can't democrats help get this going.
+3 # lfeuille 2017-05-18 20:13
#1 is valid.

#2 Has too many unproven assumptions: That Russia is a hostile power, that US and Russian interests never converge. And the president has the final word on what is classified and what isn't and how to share it. It was absolutely within is constitutional power to do what he did. I think it was reasonable to five Russia info on ISIS as they are ones on the front lines against them.
#3 and #4 appear to be true but they all stem from the flmsy Russia-gate scandal and so appear to me to be piling on, but they might hold up in a impeachment proceeding.

There may be something to #5, but I think it has to wait until the SC rules. If he continues to try to implement something SCOTUS has overruled, that would be a clear violation of the separation of powers. Insulting judges is disgusting, but I doubt it is impeachable and until the SC rules it is basically a disagreement over differing interpretations of the constitution.

#6. - Demeaning the integrity of government and its public servants? Really? This sounds dangerous to me. It could be used against any president who tries to reform a corrupt or inefficient government agency.

I don't know about #7. He is doing what he said he would in the campaign. Cutting the size of government. It is a disastrous policy, but is it impeachable?

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