ATLANTA, GA, December 02, 2019 /24-7PressRelease/ — Buckner F. Melton, Jr. is unquestionably an authority on impeachment and can easily speak to today’s current affairs. His wildly popular impeachment forum keeps visitors and press informed on the latest news at http://www.impeachmentreport.org as well as an opportunity to request an interview/inquire more information on a specific topic for your story. Buckner F. Melton, Jr. also can address the following impeachment topics as well as other legal questions that arise as the process unfolds:
1. Expert Testimony. Wednesday, December 4th, the Judiciary Committee will begin its formal impeachment investigation by hearing from expert witnesses on the constitutional issues surrounding impeachment. This first round of hearings is already a point of contention, with the Judiciary Committee not yet having disclosed the identities of the four experts, and ranking Member Doug Collins decrying the limited witness list and lack of Republican input in choice of witnesses. In 1998, Melton was involved in similar hearings before the Constitution Subcommittee. This fact, along with his tremendous expertise on the subject of impeachment, makes him the ideal commentator on Wednesday’s proceedings.
2. Presidential privilege and contempt. The last two months have seen a collision of two legal positions: Congress’s contempt power and the executive branch’s claimed privilege from congressional subpoena. According to precedent, Congress has the inherent power to punish individuals for contempt for failing to testify or produce evidence; the President claims the authority to withhold material from Congress and the public in the name of national security. Given the unwritten, nebulous nature of both powers, the question arises of whether, and to what extent, Trump can say “No?” The matter is currently working its way through the federal courts with Congress having scored an early win last week, but the Justice Department has already appealed. This case appears headed to the Supreme Court if it isn’t mooted by the fast House impeachment timetable. If the Supreme Court does have occasion to rule, this case will likely become one of the most important cases in Congressional-presidential relations in American history.
3. Intent as a required element of an impeachable offense. In the House Intelligence Committee, Democrats seemed to be building their case around the question of intent or state of mind, an element that is essential for the commission of most crimes. Republicans argued that President Trump’s interest in having President Zelensky investigate Hunter Biden was part of his general concern with corruption in Ukraine. But Committee Chair Adam Schiff (a former federal prosecutor) seemed to be trying to undercut that argument by showing that Trump has taken steps that have reduced American efforts to limit Ukrainian corruption in other regards. If so, this would suggest that Trump’s attempts to have Biden investigated sprang from some other purpose, such as an attempt to further his own reelection chances through Ukrainian interference in the American electoral process. To this, Trump’s best defense might in fact be the very unpredictable—some would argue “chaotic” or even “incoherent” to be better words—nature of his many policies, both foreign and domestic. If Trump can show that his actions as president were simply ill thought-out, impulsive, or haphazard, then this might show that, while he should have known that his requests to Zelensky would appear self-serving or corrupt, he did not actually know that this would amount to a corrupt interference in the American electoral process. “Should have known” falls short of the state of mind (actually knew, wanted, intended) that is likely required for an impeachment conviction. In short: impeachment likely will not lie for negligence or even incompetence. Only intentional or purposeful wrongdoing will suffice.
4. Bribery as an impeachable offense. Although the Democrats have been arguing for weeks that the presence of a quid pro quo between Presidents Zelensky and Trump may form the basis of an impeachable offense, more recently they have been using the word “bribery,” which the Constitution expressly mentions as an impeachable offense. The advantage to Democrats is that this would allow them to avoid the perennial debate over the meaning of the enigmatic phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors.” The Founders, when including the term “bribery,” likely had in mind either the giving or receiving of a bribe, and possibly the mere offering of a bribe as well. This latter would amount to solicitation; in coming weeks, we are likely to see Democrats argue that such solicitation itself amounts to an impeachable offense.
“Because very few impeachments have taken place, each impeachment proceeding is unique,” writes Buckner F. Melton, Jr., J.D., Ph.D., specialist in the history and law of impeachment and author of several scholarly publications on the impeachment process. “Having provided advice to members of Congress and scholarly commentary to national media during the Clinton impeachment, I’m one of the most experienced impeachment specialists available, and I’m able to help both legislatures and the media navigate these murky waters.”
About Buckner F. Melton Jr.
Buckner F. Melton, Jr. is an expert resource during the Trump impeachment inquiries. Dr. Melton holds both a doctorate in American constitutional history (Duke University) and a law degree (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill). Author of The First Impeachment, Melton was a nationally-recognized authority during President Clinton’s impeachment hearings, appearing on NPR Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition; PBS NewsHour; MSNBC; and numerous regional outlets) and was often quoted in leading print publications such as the Washington Post and Christian Science Monitor, to name just a few. In addition, Dr. Melton consulted with members of Congress during the Clinton impeachment investigation including Sen. Max Cleland, D-Georgia, Rep. Saxby Chambliss, R-Georgia, Rep. Asa Hutchinson, R-Arkansas, and Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Illinois. Last, he consulted with Morgan Frankel, Senate Office of Legal Counsel, regarding the impeachment of Judge Walter Nixon during litigation subsequent to his impeachment and removal, which led the Supreme Court case Nixon v. United States (1992). Currently Melton writes occasional articles on impeachment for The Atlantic.
For more information, to purchase books or to request Buckner F. Melton Jr. for an interview, please visit http://www.impeachmentreport.org.
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