A Formidable Weapon of Faction? The Law and Politics of Impeachment

31 Pages Posted: 14 Feb 2019 Last revised: 16 Feb 2019

See all articles by Keith E. Whittington

Keith E. Whittington

Princeton University - Department of Political Science

Date Written: February 4, 2019


This essay draws on recent studies of the federal impeachment power and the issues swirling around the presidency of Donald Trump to consider the law and politics of impeachments. The impeachment process is inescapably political, but that does not mean that there are not constitutional rules, standards and considerations that can and will shape how the politics plays out. The most challenging constitutional questions surrounding the impeachment power relate to the scope of impeachable offenses. It is possible to rule out some possible interpretations of the constitutional language of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” but the standard for impeachable offenses that we are left with will still require contestable political judgment to apply in any particular case. Knowing whether a given act could be regarded as an impeachable offense is only the first step in determining whether an individual should be impeached and removed from office.

Keywords: Donald Trump, Presidential Impeachment, Impeachment, High Crimes, Impeachable Offenses, Constitutional Politics, Constitutional Construction

Suggested Citation

Whittington, Keith E., A Formidable Weapon of Faction? The Law and Politics of Impeachment (February 4, 2019). Law and Social Inquiry, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3328981 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3328981

Keith E. Whittington (Contact Author)

Princeton University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Corwin Hall
Princeton, NJ 08544-1012
United States
609-258-3453 (Phone)
609-258-1110 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.princeton.edu/~kewhitt/

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