"High crimes or misdemeanors" is a phrase I have heard since elementary school without ever fully understanding what it meant and will admit that I still only know it as a phrase we use for, collectively, the acts a president must commit to be impeached and convicted by Congress.

In Article 2, Section 4 it states, the “President, Vice President and all civil Officers” shall be removed from office if convicted in an impeachment trial of “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

The U.S. Senate and its razor thin margin of Democrats will try former President Donald Trump in February, although he does not face any common charges, such as misappropriating funds. 

The early feeling is that it will be difficult for the House member prosecutors to win a conviction of Trump, who is charged with inciting a group of thugs to storm the U.S. Capitol to prevent certification of the Electoral College vote. 

But, anyway, at least we will have a better understanding of what constitutes a "high crime or misdemeanor."

The impeachment article was delivered to the Senate on Monday. Senators were sworn in as jurors on Tuesday and the trial is expected to begin in the next couple weeks.

It is clear under the Constitution that Congress can impeach a president. What is not clear is  if it can impeach a former president, like the issue of self-pardoning.

Both those issues which must be sorted out by the courts. 


Retired Auburn Attorney Don Eddins is publisher of The Auburn Villager newspaper and the online publication, auburnvillager.com. Before going into law, he was state Capitol reporter for The Huntsville Times and state editor for The Columbus Ledger. In college, he was sports editor of The Auburn Plainsman. Email him your comments about this the newspaper to doneddins@auburnlaw.us.

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