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Is a constitutional crisis in our future?

It comes as a surprise to this writer that only two U.S. presidents have been impeached.

The first was Andrew Johnson who became president immediately after President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, and Bill Clinton, who ended his presidency having, after all, served two full terms. Regardless of its spare use, there is talk in the land now about another possible impeachment.

President Andrew Johnson was impeached by the House of Representatives on 11 articles of impeachment that detailed his “High crimes and misdemeanors” in accordance with Article 2 of the U.S. Constitution.  The U.S. Senate acquitted Johnson by one vote and he completed his term in office.

President Bill Clinton was impeached on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice by the House in 1998.  Clinton’s impeachment trial was held in the Senate where he was acquitted of all charges in early 1999. The Whitewater scandal along with an Arkansas real estate deal that spun a tale possibly associated with the suicide of a White House lawyer, the firings of White House Travel Office personnel, and Clinton’s affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky delivered enough political and legal damage to bring his impeachment.

Here and now, President Donald Trump finds himself in the throes of several high-profile controversies that appear likely to bring serious trouble to him.  What began as an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election has evolved into an ever-enlarging, ready-to-erupt volcano of scandals involving an adult-film star, influence peddling, and, among other rumors, what Trump knew about allegations of sexual abuse by the New York attorney general.

What has President Trump done to fight for his survival?  He’s out regularly on the campaign trail where he attacks Democrats but does not mention his problems while he implores his followers to support the oft-repeated witch hunt charge. He badgers Congress for more legislative triumphs than his one victory with the tax cut package while he brags about a stock market and employment gains over which he has no direct control.  He keeps signing executive orders and presidential memoranda although few of them have survived to appear in the Federal Register.

Meanwhile, there are a number of Trump-related shortcomings that deeply trouble this writer.  A few examples, from the many, include President Trump’s misguided efforts to sabotage health care coverage for millions of U.S. citizens, worsening the devastating effects of climate change, gutting clean air and water protections, giving tax cuts to billionaires and huge corporations, destabilizing statements and actions on the world stage, attacks on our news media, organizations and reporters, interference with the Russia investigation which involves Russia’s attack on our democracy, self-serving efforts to cash-in on the presidency and thereby enhance his family’s wealth, disdain and contempt for the rule of law, and so on.

Impeachment in the U.S House could arrive from deliberations there by a newly-seated Democrat majority after the upcoming November election.  However, given a U.S. House impeachment, conviction is unlikely to follow because the Democrats are unlikely to realize a two-thirds head count required for a conviction in the U.S. Senate.  Even if there is a conviction, it’s believed Donald Trump will defy it as it is further believed he will defy all orders that precede it, including depositions, subpoenas, indictments or any other U.S. legal system maneuver.

Donald Trump has made it clear multiple times that he wants an unlimited term in office and made no bones about his admiration for other world leaders who possess life terms.  Writer opinion: He will never leave the White House without being forced out and it’s plainly clear to see already that there are few members of Congress who have enough of what it would take to oust him.   A constitutional crisis will predictably follow while it remains anyone’s guess, due to lack of a U.S. precedence, as to how that problematic condition will play itself out.

(Gene H. McIntyre lives in Keizer.)