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January 5, 2019
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January 19, 2019
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Impeaching the President

Ralph engages in a spirited debate with Constitutional scholar Alan Hirsch, author of “Impeaching the President: Past, Present, and Future,” about how the history of impeachment informs the case for possibly impeaching Donald Trump.

Alan Hirsch is an instructor in the Humanities and Chair of the Justice and Law program at Williams College. Professor Hirsch is the author of numerous works of legal scholarship and many books, including “For the People: What the Constitution Really Says About Your Rights,”(co-authored with Akhil Amar), “A Citizen’s Guide to Impeachment,” as well as “Impeaching the President: Past Present and Future.” 

“The Constitution is pretty clear on this. You can only impeach a president for treason, bribery and other high crimes and misdemeanors. Now, I understand the latter phrase is bit opaque, but they explicitly rejected the idea that it was for maladministration, basically the President doing a bad job… we don’t want to dilute the standard, so it seems like it’s just a political act, and the next president, the other party does the same thing. It really should be reserved for the president – and Trump may very well be the poster child for impeachment – but it should be reserved for the president who violates the Constitution… They don’t specifically have to commit a criminal offense. But they have to commit a Constitutional offense.” Professor Alan Hirsch, author of “Impeaching the President: Past, Present & Future

“There is a very strong likelihood that Mueller will make a compelling case for obstruction. I think we already have – we need a little more fact-finding – but a pretty good case for election fraud. (But) it might be that the only thing that turns the Republicans in the Senate is collusion.”  Professor Alan Hirsch, author of “Impeaching the President: Past, Present & Future


  1. Bruce K. says:

    Good show, very informative. I tended to agree with Ralph more often because to me this is a question of the system itself not working – and not just not working, but being deliberately broken from inside.

    America has severe dysfunctions in a two century old system that we have both a strong pride and sentimental attachment to which is coupled with a horrible fear opf what could happen if we try to change it or improve it. We do not have anyone near the same vision, brilliance and selflessness as our Founders – at least anyone that Republicans and the oligarch class will let near the process.

    Our Constitution, I read somewhere, is the oldest document of its kind in the world. While it was brilliant in the 1700’s as, no doubt, the first cars invented were, in today’s world our Constitution cannot keep up with political realities anymore than the initial internal combustion vehicles can keep up with a modern race car. ( there is a great TV series called “Questioning The Constitution” )

    We are rapidly approaching a singularity where raw power and wealth is rolling over the people and the spirit of this country, so we have to ask ourselves whether we want to wait until we are flying through the air towards the valley floor, or we want to take the wheel before we leave that windy mountain road? If just the real people’s voice ca puncture through for a moment in our history it would be nation-changing, but I have recently read in a book on computational propaganda that about half internet traffic or news is by robots and trolls. The people are being shoved aside and where we think we are looking at a mirror we are really seeing a TV screen of someone else’s programming.

    • Alvin D Hofer says:

      Decades ago, perhaps when Bill Clinton was President, I would have been much interested in constitutional discussions such as this on impeachment. Back then, I was immersed in my career and did not critically examine our country’s activities abroad since the end of WWII. During the Korean “conflict” I was drafted and served honorably. Now, at the VA hospital where I live, I am often thanked for my service by nurses and others. When time permits, I reply that I am thankful I was not harmed and did not have to harm any of the Korean or Chinese young men who were my “enemy”, as I was told.

      I since have realized that my enemy was my own government, which makes itself the enemy of anyone, American or foreigner, who stands in the way of US imperial ambitions.

      In recent decades, especially since Ronald Reagan took office, the US Constitution has become less important in the governance of this country. Our government has become so dominated by militarism and the quest for world hegemony, that the Constitution has lost its authority. In this desuetude, all three branches of our governments have participated: the executive, by seizing power; the congress, by ceding its power to the President; the Supreme Court, by failing to protect our Bill of Rights and by allowing our elections to become an suction for play of corporate finance.

      Thus, I have no interest in the Constitution any longer. It means no more to me than did the Constitution of the Soviet Union to Russians. Constitutional scholars, you are as cogent to the politics of the US as Ptolmeic epicycloids are to astronomy!

  2. Afdal Shahanshah says:

    So an impeachable offense is campaign finance violation similar to election fraud… Well, we DO HAVE evidence for election fraud, from Democrats AND Republicans in 2016! Trump has told bold lies about VOTER FRAUD, but this is NOT the same thing as election fraud. Please stop conflating the two, Ralph! One is difficult, inefficient, and mostly just a justification for voter suppression; the other is enabled by our anti-democratic proprietary electronic voting machines that cannot be audited and evidenced when exit polls deviate significantly from reported results. It’s time to stop sticking your head in the sand on this issue, get Bob Fitrakris on your show Ralph!

  3. “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump” “27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President” by Bandy Lee MD., M. Division She is the Organizer of the Yale “Duty to Warn” Conference. As a Registered Nurse who has worked with serious, criminally insane patients, in a locked unit, I would feel he was a danger to others and would need constant monitoring, if he were in a mental hospital. DT is a very dangerous man, so I hope something is done before he does even more harm!

  4. Don klepack says:

    I agree with Ralph Nader 99% of the time but this time I think Prof. Hirsch is correct about being patient and not rush into impeaching Trump. Let the voters do it in 2020. If Hillary became President based on Ralph’s reasoning she would be impeached within a month of taking office. The case against her would be the Clinton Foundation and cheating Bernie Sanders in the primary.

    • Bruce K. says:

      I was on the edge about this, but the reality that as truths are uncovered they all point in one direction, and this is not all about Donald Trump or even the proven crimes or possible crimes of Donald Trump, this is about Trump being part of something that is itself increasingly growing in strength and increasing fast corroding the very substance of our country. Whether we have wandered or been misled into this extreme instability, allowing rules that have been and are so easily manipulated and twisted for the benefit of the rich and powerful to govern the process of survival is a bad idea. Let me just say that in 50 years when the US is a miserable Mexico-like 3rd world country, what comfort will we really be able to take in the fact that we dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s formally but lost what is a war going on inside this nation against itself. Lincoln had the right idea.

      Also, I was a big Bernie supporter, ( still am ) but I am very tired and suspicious of those who blame him or even Hillary for what happened. On the one hand I can get as angry as anyone about the mess that is the establishment branch of the Democratic party and its corruption … which I think has mostly come about by money – BUT, Bernie was not cheated by the rules of the party. The rules were corrupt, but so were the rules in every state that did not allow people who wanted to vote for Bernie to vote for him because they did not register in time or in the right party.

      Our democracy is broken to shreds, and that was not really Hillary Clinton’s fault, even though she did have something to do with it. There are a whole spectrum of things broken and wrong and corrupt about our current political system, and no one is doing anything about it. Also, very few are aware of it. There is so much blame and responsibility to go around that blaming the Clinton Foundation just seems like a waste of time and an easy shot to drag the name of Clinton in at a time when for all practical purposes they are out for good.

      Look to the future. Blame things that we have some kind of hope to rally people to act on. Pot shots at Clinton just help the Republicans.

    • Peggy Karp says:

      I agree. Trump is a clumsy and ignorant chronic liar within a community of more polished and more educated chronic liars, the Clintons being two prime examples.

  5. harold brubank says:

    as much as i detest trump there is no evidence published of constitutional violation. i do not even see a case for collusion. i do see avoidance of very compelling testimony by bill binney, former NSA chief of 6000 NSA cybersleuths, russia expert and math genius, that cia used computers to frame trump for russia-based election interference. i thunk binney argues he’s seen evidence DEMs collaborated with cia on this. retires cia analyst, russia expert, whistleblower ray mcgovern apparently agrees. this has been on the net for over a year. and what kind of collusion can mueller possibly prove? talking to russia(ns) is not collusion. family and friends talking to russia is not collusion. mcgovern has chided mueller for months he’s pursuing a witch hunt unless and until he shows the pubic facts of trumps acts of wrongdoing. trump is not that stupid. he has not done anything wrong that mueller or anyone can prove amounts to unconstitutional conduct. i would think the best digging would be in to trump’s taxes. the only crime al capone was convicted of was tax evasion. progressives are going to have to beat trump straight up, on policy choices and actions. a massive protest, perhaps a general strike, will be required imo, to oust him. mueller does not have a case, and congress will not do it. it is up to the people.

    • Bruce K. says:

      Bill Binney, one of these ex-CIA lecture circuit guys that goes around claiming he could have stopped the 9-11 attacks if the system was not against him.

      That sounds like noise and disinformation from the right-wing to me.

      Ray McGovern is another one.

      When you look at the way the Trump transition teams worked as detailed by Michael Lewis in his book the Fifth Risk, with actual interviews of real people with real jobs with real statements to make about what happened, it is clear that the country has been seriously harmed by Trump’s deliberate mismanagement.

      Since impeachment is a political process, applying legal standards of evidence are not appropriate as well. The key is not really evidence – many believe ( I as well ) that there is a plethora of holographic circumstantial evidence that Donald Trump and his political allies are a clear and present danger to the country, but in either convincing, displacing, or threatening the political futures of Republicans who are now kept in line by extortion and Republican party discipline … a very un-democratic way for a party to work.

      It’s not just Donald Trump it is the whole anonymous backers of the Republican party, which does extend globally with influence from a lot of authoritarian states … Russia, Saudi Arabia, etc. There is an anonymous cartel of money and power around the world that has superseded the will of the American people by combining a war of many fronts against them, and going to great lengths to hide it. Impeaching Donald Trump as good as that will feel is hardly a beginning of the work to break this unAmerican, unelected and undemocratic power system that grows like a cancer in our society.

  6. Hank Henry Himmler says:

    If every president that could have been impeached, was actually impeached, you’d never have a president.

  7. Tammy L says:

    I hope you invite Prof. Hirsch back after the NYS AG completes her investigation of Trump Enterprises and possible tax fraud. And we have yet to see what Allen’s Weiselberg had to say about Trump’s involvement in the family’s elaborate tax scheme.

    Also, I think Professor Hirsch places too much faith in Congress and the electorate ( FYI, Florida elected Rick Scott to Congress), so I defer to Ralph’s concern in that regard. Awesome interview. I learned a lot!

  8. Max says:

    I thought you were going to talk to Josh Fox this week who goes out of his way to disparage Greens and 3rd party progressives and blames them for Trump and for Bush! I wanted to see how that weasel was going to act when Ralph Nader confronts him about his bad mouthing progressives!

  9. Enrico Malatesta says:

    An educating and enlightening radio show, a learned discussion of Trump’s possible ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ indeed. To get the entire picture of where the process stands, would you be willing to explore the Prosecutorial Process of Robert Mueller? I have heard a lot of his ties to James Comey, his leaking to the press, his destruction of evidence, and all the ‘fruit of the poisoned tree’ evidence gathered from fraudulent FISA Court warrants. If any of this can be substantiated, how would this affect an Impeachment Trial?

  10. Val Escher says:

    Professor Hirsch is clueless if he thinks there’s a chance that Pence won’t pardon Trump out of a recognition that it was Ford’s pardon of Nixon that led to Ford’s defeat by Jimmy Carter in ’76.

    Pence absolutely WILL pardon Trump, without the slightest hesitation–just as Ford pardoned Nixon and George HW Bush pardoned the Iran-Contra clan.

    One of the first fixes that needs to be applied in amending Article II of the Constitution is to put some explicit constraints on the pardon power. There should be no question that a president may not pardon himself, nor pardon an immediate family member, in-law, or business partner. And no president who has assumed the office as a consequence of the resignation or impeachment/conviction of a predecessor should be able to pardon that predecessor. In fact, a president should not be able to issue a pardon in any matter in which he or she might personally be implicated.

    Another fix should be to clarify that a sitting president may be indicted and may be prosecuted.

    If dealing with a prosecution would be too distracting for the president, then the president should resign. There’s a reason that there is a vice president: to carry out the duties of the president if the president him- or herself is unable to do so, such as if he or she is preoccupied with defending against a prosecution.