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To Impeach a President: Applying the Authoritative Guide from Charles Black


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To Impeach a President: Applying the Authoritative Guide from Charles Black

By Jane Chong / Thursday, July 20, 2017, 2:00 PM


The most important book ever written on presidential impeachment is only 69 pages long. Charles Black, Jr.,’s Impeachment: A Handbook was published in the summer of 1974, at the height of the Watergate crisis, and reissued in October 1998, two months before Bill Clinton became the second president in U.S. history to be impeached.

If the pattern holds, the book could enjoy a third printing under the Trump presidency. But I wouldn’t want to prematurely speculate on the point. Black too persuasively urges against it.

“Black’s words are cool, not hot,” Akhil Amar explains in the foreword to the second edition. Written for the lay public, this famously lucid handbook is a model of dispassionate constitutional reasoning, guiding the citizen reader through the thorny legal questions that together add up to the most serious choice our democratic republic can make: whether to remove from our highest office the individual whose election, along with that of his vice president, constitutes “the only political act that we perform together as a nation. :snip: 

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The Impeachable Offense

By Charles L. Black, Jr.

 Thursday, July 20, 2017, 2:00 PM

Editor's Note: In 1974, a law professor named Charles L. Black published an extraordinary brief volume, entitled, Impeachment: A HandbookIt is the finest text on the subject I have ever read. With the subject of impeachment on many people's minds these days, we received permission from Yale University Press to republish the portion of Black's book that discusses the parameters of the impeachable offense. I also asked Jane Chong to write an essay applying the lessons of Black's book to our time. I recommend that readers take the time to read Black's book in its entirety, along with Jane's exceedingly thoughtful treatment of its importance in the age of Donald Trump. 

—Benjamin Wittes


We come now to the heart of the matter. What offenses are impeachable? The constitutional categories are "Treason, Bribery, and other high Crimes and Misdemeanors."


Here we are on smooth ground. The Constitution narrowly defines "treason," in Article III:

Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.  :snip:    https://lawfareblog.com/impeachable-offense

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