Rule of Law

Trump Deluded Again on the Role of SCOTUS in Impeachment

Earlier this week, President Trump tweeted about the “[i]mpeachment [h]oax,” claiming that the “Radical Left has NO CASE” and asking, “Can we go to the Supreme Court to stop [it]?” The answer is clearly no.

When it comes to impeachment, the text of Constitution is straightforward, and the Supreme Court has no direct role in the proceedings. Article I plainly states that the “House of Representatives … shall have the sole Power of Impeachment,” and that “[t]he Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments.” The only constitutional reference to impeachment and the Supreme Court is that “[w]hen the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside.”

Indeed, the Supreme Court itself has recognized that it has no direct role to play in the impeachment process.  In Nixon v. United States, Walter Nixon, Jr., a former Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, asked the Court to rule on the constitutionality of a Senate rule that allowed a Senate committee to hear impeachment evidence and report that evidence to the full Senate. But the Supreme Court refused to decide the question, explaining that “before we reach the merits of such a claim, we must decide whether it is ‘justiciable,’ that is, whether it is a claim that may be resolved by the courts. We conclude that it is not.”

This isn’t the first time that Trump has mistakenly suggested he could ask the Supreme Court to stop Congress from impeaching him. In April of this year, he tweeted: “If the partisan Dems ever tried to Impeach, I would first head to the U.S. Supreme Court.”  And, unfortunately, this isn’t the only context in which the President has demonstrated his ignorance of fundamental constitutional principles.

Fortunately, the President can’t will the Constitution to mean what he wants it to mean.  In the case of impeachment, the Constitution couldn’t be any clearer.