There's one word that's been popping up more and more over the last couple of years: impeachment. After the November 2016 midterm elections when the Democrats gained control of the House, the chatter about the possibility of impeachment got even louder, and it continued to spike following Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report being made public. But should impeachment proceedings move forward, President Donald Trump is apparently looking to battle it out in the Supreme Court, according to an April 24 tweet. But can the Supreme Court even stop impeachment? I wouldn't count on it.
On Thursday, April 18, Mueller's report on possible collusion between the Trump 2016 presidential campaign and Russia, as well as the possibility of obstruction of justice, was released to the public. While it concluded the Trump team had not conspired with Russia, it did conclude that the campaign had intended to benefit from Russian election meddling, and expressly did not exonerate Trump regarding obstruction of justice. Despite not being able to draw a hardline conclusion, the report did include some evidence that alleges that Trump attempted to derail the investigation into possible collusion with Russia during the 2016 presidential election. Elite Daily reached out to the White House for comment regarding the details alleged in the report, but did not hear back. The president has not been officially accused or charged with a crime, but the details of report, specifically the 10 cases which Mueller looked into to find whether Trump had obstructed justice, has some politicians reaching for the impeach button. As of publication, though, there have been no serious moves to impeach Trump.
On Wednesday, April 24, Trump took to Twitter to respond to those revving to start impeachment proceedings. "I did nothing wrong," he tweeted in all caps and then threatened to take the issue to the Supreme Court, should Congress pursue impeachment. Elite Daily reached out to the White House for further comment on the tweet, but did not immediately hear back. He tweeted,
The Mueller Report, despite being written by Angry Democrats and Trump Haters, and with unlimited money behind it ($35,000,000), didn’t lay a glove on me. I DID NOTHING WRONG. If the partisan Dems ever tried to Impeach, I would first head to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The president might be turning to the Supreme Court as a security blanket against impeachment, but he might be looking in the wrong place. The Constitution places impeachment squarely in the hands of Congress, with the right to impeach going to the House and the right to conduct the trial to the Senate, therefore it's a political act, not a justiciable one. There's precedent, too: In 1993, after the House moved to impeach federal judge Walter Nixon (not that Nixon) after he was convicted of perjury, Nixon challenged the impeachment in the Supreme Court in Nixon v. United States. However, the Court ruled that it was a political question and therefore not in the domain of the courts, per The Hill.
It's worth noting that there will be a Supreme Court justice on the Senate floor during any impeachment trial, but that doesn't mean the court has jurisdiction. The chief justice of the Supreme Court is responsible for presiding over impeachment trials in the Senate, so if any impeachment proceedings were to make it that far, current Chief Justice John Roberts would preside over the hearing. However, per The Washington Post, the chief justice's role is purely ceremonial, and he doesn't have the power to overrule the Senate decision.
Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe seemed to back up that assessment in an April 24 tweet in which he said, "Not even SCOTUS filled with trump appointees would get in the way of the House or Senate." Tribe did not immediately respond to Elite Daily's request for further comment.
It looks like Trump's SCOTUS threat might be an empty one, but I'm curious to see what happens.