Impeachment panel investigates constitutional context

By Vivian Roach | Staff Writer, Video by Sarah Gill | Broadcast Reporter

Former U.S. Reps. Alan Steelman and Chet Edwards, Baylor law professor Rory Ryan and history professor Stephen Sloan participated in the “Investigating Impeachment” panel Thursday afternoon in Cashion Academic Center. A Q&A session with the panel speakers followed.

Two of the panel contributors served under presidents who were either impeached or threatened with impeachment. Edwards served under President Bill Clinton in 1998, while Steelman served under President Richard Nixon in 1973.

The panel speakers first outlined the framework of impeachment for the audience. There were only two laws of impeachment, Ryan said. A standard procedure and qualifying misconduct can be guaranteed from each impeachment.

Ryan said every impeachment is different so the rest of impeachment law is very contextual, and constitutional interpretation is what has determined impeachment law since the beginning of our country.

Sloan said that constitutional standards, procedural and qualifying misconduct do not change from one impeachment to another.

“Those standards go back to the Constitution, but whether they’re satisfied and maintained by the people in the representative office that they take is a challenge that every representative must meet,” Sloan said.

The former representatives then shared their own personal experiences with impeachment. They each touched on how their perspective and interactions with impeachment had been impacted.

Steelman said that impeachment should be a last resort to stop a president from acting unlawfully. To him, Trump’s impeachment did not rise to a level to require removal from office.

He said the American people’s vote in 2020 would act as a second jury for the first time in the history of impeachment.

“This is the first impeachment where the person impeached will have to face the voters,” Steelman said. “We will have, as a second jury, now an opportunity to weigh in on this.”

Colorado Springs, Colo. senior Michael Cole said he walked away from the panel with a desire to protect America’s freedom rather than protect the country from a specific person.

Cole said a takeaway from Edwards’ statements during the panel is that “impeachment should be protection against something more dangerous than someone in office doing something wrong. It’s protecting democracy itself.”

St. Louis senior Alec Holman said he felt the vote was mostly determined by political affiliation instead of the issues detailed in the two articles of impeachment charged by the House of Representatives.

“I’m sure there were some Republicans that probably wanted him impeached but couldn’t, based on the contingency and probably the same for some Democrats too,” Holman said.

Edwards said he felt the weight of an impeachment decision during his experience with the Clinton impeachment. He said that starting the impeachment process is severe because it is overturning the voice of the people who elected the president into office to lead the country.

“I think Congress owes it to the American people to be fair, and thorough and non-partisan because of the gravity of that decision,” Edwards said.