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Opinion
Noah Feldman

James Madison Didn't Want to Normalize Impeachment

The father of the Constitution worried about giving the Senate too much veto power over an ineffective president.
Let's sit down and have a chat about impeachment.

Let's sit down and have a chat about impeachment.

Source: The New York Public Library Digital Collections.

As special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation proceeds, one thing is increasingly clear: If there is a serious congressional effort to impeach President Donald Trump after the midterm elections, it will have to be based not on a general sense that he’s doing a bad job, but on something much more specific, like obstruction of justice, abuse of power or subversion of the Constitution itself.

For that we have the Framers to thank or blame -- and one in particular, James Madison. It was he, the lead architect of the document, who spoke out against a more general proposal for impeachment, which would have made the president removable for “maladministration.” Madison’s reasoning has a lot to tell us about impeachment today -- and about the logic of the Constitution as a legal document.