Public speculation over whether or not President Donald Trump will be impeached began even before he his Jan. 20 inauguration. Now, top constitutional scholar Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California-Irvine Law School, said that Trump should face impeachment, but does not believe that the Republican-dominated Congress is likely to make such a move.
"This president seems either to not understand or not to care about the Constitution," Chemerinsky told Capital & Main in an interview.
Trump's main offense? Chemerinsky said that the president is in violation of the Constitution's Emoluments Clause, designed to prevent conflicts of interest. Chemerinsky also called for the removal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whom the scholar believes "committed a federal crime" by deceiving Congress about his connections to Russia.
"One of the most important parts of the rule of law is that no one -- not the president, not the attorney general -- is above the law," Chemerinsky explained. "And yet President Trump is violating the Constitution every day by receiving benefits from foreign states and receiving benefits from the United States in addition to his salary. The attorney general of the United States has flat out lied to Congress -- it’s a violation of federal law. And there’s so little concern over this."
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Chemerinsky has spoken out against Trump and Sessions before, arguing in a February op-ed for the Los Angeles Daily News that they both showed "a profound lack of understanding about the Constitution" when they questioned the legitimacy of a federal court that blocked an executive order.
"My fear is that their rants will contribute to undermining the legitimacy of the courts and of the rule of law," he added at the time.
But Chemerinsky does not believe that the nation is in a constitutional crisis, as some, such as legal expert Jeffrey Toobin, suggested after Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey.
"President Trump had the constitutional authority to fire James Comey," Chemerinsky explained to Capital & Main. "However, what makes it troubling is that Comey was leading an investigation that included at least top Trump campaign and administration officials, perhaps even included the president. I think what this means is that it's so essential that there be an independent special prosecutor to conduct this investigation."
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Still, Chemerinsky does not believe an impeachment is imminent, if merited, because "in a Republican House and a Republican Senate, it’s going to take a lot more than this" to make the GOP legislators act against their party.