The History of Impeachment

Impeachment expert Michael Gerhardt on the unquestionably appropriate grounds for impeachment and the erosion of institutional norms around more frequent appearances of impeachment in modern history.

Some scholars call our politically fraught and hyper-partisan times “the age of impeachment.” They claim the increased use of impeachment and removal proceedings signals an erosion in institutional norms, perhaps that we’ve even “overwhelmed” the use of impeachment and diluted impeachment of any significance.

What does U.S. impeachment history tell us? The Constitution provides that treason, bribery, and other high crimes and misdemeanors are impeachable offenses. A common thread that runs throughout presidential impeachment proceedings is an effort by legal counsel to try and define the scope of impeachable misconduct.

On this episode of Discovery, we discuss the history of impeachment with Professor Michael Gerhardt from the Carolina Law faculty, whose teaching and research focuses on constitutional conflicts between presidents and Congress. He has authored nine books, testified more than 20 times before Congress, and has served as an expert commentator for CNN, Fox and MSNBC. Gerhardt joined the Carolina Law faculty in 2005 and serves as the Burton Craige Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence.

Gerhardt's new book, The Law of Presidential Impeachment, provides a comprehensive and nonpartisan explanation of impeachment's role in presidential accountability.

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