A masterclass in the operation of American-style democracy with KGO host John Rothmann

Last month, I spoke with Gene Healy about his persuasive cover story for Reason, arguing that we should all calm down. Perhaps the Ukraine phone call was not even the most impeachable thing Trump did in the month of July of last year, but it wouldn’t hurt to send future presidents the message that they cannot act with impunity. Fair enough.

I have argued that on principle, a President may sometimes be duty-bound to investigate his political opponents — and even use the threat of withholding aid to a country that doesn’t cooperate.

Does this apply to Trumps’s infamous “perfect phone call”?

You can read or listen to my conversation with Gene and decide for yourself whether Trump committed an impeachable offense.

Now Peter Suderman at Reason Magazine further complicates things, writing that By Withholding Funds to Ukraine, Trump Broke the Law. The Government Accountability Office agrees that the Office of Management and Budget — an agency of the executive branch — was required to submit a reason to Congress for delaying the funds under the Impoundment Control Act of 1974. Trump and his lawyers argue he was acting within the law and his presidential authority to conduct U.S. foreign policy.

Listen to John Rothmann’s political commentary every weeknight from 6–9 pm on KGO 810 AM.

It’s a tricky issue that opens up many important questions from the balance of powers to the wisdom of foreign policy that includes sending millions of dollars in “anti-corruption aid” to places like Ukraine.

Few people have been following the impeachment as closely as John Rothmann — an author, Bay Area radio host on KGO 810AM, and frequent lecturer on American politics and the presidency. John also has one of the finest private libraries in the country — 15,000 volumes, specializing in American political history and political biography. He says Trump must go, and that if the Senate acquits it’s the end of America as we know it. He joins me this Sunday for the full hour.

But what would the Founders say? What are the important principles in play? And how would the analysis of the impeachment saga change if everyone took their ideological blinders off?

As the Senate prepares to vote “guilty” or “not guilty” in this historic case, I urge listeners to withhold their judgment until they’ve heard John’s perspective.

Subscribe to my newsletter and get my free guide to the Administrative State

Read or Listen

KGO host John Rothmann offers his perspective as a Presidential historian and former Nixon advisor.

1:00 — We entertain ourselves with impeachment

2:00 — Discussion of impeachment is vacuous

3:00 — A guest you will all recognize — John Rothmann

5:32 — Is impeachment a trial or an appeal?

6:55 — The Oath of Impartiality

8:17 — Richard Nixon’s impeachment ultimatum from Barry Goldwater

9:39 — Has Trump committed a crime and does it matter?

10:23 — Gerald Ford on the significance of impeachment

11:43 — What Dershowitz will argue

12:56 — Bob’s hypothetical: should a good President be impeached for a crime? Should a bad President be impeached in the absence of a crime?

14:48 — Why Nixon was impeached. The cover up is worse than the crime.

16:03 — Why the parliamentary system is lower drama and makes more sense.

How the democrats lost the high-ground. An impeachment in search of a reason.

18:33 — How we almost got a parliamentary system.

19:37 — Whether a censure resolution would have any effect

20:48 — Who Rothmann would like to have testify.

22:10 — Does Trump’s motivation in the phone call matter? Is it a political hate crime?

26:52 — Is impeachment more like an appeal or a trial?

28:45 — Why there won’t be any Perry Mason shockers in the impeachment trial

31:54 — A Hypothetical about Joe Biden’s dealings with Ukraine

36:47 — Why John Rothmann thinks the trial will be over by the end of the week. Trump shoring up his base.

39:34 — Did Trump break the law by withholding funds?

45:49 — Did impeachment help or hurt Trump’s election chances?

47:17 — We will know in 1 year whether the gamble pays.

48:45 — Did the founders intend for impeachment to be rare or commonplace?

50:54 — Should it be easier or harder to impeach?

A Master’s level course in the operation of American-style democracy

Bob Zadek: We all had entertain ourselves with streaming television on Netflix and HBO and the like. This week we have been subjected to the mother of all live-streaming events — the so-called impeachment “trial” of Donald J. Trump in the Senate, which follows the impeachment indictment in the house.

Regretfully, the discussion in the media has been, in my opinion, vacuous, and obviously unobjective.

My guest this morning will help us understand our constitutional system when it comes to impeachment. Does the system work or do we wish we the Parliamentary system where firing the Prime Minister is low drama?

I’m thrilled to welcome John Rothmann to the show this morning. John is a radio talk show host on KGO 810AM in San Francisco. He brings a lifetime of experience and authorship on American politics and on American history. By the end, listeners will have been given a Master’s level course in the operation of American-style democracy.

John Rothmann: Bob. Thank you. I love those modest introductions.

Bob Zadek: Well, your wife and friends have told me that you have such a poor self image that anything I can do in my own subtle way to add a little support to that, I’m happy to do so.

The American public sees the issue as a trial: if Donald J. Trump has committed bribery, treason or other high crimes or misdemeanors, he should be convicted (if that’s the right verb) in the Senate of having violated those standards and should be thrown out of office.

It’s labeled a trial in the Constitution and that’s how the American public sees it.

Is it a trial, John? None of what you or I know and appreciate about trials applies to the process. Is it analogous to a trial or is the Senate debating what, in my view, is nothing other than highly specialized legislation?

John Rothmann: It is not a trial in the traditional sense — not a legal process. We have a political process. The Senators took an oath and signed a register affirming that they would be open-minded that they would not be partial.

That’s not what’s happening. What you have is a highly partisan situation. The Democrats are already committed to the removal of the President. The Republicans are already committed to the maintenance of the President in office. Facts, witnesses, and evidence really don’t matter — the positions are fixed.

Somebody asked me whether or not Mitch McConnell should disqualify himself or Lindsay Graham should disqualify themselves. Or Chuck Schumer or Dick Durban. They’re predetermined. So it is not a trial in the traditional sense.

Bob Zadek: You’re quite right, the senators taken oath of impartial justice but the oath was written under the rules of the Senate, not the Constitution.

This is built-in hypocrisy because everyone in the Senate is there because they are elected. The President is elected. There is a political process that created the institutions. It’s all political. How can anybody be expected to be “impartial” let alone 100 Senators?

A Political — Not a Legal Process

John Rothmann: You know that I worked for Richard Nixon. I want you to understand that the Nixon impeachment never took place because in the end the Republicans made the decision.

Barry Goldwater, John Rhodes, and Hugh Scott went down to the White House on August 7th, 1974 and essentially told the Nixon he did not have the votes to survive. The legal issue of whether the President, in fact, had committed a high crime or misdemeanor was not debated. The President turned to Barry Goldwater and he said, “Barry, how many votes do I have in the Senate?”

Barry Goldwater, by the way, told me this story himself. Goldwater said to me, “I responded to the President, ‘You have six votes at most, and I am not one of them.’”

In the end, Richard Nixon resigned because he, as he put it in the David Frost interviews, had impeached himself. Nixon could not survive because the the Republicans’ support collapsed completely. Whether it’s the impeachment of Andrew Johnson, or the impeachment which theoretically would have taken place with Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, and now Donald Trump — these are political proceedings.

No President of the United States facing trial in the United States Senate has been convicted and removed from office.

Bob Zadek: So Trump would be the first.

What’s interesting to me is the issue of this really unfortunate word in the Constitution of “crime.” There is so much misunderstanding on the core issue. Is it important whether Trump committed a crime?

John Rothmann: No.

Bob Zadek: Has he violated federal or state law?

John Rothmann: No.

Bob Zadek: And the answer is, “Of course not.”

John Rothmann: Gerald Ford summed it up as House minority leader, talking about an impeachment of Justice William O. Douglas. Ford was asked what impeachment meant to him, and he said, “It’s whatever the House of Representatives says it is.”

That’s the key — you can impeach someone if you have the votes and you can convict someone in the Senate if you have the votes regardless of the merits.

The best example is Andrew Johnson. The charges against him were fundamentally based on something called the Tenure of Office Act, which was passed by Congress in order to get him removed.

Andrew Johnson was saved by one vote — Edmund Ross of Kansas. You can read about it in John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage.

The important thing is that it is political in every sense of the word. So when you ask me, is is a crime necessary? The answer is no. Ask me whether or not I believe that Donald Trump abused his power showed contempt of Congress? The answer is yes, but it only becomes a crime and a removable-from-office crime if the Senators vote that way.

The argument Alan Dershowitz will make tomorrow in the Senate is that it does not rise to the level for which he should be removed from office (and by the way, Alan does not say whether or not he considers the action of the President a crime).

I’ve said from the beginning that the Republicans would make the argument that it did not rise to the level. The precedent for that is Bill Clinton, who obstructed justice and committed perjury. We all know the Lewinsky case, but the bottom line was even though he did something terribly egregious, the Democrats argued it did not rise to the level for which he should be removed from office.

Now that’s what the Republicans are saying.

Please note that their defense of the President yesterday never denied his actions. They never said he didn’t do it. What they’re going to argue is that it doesn’t rise to the level for which he should be removed from office.

Bob Zadek: Now I’m going to pick up on the phrase you’ve used twice in your last comment: “Rise to the level.”

Here’s an observation in the form of a hypothetical:

First, assume a president is a generally a good President. Bill Clinton is an example of a good president in general, even though I didn’t agree with a lot of what he did.Now, Clinton did commit a crime.

Should impeachment be used to get rid of a good president who in fact did commit an impeachable act? Now hold that answer aside.

Second, should impeachment be used to get rid of the bad president who may or may not have committed an impeachable offense?

Putting it more directly, is the valid purpose of impeachment to simply correct a voting error and get rid of a bad President? Or is it event-specific? A good president who does one bad act — one transgression — would it be the duty of the Senate to kick him out?

John Rothmann: It’s a great formulation. I worked for Richard Nixon and I can tell you that in many ways, Richard Nixon was an exemplary President in terms of foreign policy and certain aspects of domestic policy.

I won’t enumerate all the things he did, but what Richard Nixon did was to break trust. He didn’t tell the truth. He got caught in a lie. And what did Republicans in Congress do? They didn’t condemn his presidency. They condemned the action that he took. And I want to point something out that most people don’t realize. Richard Nixon did not order the Watergate break in — Richard Nixon’s crime was the coverup. The coverup is what caught Richard Nixon. Had Nixon remained silent and not embarked on a coverup, he would not have been removed from office.

Bob Zadek: Oh, no question..

John Rothmann: I don’t agree with Donald Trump on his politics on many levels, but that is not a reason to remove Donald Trump from office. That’s what I think Alan Dershowitz will argue tomorrow.

Would We Do Better with a Parliamentary System?

Bob Zadek: I believe that the British parliamentary system of a “vote of no confidence” — a low drama event — is simply, “Okay, you blew it. We need somebody else.” That system is so politically healthy and our system is so politically unhealthy.

We as a country struggle to use the impeachment process as a vote of no confidence. The Democrats, from the moment they entered office in this last term, set upon getting rid of the President. They therefore destroyed a lot of their high ground since they were an impeachment in search of a reason, rather than doing their job until they got lucky with the phone call.

John Rothmann: In his interview with David Frost, Richard Nixon said about his enemies, “I gave them the sword and they thrusted into me and twisted it.” That’s what happened with Donald Trump.

Donald Trump was in a position to have Republicans support on a whole host of issues and even to a degree, some Democrats. But he continues to say, “You can’t touch me and I don’t give a toot what you think.”

When the President says he’s innocent, it depends on how you perceive it. History is going to judge Donald Trump harshly. He put this country through this by his own arrogance.

I have to tell you his own lack of understanding of history may be the ultimate tragedy.

When Harry Truman became President and there were real questions about whether he had any popular mandate, Senator J.W. Fulbright proposed that we revert to a parliamentary system. And there was a debate in 1946 particularly after the ’46 election, which was a repudiation of Truman. Whether Fulbright was right or not. Well, the answer is we are not a parliamentary system. We are not going to become a parliamentary system.

And there is one other element and that has to do with the notion of censure. One President of the United States, Andrew Jackson, was censured by a Senate controlled by the whigs.

He was a Democrat. That censure resolution was expunged as soon as the Democrats took over the United States Senate. So he was censured, which had absolutely no consequence. I don’t think a censure will happen after the impeachment. Censure really is not an effective means or tool.

Bob Zadek: Of course it’s not. The country is too cynical. It’s just a scolding, and when the country is so divided that scold and is not by the House or the Senate — it’s by the other party. The Senate, of course, is the President’s party. So a censure might have some significance and might affect the outcome.

John Rothmann: Republicans aren’t going to vote for censure. They could get the four senators who are in question: Lamar Alexander, Mitt Romney Senator Collins, of course… but essentially it would have no impact at all.

I don’t think they’re going to go that route. Nor do I think by the way, that there will be four Republicans who will vote to hear a testimony. Let me be clear about this. I believe testimony is important and I believe it would be good to have testimony.

I’d like to hear Mick Mulvaney.

I’d like to hear Mike Pompeo.

I’d like to hear the people closest to the President stand up and say he didn’t do this. But the simple truth is the President did what he’s accused of doing. He did it. And so the burden on this falls to the question, which seems to be best answered by the Republicans, that yes, he did it, but it does not rise to the level for which he should be removed from office.

In the end, Bob, it is the American people who won November 3rd, 2020. We’ll give the ultimate judgment on this President.

What Was Trump’s Motivation on the Phone Call?

Bob Zadek: There’s no dispute on the facts but the dispute is as to the phone call. What was the President’s reason? This is like a federal or state hate crime law, which I abhor, where we try to look into why somebody committed a murder, or other physical injury or robbery? If they did it for the wrong reason then their punishment is going to be enhanced.

If they were hungry or greedy, well then they could be put away for a lesser term. I hate that process and I hate hate crimes, no pun intended. This is not a criminal trial, but nevertheless, the issue, which could — not will — but could decide the outcome is not what the President did.

We all know what he did. We know what he said. The issue is why he said it. When we come back from break, I will try to take the opposite position that it doesn’t matter why he did what he did.

John Rothmann: If you do, I will argue with you. I can’t wait.

Bob Zadek: Welcome back. John Rothman has had a rich political past as well serving in the Nixon and other administrations, so his observations count for a lot more than most other people’s. As I often say on my show, what people think is to me marginally interesting. Why you think it is fascinating and I love to understand why us, how a thoughtful person reaches a conclusion as they have.

Of course I always learn not from their opinion but from how they got there.

I don’t think it matters all that much why Trump did what he did.This part of the conversation is going to have two components.

Number one, is what’s going on in the Senate more analogous to a trial or an appeal?

More specifically is what happened in the House something akin to an indictment — like a grand jury process where the prosecutor — the Speaker of the House or the head of the judiciary committee — presents the case to a Grand Jury? The grand jury says, “We don’t know if a crime was committed, but there’s enough to let a jury decide and they send it out to be tried.”

Is what happened in the House the indictment? Or is it the trial, with this as an appeal, which means you don’t take witnesses, you just decide if the trial was proper? What’s the better analogy as to what’s going on in the Senate?

John Rothmann: The way you frame it is absolutely right on 100%. One of the reasons Alan Dershowitz is involved is because he doesn’t try cases. He is an appellate lawyer. And I think one of the reasons why the President wanted Alan Dershowitz on the team is for that very reason. Theoretically, the House acts as a grand jury. They put together the indictment, they come to a conclusion and then they forward it to theSenate. The Senate then conducts a trial and theoretically, in a trial, you have witnesses and you have evidence. That’s what makes this not a trial because the Republicans have determined they don’t want witnesses, they don’t want documentary evidence documented evidence to be conveyed to them.

They say, “You build your case, that’s all we care about. We’re not going to allow new evidence.”

Now I watched Perry Mason for many years. I loved him. The one thing I learned is at the last minute when everything seems predetermined, all of a sudden you hear something that changes the whole course of the trial.

That is not going to happen in the Senate trial. This is not Perry Mason. This is American politics playing out. And there are some who would suggest that impeachment doesn’t work. There’s a wonderful book by a gentleman named Liebowitz who I interviewed on my program who says impeachment as a process fails because it’s not a trial. Not really. It’s a political action. And I think that is the key.

Bob Zadek: Now, the second part of the discussion on how much it Trump’s motivation matters, I’d like to present a hypothetical to you. As you think out loud, the audience will benefit from the process.

A substantial portion of Trump’s defense of his conversation with Zelensk is that it was the perfect call. “Perfect.” There’s a low bar, but okay, a perfect call.

He said, “I was trying to ferret out corruption in Ukraine.”

Now I can hear the eyes roll in the audience. Let us add to the argument against Trump that he was soliciting the aid of a foreign government to ferret out a political opponent.

Hypothetically, Donald Trump believes rightly or wrongly — that Joe Biden was sharing state secrets with Ukraine. I mean, as crass as it can be — state secrets, treason, punishable by death. And Donald Trump, who is likely to be running against Joe Biden, says out loud to anybody within earshot, “Wow. I gotta win. I’ve got to the bottom of this because he’s a possible traitor AND I get to get rid of a political opponent. How lucky am I?”

Has Trump committed an impeachable offense?

John Rothmann: The President’s defenders are going to go after Joe Biden on grounds of corruption.

But let’s be careful. Joe Biden is not about to be impeached or convicted by the Senate.

Joe Biden is not on trial.

What is on trial is that the President of the United States asked the leader of a foreign nation to investigate a potential political opponent and the President did that while at the same time holding up aid appropriated by Congress. Now I think those facts are indisputable and now I will offer you what I really believe.

This is a political process.

If Barack Obama had done that, the Republicans would have called for is immediately removed being removed from office. The lines are not drawn based on fact on whether or not the President did something wrong. The Democrats said the same thing with Bill Clinton during the Lewinsky scandal, “Yes, he did it but it doesn’t matter,” which goes back to the very first point, Bob, which is that impeachment by the House and the trial in the Senate is a political, not a legal issue

Bob Zadek: Except for one thing — many Americans and certainly to the political class and the fourth estate of the media want to know the motive. Soliciting the aid of a foreign government to help us ferret out a spy is not only neutral, Trump darn well better have done that assuming Biden wasn’t running for office.

John Rothmann: If The President felt that there was something that Biden did he should have gone to the Attorney General and had an investigation initiated by the Justice Department, which is the normal process.

For a President of the United States to invite the President of a foreign nation who is dependent completely on us to dig up dirt on a political opponent is unconscionable. Let me point out the President broke the law when he held up the aid in a quid pro quo. And don’t listen to John Rothmann — listen to Mick Mulvaney who standing in the briefing room at the White House said, “Of course it was a quid pro quo. Get over it.”

Now why don’t the Republicans want Mick Mulvaney to give testimony? Because if he said that, it would blow the lid off their defense. And if John Bolton testifies — and God knows what John Bolton would say again — it opens up a can of worms.

John Rothmann: The Republicans want this behind them, and they made a fascinating argument yesterday: Let the American people decide on November 3rd, 2020.

I’m going to stick my neck way out, Bob and tell you this. I believe this trial will be over within a week. I believe the President will be acquitted on a party line vote more or less 53 to 47. There might be a couple of Democrats who vote to defend him who are in tough reelection battles because this is a political issue. In the end, what the Democrats are doing is building a case which they can present to the American people. Now listen carefully.

The latest polls show that 53% of Americans believe the President should be removed from office. That’s stunning. If that’s true, no American President running in a head-to-head contest has been able to win an election without having the support of the American people. To 53% of the American people believe he did something wrong. He’ll lose the election.

Donald Trump has to shore up his base, which is what he did when he spoke at the March for Life. He wants the Evangelicals with him. He’s doing the same thing he will on Tuesday when he announces these plans in the Middle East which the Palestinians and the Arabs will reject, but the Israelis will embrace. The President now trying to play a political game of shoring up his base.

What about Joe Biden? Joe Biden will certainly be a major contender. He may well be the Democratic nominee. If he is, this will put the President’s contentions about Joe Biden front and center. I can only tell you what I began by saying: this is not a legal process. It is a political process that is precisely what this is. And the stakes are high: The presidency of the United States.

Bob Zadek: Exactly right. And one comment, by the way you, you mentioned the withholding of aid. I want to focus on the verb “withholding” and not belabor it. It’s a small discussion.

John Rothmann: If you want to use the technical term, it is impoundment.

Bob Zadek: Not enough has been said about the following issue: money was appropriated by Congress. The power of the purse is one of the most powerful and most sacred tools that Congress has in the separation of powers. It is very important and always has been and should be. When the President crosses a line and assumes the power of the purse, if anyway, he has crossed the line for which he should be soundly criticized in some form or another.

However, unless otherwise set forth in a statute his duty is to spend the money before the end of the fiscal year. When Congress appropriates money on a Monday and the President doesn’t spend it until Wednesday, the President doesn’t get impeached. He hasn’t spent it yet.

Maybe he withholds it for a reason — maybe a good reason, maybe a crummy reason, but a reason. But so long as he spends the money before the end of the fiscal year, he hasn’t upset the balance of powers.

John Rothmann: Not in this case, Bob.

The GAO issued a statement saying the President broke the law. That’s a nonpartisan branch of government.

Once the whistleblower report became public, the funds were released. This was a political action by a President who held up funds to try to get a favor from Ukraine. Once the action was exposed, the money was released.

None of the people who would be called in a trial are Democrats. They are all Trump appointees to jobs in his administration. If I were the President of the United States and I had nothing to hide, I would say go ahead and testify because what you’re going to affirm is my position, which is, “I did nothing wrong,” but that is not what the President and his attorneys are doing.

If you are innocent you should have nothing to hide.

Bob Zadek: I have one governmental question, and one political question that was so impatient within myself to ask you. I couldn’t wait.

The civics question is, in a criminal trial there is the government side and the defendant’s side. In the Senate we have those who want the President impeached and those who oppose the impeachment.

John Rothmann: Conviction — he’s already been impeached.

Bob Zadek: Quick question–quick answer: in that process, “throw ’em out versus keep ’em in,” which side represents the government?

John Rothmann: Neither side is the government, Bob, that’s the whole point. You’re putting it in legal terms. This is a political question. Lines are drawn along political lines. The Democrats say he’s guilty. The Republicans say he’s innocent and that’s it. So that’s what neither side is neither party.

Bob Zadek: I hate to make reference to parties, although as John has pointed out repeatedly and appropriately, this is a purely political process, but neither side has the high ground. Neither side is more patriotic than the other. There’s no such thing as the patriotic side. So you’re, you’re absolutely right. This is a political battle which if present trends continue will be decided on November 3rd by the American people.

Here’s my political question:

Stakes are high. The election is coming up that may change control the Senate as well. The House is probably not going to change, but who knows. My political question given all that has happened starting with the whistleblower — did the democrats blow it by using all of this material as an impeachment tool rather than as a weapon in the election?

John Rothmann: Brilliant question, and Nancy Pelosi gave us the answer. She did not want to have this President impeached by the House. She did not want a trial in the Senate. She wanted everything decided on November 3rd. What the President did was to give the Democrats the sword — the Ukraine conversation — and they thrust it into him. Nancy Pelosi’s political judgment initially was absolutely correct, but events overcame what she could handle.

The President did it to himself and you know, that’s the great tragedy of this moment.

Bob Zadek: Will history tell us that impeachment was a monumental political blunder? Or was it really high-level, skillful, and correct politics? I’m asking you a purely political tactical question.

John Rothmann: The blunder was Donald Trump’s — the response was not a blunder by the Democrats. It was a necessary action.

You and I will make a date two years from now — even a year from now. And we will know whether or not this President played his cards properly. That will be resolved, if not by a vote in the next week in the United States Senate, it will be resolved by the American people.

Let me tell you, there’s enough blame to go around for everyone. The ultimate tragedy is that we have had to go through this.

Frankly I felt the same way about Watergate. If Nixon had not taken actions that he took — the cover up — we never would have gone through that agony. And to be honest with you, if Donald Trump had not had that conversation and not held up that aid, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. In the end, I have a hope that this will be good for American democracy — that this issue will be debated as you and I are talking about it now in the days and years ahead, by students of politics, by students in high school and junior high school, middle school, so they can better understand the process with all of its imperfections and its pros and cons.

Bob Zadek: You are an astute historian. Did the founders intend impeachment to be as rare and unusual as it has become? Or did they intend for impeachment to be more commonplace and used often to keep the President on his or her toes?

John Rothmann: Well, you make a presumption — l remember 15 impeachments in the Senate. They haven’t had to do with Presidents primarily, but with judges. Impeachment was a process by which you could correct the imperfections. Your correct premise is that it is used rarely and only when there was really no alternative. And let me remind you, Judge Hastings who was impeached and removed from office is now a sitting member of Congress.

Bob Zadek: That’s correct — Alcee Hastings from Florida.

The first judge (Judge Pickering) to be impeached was impeached because he was he was abusive to litigants and a drunkard. He did nothing legally improper. They just said that “He’s a terrible judge. Get rid of the son of a gun.” That was perfectly appropriate in 1803 or 1804.

John Rothmann: Remember Samuel Chase — a justice of the Supreme Court in 1805 — went through the impeachment process. Aaron Burr presided at his trial. The whole thing was political. Thomas Jefferson wanted him removed from office and that was the whole issue.

Bob Zadek: Quick question, quick answer. Should impeachment be easy or hard?

John Rothmann: Hard. But it should be more fair. That is to say, if a President really is guilty, it should be a nonpartisan effort. In a perfect world, this President would be removed from office — but it’s not a perfect world. It’s a political world, and that of course is the world of Washington DC.

Bob Zadek: To my friends out there, ask yourselves, “Should a President be impeached, because he’s a crummy President, but really did nothing overt, or should he be impeached only if he did a clearly impeachable offense?”

What is better for our country?