Citizen Trump, the "Nothing Burger" and Impeachment
Let’s assume, for the moment, that the “nothing burger” of a scandal is, in fact, a real burger. In other words, let’s assume that candidate Donald Trump did collude, conspire, work hand in glove with Vladimir Putin to leak damaging emails from the Hillary Clinton campaign. Further, assume for a moment that such an act, if committed by a federal officer, would be a high crime and misdemeanor. This leaves us the following interesting question: Can a federal officer be impeached for acts committed when he was not a federal officer?
One might have thought “no.” During the Bill Clinton impeachment saga, some of President Clinton’s defenders insisted that officers could not be impeached for “private acts” unrelated to the office. It would follow, it seems, that an officer could not be impeached for acts that occurred before he was in a federal office. After all, those acts could not amount to an abuse of federal office. Moreover, even if one supposed that the clause reaches private acts, one might have supposed that the clause implicitly concerns only those official and private acts that occur while an officer occupies a federal office. Again, the Impeachment Clauses seem to be about policing the conduct of federal officers and not about the prior acts of those officers.