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Twenty-five Harvard faculty joined more than 1,500 historians to sign an open letter Monday denouncing President Donald J. Trump’s “numerous and flagrant abuses of power” and calling for his impeachment.
On Wednesday evening, the United States House of Representatives voted, largely along party lines, to impeach Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress as a result of investigations into the president’s alleged corrupt solicitation of election assistance from the Ukranian government. Trump is the third president in the nation’s history to be impeached.
The historians’ letter condemns Trump’s actions towards Ukraine.
“It is our considered judgment that if President Trump’s misconduct does not rise to the level of impeachment, then virtually nothing does,” the letter reads.
The majority of Harvard signatories are professors in the History department. Several faculty members from the African and African American Studies department and the Kennedy School of Government also signed onto the letter.
The professors wrote that they believe Trump’s behavior represented the kind of conduct the founding fathers considered when they wrote laws on impeachment.
“Donald Trump has committed impeachable offenses since the day he took office. He has defied the emoluments clause of the Constitution, defied congressional authority, and treated the Department of Justice as his personal defense team,” History professor James T. Kloppenberg wrote in an emailed statement. “His continuing pretense of being above the law is without precedent in US history.”
History and AAAS professor Vincent Brown made similar arguments, saying Trump’s behavior was what the Constitution’s framers feared in an executive.
“The evidence of his guilt in committing this offense is overwhelming and he continues to openly pursue the same goal, which compromises the integrity of our system of government,” Brown said.
The letter pointed to historical writings, including essays from Alexander Hamilton in the Federalist Papers, arguing that Trump’s actions fit Hamilton’s description of the purpose of impeachment.
“President Trump’s actions committed both before and during the House investigations fit Hamilton’s description and manifest utter and deliberate scorn for the rule of law and “repeated injuries” to constitutional democracy,” the letter read. ‘That disregard continues and it constitutes a clear and present danger to the Constitution.”
History professor Tiya A. Miles ’92 said history “can sometimes speak with potency to the present.”
“The past can sometimes speak with potency to the present. It seemed fitting to put the words of founding architects of the US government in front of our current political leaders at a moment of difficulty and truth,” Miles said.
Following Wednesday’s historic impeachment vote, the Republican-controlled Senate will hold a trial beginning early next year to determine whether or not the body will convict Trump and remove him from office.
Kennedy School professor Khalil G. Muhammad said that, in light of Wednesday’s vote, the impact of the historians’ letter is “already being felt.”
“I am encouraged that the record of what has happened today will reflect the expertise of historians who dedicated their lives to archives, primary evidence, and the nuances of the context in which ideas and laws were first crafted,” he said.
—Staff writer Joshua C. Fang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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