Professor Corey Brettschneider on The Power of Impeachment


Constitutional Law Professor Corey Brettschneider says it might be time for Congress to have a more open mind as to what constitutes grounds for impeachment.

After the attempted impeachment of the first President Johnson, right after the Civil War, many people said if they succeeded in removing the president– then we could have become more like a parliamentary system. Because it would have meant that the Congress could remove a president not for “high crimes and misdemeanors” but because Congress simply didn’t like the president’s policy. Now, Congress didn’t remove President Johnson back then. And I think it would have been a mistake, a bad precedent, to use impeachment as a sort of no-confidence vote. But I think right now we might look for an in-between. Something between the extreme executive power that we have right now and a Congress more willing to impeach. I believe that in-between would be a more aggressive Congress coupled with more defined judicial limits on what the president can and can’t do.

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Corey Brettschneider is professor of political science at Brown University, where he teaches courses in constitutional law and political theory. He is currently also a visiting professor at the University of Chicago Law School. Brettschneider was a visiting professor at Fordham Law School, a Rockefeller faculty fellow at the Princeton University Center for Human Values, a visiting associate professor at Harvard Law School, and a faculty fellow at Harvard’s Safra Center for Ethics. Brettschneider received a PhD in politics from Princeton University and a JD from Stanford University. He is the author of When the State Speaks, What Should it Say? How Democracies Can Protect Expression and Promote Equality (Princeton University Press, 2012) and Democratic Rights: The Substance of Self-Government (Princeton University Press, 2007). These books have been the subject of several journal symposia, including one most recently published in the Brooklyn Law Review. Brettschneider is also the author of a casebook, Constitutional Law and American Democracy: Cases and Readings (Aspen Publishers/Wolters Kluwer Law and Business, 2011). His articles include “Sovereign and State: A Democratic Theory of Sovereign Immunity,” forthcoming in Texas Law Review; “Value Democracy as the Basis for Viewpoint Neutrality,” in Northwestern Law Review (2013); “A Transformative Theory of Religious Freedom,” in Political Theory (2010); “When the State Speaks, What Should it Say? Democratic Persuasion and the Freedom of Expression,” in Perspectives on Politics (2010); and “The Politics of the Personal: A Liberal Approach,” in the American Political Science Review (2007).



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