Okay, so not THE President as in POTUS. But still. I know a lot about the process.
My High School government teacher divided the class into members of the House and of the Senate as we studied the Constitution back in 1971 so we could propose and vote on bills appropriately. He took the role of Speaker of the House, then President Pro-Tem of the Senate, then Vice-President, then President as we worked our way through.
We hated him and were more than a little afraid of him, especially those who also played basketball or baseball with him, since he was the Coach. But what could we do? We were just kids. Wait, maybe not.
We talked amongst ourselves and found Article II, Section 4, the Impeachment Clause, and decided that that gave us a way to respond if we were smart about it. Because by taking on all those roles in our imaginary government, he was in violation of the Constitution. Maybe not high crimes, but it worked for us.
So a core group of us, including moi, since I always was an instigator and I loved research, took ourselves to the Bar Association Library in nearby Cincinnati. We knew nothing except that President Andrew Johnson had been impeached (the only one at that point) and we wanted to know how it worked.
The nice librarians sat us down at a table and brought us everything since we had no idea what legal research was about. But we learned a LOT that afternoon and came home armed with our approach. We also went to the school principal and enlisted his help to serve as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, a role that our teacher had not yet assumed. He was in.
First, the members of the House from our class assembled under the clock in the main hallway (coincidentally at a time when I was working in the office and put out a call on the intercom) to Vote to Impeach President Afterkirk. He came, too, but we told him he wasn’t a member of the class and had to Go Away. He knew something was up but not what.
The next day in class he was served with impeachment papers, drafted against the originals used against Johnson. He was surprised, to say the least, but recovered and called for a legal representative from the class to defend him at the trial.
Oh yeah, did I mention one of the things we learned was that impeachment isn’t a single thing the way it sounds now on the news when they talk about it? The House of Representatives votes to impeach, but then it goes to the Senate for a trial and vote whether or not to convict based on the charges brought.
Word of the impeachment ran wild around the school and the history classes wanted to be there for the trial, so we had a change of venue from the classroom to the auditorium to allow everyone to attend. Yes, we used correct legal language.
The Senate half of our class served as the jury for the trial. We’d learned that the oaths sworn by witnesses were different that those used in an ordinary court, and the order of witnesses was also different – the prosecution came last rather than defense. Every time the teacher challenged us, we had citations (though not in BlueBook format) for why we did what we did.
He was convicted of his crime but that wasn’t the point. We learned so much by taking on this project, far more than we ever would have had it been assigned. We learned to work together, about government and the law, and were empowered to stand up for ourselves when we knew we were right. I think he was proud of us. And we were never afraid of him again; it became my favorite class and a good foundation for college.
When Nixon and Watergate happened, and then when Clinton was impeached, I felt secretly smug that I understood the impeachment process far better than those around me. With all the talk right now about possible impeachment of Trump, I think it might be time to write to my teacher and thank him.