People sometimes ask for good basic texts about impeachment generally. Given the operatic nature of the recent and upcoming hearings, and the recent release of their investigation report by three House committees, here are a few suggestions:
The most important book ever written on presidential impeachment is only 69 pages long. Charles Black, Jr.,’s Impeachment: A Handbook was published in the summer of 1974, at the height of the Watergate crisis, and reissued in October 1998, two months before Bill Clinton became the second president in U.S. history to be impeached.
The little understood yet volcanic power of impeachment lodged in the Congress is dissected through history by the nation’s leading legal scholar on the subject. Berger offers authoritative insight into “high crimes and misdemeanors.” He sheds new light on whether impeachment is limited to indictable crimes, on whether there is jurisdiction to impeach for misconduct outside of office, and on whether impeachment must precede indictment. In an addition to the book, Berger finds firm footing in contesting the views of one-time Judge Robert Bork and President Nixon’s lawyer, James St. Clair.
In this thorough and thoughtful examination of the constitutional issues involved in the impeachment of a president, Labovitz, a lawyer who served on the impeachment inquiry staff of the House Judiciary Committee in 1974, incorporates the Nixon experience into American history over the last two hundred years.
An Affair of State by Judge Richard A. Posner. From the Harvard University Press description:
President Bill Clinton’s year of crisis, which began when his affair with Monica Lewinsky hit the front pages in January 1998, engendered a host of important questions of criminal and constitutional law, public and private morality, and political and cultural conflict.
In a book written while the events of the year were unfolding, Richard Posner presents a balanced and scholarly understanding of the crisis that also has the freshness and immediacy of journalism. Posner clarifies the issues and eliminates misunderstandings concerning facts and the law that were relevant to the investigation by Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr and to the impeachment proceeding itself. He explains the legal definitions of obstruction of justice and perjury, which even many lawyers are unfamiliar with. He carefully assesses the conduct of Starr and his prosecutors, including their contacts with the lawyers for Paula Jones and their hardball tactics with Monica Lewinsky and her mother. He compares and contrasts the Clinton affair with Watergate, Iran–Contra, and the impeachment of Andrew Johnson, exploring the subtle relationship between public and private morality. And he examines the place of impeachment in the American constitutional scheme, the pros and cons of impeaching President Clinton, and the major procedural issues raised by both the impeachment in the House and the trial in the Senate. This book, reflecting the breadth of Posner’s experience and expertise, will be the essential foundation for anyone who wants to understand President Clinton’s impeachment ordeal.
Cass R. Sunstein provides a succinct citizen’s guide to an essential tool of self-government. He illuminates the constitutional design behind impeachment and emphasizes the people’s role in holding presidents accountable. Despite intense interest in the subject, impeachment is widely misunderstood. Sunstein identifies and corrects a number of misconceptions. For example, he shows that the Constitution, not the House of Representatives, establishes grounds for impeachment, and that the president can be impeached for abuses of power that do not violate the law. Even neglect of duty counts among the “high crimes and misdemeanors” delineated in the republic’s foundational document. Sunstein describes how impeachment helps make sense of our constitutional order, particularly the framers’ controversial decision to install an empowered executive in a nation deeply fearful of kings.