13

Reading comments on previous question (about faithless electors replacing VP), one sentiment expressed was that there's pretty much no way to undo anything that faithless electors do if they choose not to obey the electoral votes.

Assuming that the partisan makeup of both the House and the Senate allows for enough votes, is it technically/legally feasible for the Congress to "undo" such a faithless elector's behavior, by impeaching whoever they pick as President - not for anything that person did, but just because the "electors chose faithlessly"?

I'm not asking if it's politically feasible, or how likely it's to happen. Merely if the idea is even technically/legally plausible.

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    A definition of "faithless electors" would be useful here: politics.stackexchange.com/q/12932, because I initially thought it had something to do with atheism. – Roger Lipscombe Nov 10 '16 at 16:41
  • In six years' time, people will find it quite difficult to locate a "previous question" amongst hundreds of thousands, even though it may be easy to locate it today. – JdeBP Nov 10 '16 at 20:22
  • @JdeBP - good point, thanks :). politics.stackexchange.com/posts/13215/edit – user4012 Nov 10 '16 at 20:41
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    @user4012 Please edit that into your question and then delete the comment. – endolith Nov 10 '16 at 20:46
23

The exact text of Article II, Section 4 is:

The President, Vice President, and all civil Officers of the United States shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors

While many actions can possibly be called misdemeanors, I cannot imagine that it is possible to impeach a person for being elected according to the law, even if the whole House agrees that the law was wrong.

Some states do have laws making some faithless election a misdemeanor on the elector (A general source is fairvote.org, though someone can feel free to add a specific citation of a law). These have never been used in practice though, so there is no precedent for how Congress can act upon the conviction of an elector.

One plausible case for impeachment may be if there is evidence that the candidate or some person acting on their behalf illegally influenced the electors, e.g. through bribery. In this case, there is clear cause for impeachment, although it is again an unprecedented circumstance, so I have no idea what would happen if the candidate/President-Elect/President was convicted, or even if the crime was proven but someone else was convicted.

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    I'd add that removal from office requires a trial headed by the Supreme Justice with the Senate acting as Jury. The President would be guilty of no crime although the faithless electors could be, but that would be a state crime at best – eques Nov 10 '16 at 20:07
  • @eques I added a bit about the faithless electors, but I don't think the impeachment trial itself is in the scope of the question (and would make the answer much longer than it needs to be to cover adequately). – IllusiveBrian Nov 10 '16 at 22:22
  • the only reason I mentioned the trial is that the implication of OP was about impeachment's ability to undo the work of faithless electors, but the impeachment itself isn't the removal and in fact thus far 100% of presidential impeachments have not actually removed anyone from office. – eques Nov 10 '16 at 23:39
  • @eques Sure, but if they can legally impeach, they can legally convict - whether or not they would is an entirely different question (and not really answerable). – IllusiveBrian Nov 11 '16 at 14:10
  • My point though was it's much easier to indict some of a crime than it is to find them guilty. – eques Nov 11 '16 at 14:14
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Andrew Jackson was impeached because he opposed the formation of the Federal Reserve. Basically, just any reason can be concocted.

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    (a) Articles of Impeachment may have been proposed against Jackson, but they were never approved by the House. (b) Just because one thing is a possible reason for impeachment, it does not mean that everything else can also be a reason. – jwodder Nov 10 '16 at 19:21
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    The only two presidents who have been impeached (impeachment is the equivalent of "indictment" in the criminal justice system, rather than conviction) were Johnson and Clinton. Both were acquitted. – Bob Jarvis - Reinstate Monica Nov 10 '16 at 19:35
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    @BobJarvis Probably worth pointing out that it was Andrew Johnson, not LBJ. – JimmyJames Nov 10 '16 at 19:54
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    Andrew Johnson, not Andrew Jackson. – Fred Larson Nov 10 '16 at 21:21
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    Andrew Johnson was (unsuccessfully) impeached for ignoring the Tenure of Office Act. It had nothing to do with the Federal Reserve. – Philipp Nov 10 '16 at 22:34

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