The presidential election year of 2016 has been a remarkable one. For the first time in the history of the United States, a woman is the presumptive nominee of a major political party. Add to that the doubly historic incidence of the first spouse of a previous president being nominated for the same office by the same major political party. But all of this history pales in comparison to what may very well be the most definitive event shared by the President Clinton — impeachment.
For purposes of review, “impeachment” is defined by Noah Webster’s first American Dictionary of the English Language as “an accusation or charge brought against a public officer for maladministration in his office.” Impeachment is not removal from office but merely the political equivalent of a criminal indictment. The same lexicon defines “indictment” as “a written accusation or formal charge of a crime or misdemeanor, preferred by a grand jury under oath to a court.” It follows that impeachment applies to government officials such as a president or secretary of State where as an indictment would apply more broadly to virtually anyone — including a former secretary of State. And while an indictment is the product of a grand jury’s deliberation, the Constitution provides that the House of Representatives “shall have the sole power of impeachment.” It would fall to the House of Representatives to once again take the historic step to accuse — or impeach — another President Clinton.
Although that step would indeed be historic, it would be far from herculean. Thanks to the vigilance of President Obama’s Justice Department, most of the foundation for the accusation has already been laid. It’s the opinion of FBI Director James Comey that “no reasonable prosecutor [appointed by President Obama] would bring such a case” against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. However, members of the House of Representatives in 2017 will be less concerned about the opinion of a likely former FBI director on criminal matters and more concerned about what Alexander Hamilton observed concerning the “political” — rather than legal — nature of impeachment when he remarked in Federalist Paper No. 65 that it “relate[s] chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.”