The statistics on impeachment are quite stark. Since 1789, 20 federal officials have been impeached by the House; only eight of them were convicted after a Senate trial. None of those, quite obviously, were presidents. And President Donald Trump is unlikely to be the first: In the face of a mountain of evidence regarding his conduct toward Ukraine and his blatant stonewalling of the House impeachment inquiry, no one with a brain thinks there is any chance he will be convicted.
So it seems only fair to ask: Did the Founders make it too difficult for the Article I branch of government to remove a president?
The question is an uncomfortable one. For one, it raises the possibility that the revered Founding Fathers, well, just got this wrong. And Americans do not want to think about the possibility that the Founders failed in their constitutional aspirations, and that the country’s regression to the mean of autocratic rule was thus inexorable.
It also makes clear the reality that in a nation almost equally divided into two political parties with starkly different visions for the nation’s future, the supermajority threshold of 67 votes—the two-thirds requirement as specified in the Constitution—to impeach a president is an incredibly high bar. Regardless of whether senators have a principled view of a president’s particular conduct, their judgment will be overruled by the pull of party loyalty.