Donald Trump has long had a habit of taking to Twitter to attack his enemies with insults, ridicule, and often flatly false accusations. His activity continued after his 2016 presidential election win and subsequent inauguration. In March of 2017, Trump accused President Barack Obama of wiretapping him, with zero evidence that any such thing had occurred. Trump later admitted that he posted the tweet simply on the basis of “a hunch,” according to Newsweek.
But Trump’s often wild, insulting, and angry tweets could ultimately lead to his impeachment, according to an analysis by Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank — who wrote that a previous president has faced impeachment over what Congress described as “scandalous harangues,” a description that could also be applied to many of Trump’s tweets.
On his Twitter account, Trump has described four-star General Stanley A. McChrystal as having been “fired like a dog.” He referred to his own appointed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as “dumb as a rock” and “lazy as hell,” in another Twitter post. And in numerous Twitter posts, he has condemned the news media as “the enemy of the people,” among many other examples.
But in 1868, President Andrew Johnson became the first U.S. president to be impeached, as Senate.gov records. One of the 11 articles of impeachment leveled against him accused Johnson of delivering speeches “with a loud voice, certain intemperate, inflammatory, and scandalous harangues.”
The same article of impeachment, Article 10, also accused Johnson of being “unmindful of the high duties of his high office and the dignity and proprieties thereof,” and trying to “bring into disgrace, ridicule, hatred, contempt and reproach, the Congress of the United States.” Johnson’s behavior was “indecent” and “unbecoming” of the presidency, and brought “contempt, ridicule, and disgrace” on the office, Congress said in the impeachment article.
The exact type of behavior described in impeachment Article 10 against Johnson also “defines Trump’s presidency,” Milbank wrote. But the framers of the Constitution were unprepared for a chief executive like Trump because, Milbank wrote, they simply “assumed a president would be upstanding.”
In fact, in his Federalist Paper Number 68 — the text of which is posted online by Yale University Law School — Founding Father Alexander Hamilton wrote that successful candidates for president would need to be “characters pre-eminent for ability and virtue,” or voters certainly would not support them.
Milbank points out that in the requirement that a president commit “high crimes and misdemeanors” in order to be impeached, the word “misdemeanor” simply meant “misbehavior,” in the era when the U.S. was founded — rather than the definition of the word today, which refers to minor criminal acts.
Trump’s attacks on special counsel Robert Mueller alone — Trump has called Mueller “angry,” “conflicted,” a prosecutor “gone rogue,” and other epithets — are “the very definition of misdemeanor,” Milbank wrote.