More than 700 American historians have called for the impeachment and removal of Donald Trump.
“We are American historians devoted to studying our nation’s past,” began an open letter posted to Medium, “who have concluded that Donald J Trump has violated his oath to ‘faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States’ and to ‘preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States’.”
Two articles of impeachment will be voted on in the House of Representatives on Wednesday. They concern abuse of power, in Trump’s attempts to have Ukraine investigate his political rivals, and obstruction of Congress, in his refusal to allow key aides to testify in impeachment hearings.
Despite extensive evidence laid out in those House committee hearings, the president denies any wrongdoing.
The articles are expected to be approved, virtually on party lines, setting up a trial in the Senate in January which Republican senators, nominally impartial jurors, have said will be swift and run in close cooperation with the White House and will ultimately acquit the president. Democrats have cried foul.
Brenda Wineapple, author of The Impeachers, about the Johnson trial, signed the open letter, as did Rick Perlstein, author of Nixonland, and Sidney Blumenthal, a former Clinton aide and author of The Clinton Wars and so far three volumes of a five-volume life of Abraham Lincoln.
“President Trump’s numerous and flagrant abuses of power are precisely what the framers had in mind as grounds for impeaching and removing a president,” the historians wrote.
“Among those most hurtful to the constitution have been his attempts to coerce the country of Ukraine, under attack from Russia, an adversary power to the United States, by withholding essential military assistance in exchange for the fabrication and legitimisation of false information in order to advance his own re-election.
“President Trump’s lawless obstruction of the House of Representatives, which is rightly seeking documents and witness testimony in pursuit of its constitutionally mandated oversight role, has demonstrated brazen contempt for representative government.
“So have his attempts to justify that obstruction on the grounds that the executive enjoys absolute immunity, a fictitious doctrine that, if tolerated, would turn the president into an elected monarch above the law.”
Among other signatories who cited revolutionary authorities including George Mason and Alexander Hamilton were Ron Chernow, Pulitzer prize-winning author of biographies of Hamilton, George Washington and Ulysses S Grant; Eric Foner, the author of seminal works on slavery; David Blight, author of a Pulitzer prize-winning life of Frederick Douglass; and Erica Armstrong Dunbar, author of Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge and She Came to Slay, a new biography of Harriet Tubman.
The University of Liverpool historian Amanda Foreman, author of A World on Fire, a history of Britain and the American civil war, also signed the letter. So did Ken Burns, the documentary maker whose work on the civil war, the west, jazz, baseball, country music and Vietnam, among other subjects, has made him a pillar of US public life.
“Collectively,” the historians wrote, “the president’s offences, including his dereliction in protecting the integrity of the 2020 election from Russian disinformation and renewed interference, arouse once again the framers’ most profound fears that powerful members of government would become, in Hamilton’s words, ‘the mercenary instruments of foreign corruption’.”
“It is our considered judgment,” the historians wrote, “that if President Trump’s misconduct does not rise to the level of impeachment, then virtually nothing does.”