The “And” Defense Doesn’t Work

I’m trying to say less about our former president and his minions — including the entire Republican Party — now that they have a lesser role in our lives, but a correction to the previous post is in order. Therein I considered the argument that a president cannot be impeached after leaving office because of the way the Constitution is worded. Two law professors explain why this is clearly wrong (I apologize for not noticing what they point out):

. . . Some have argued that the constitutional clause providing that “Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust, or Profit under the United States” implies that any consequence of conviction must consist of both removal and disqualification from future office — which could happen only in the case of sitting officers.

That is not what the clause says. It says the judgment may not “extend further” than these two sanctions. It does not say that both sanctions must be imposed in every case. Indeed, most convictions over the years involved only one, removal from office.

Clearly, if punishment cannot extend beyond X and Y, it means that X and Y are both allowed, but nothing else is. The Senate can’t add punishment Z to the mix, but they can apply either X or Y or the two together.

In this particular president’s case, it means that, although it’s too late to remove him from office, he can be barred from a future government position. Unfortunately, however, he can’t be forced to shave his head and wear a dunce cap.

Despite the above, Republican senators will still argue that he’s beyond punishment. They fear the former president’s radical supporters. But it’s good to understand why they’re wrong about the Constitution.

(Note: I still say we need to add “andor” to English, so we can easily say “this andor that”, while leaving “and” to mean “both” and “or” to mean “either this or that, but not both”.)