John Yoo, the former Justice Department official best known for authoring the infamous "torture memos" during the George W. Bush administration, came under fire Thursday for suggesting Wednesday night that the framers of the U.S. Constitution would object to the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump.
"What the framers thought was the American people would judge a president at the time of the election," Yoo told Fox News anchor Laura Ingraham. "They would never have wanted impeachment within a year of an election. It's up to the American people. If the American people think Trump has done wrong, they don't have to return him to office."
Fox guest John Yoo says the framers of the Constitution "would never have wanted impeachment within a year of an election" pic.twitter.com/Yjd7ZBYguR
— Jason Campbell (@JasonSCampbell) October 17, 2019
That claim led a number of historians and journalists to attack the notion that Yoo is fit to discuss constitutional law, referring to his penning in 2002 memos that provided the Bush administration with legal cover to launch its torture program—a clear violation of the U.S. Constitution and international law.
A lot of historians are going to be dunking on John Yoo for these idiotic comments, so please -- form an orderly line. https://t.co/NU2ppISlSJ
— Kevin M. Kruse (@KevinMKruse) October 17, 2019
"Yoo also says torture is good for America, so take that into consideration when estimating the value of his legal opinion," tweeted political blogger Lars Olsson.
— Lars Olsson (@larsolsson) October 17, 2019
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Contrary to Yoo's claim, some pointed out, there is historical precedent for impeachment hearings even closer to a presidential election than the U.S. is today: the House voted to impeach President Andrew Johnson months before the 1868 election.
The founders didn't actually specify this but the House voted to impeach Andrew Johnson in February 1868, nine months before the next presidential election. (Famously, House Rs voted to impeach Clinton in a lame duck session.) https://t.co/GtdVjdcxDa
— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) October 17, 2019
Perhaps John Yoo’s best legal analysis since torture. Andrew Johnson came within one vote of removal at his impeachment trial less than six months before he was eligible for election. https://t.co/ZhMr4uLaPE
— Richard Tofel (@dicktofel) October 17, 2019
The Constitution contains no prohibition on impeachment based on proximity to an election. I’m sure the textualists will agree that if the framers had intended a time limit, they would have said so. https://t.co/GPtmev8N53
— Barb McQuade (@BarbMcQuade) October 17, 2019
Yoo's argument that the framers would want the government to abide by the American public's wishes was not a factor in his promotion of the use of torture nearly two decades ago. A 2010 study by Reed College found that, contrary to how many polls were reported at the time, "a majority of Americans were opposed to torture throughout the Bush presidency."
One critic noted that even if Yoo was correct about the framers' desires regarding impeachment, those same politicians would also "have wanted to own slaves."
"That they could torture," added comedian and activist Rob Delaney.