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Harvard Faculty Sign Open Letter Calling for Trump’s Impeachment

A dozen Harvard faculty signed an open letter as of Monday evening supporting the impeachment of President Donald J. Trump for the second time during his term.
A dozen Harvard faculty signed an open letter as of Monday evening supporting the impeachment of President Donald J. Trump for the second time during his term. By Mairead B. Baker
By Oliver L. Riskin-Kutz, Crimson Staff Writer

Twelve Harvard faculty joined more than 300 American historians and legal scholars in signing an open letter calling for President Donald J. Trump to be impeached for the second time in his presidential term.

The letter comes as lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have publicly demanded Trump’s removal from office following a deadly riot by his supporters at the U.S. Capitol building. The storming occurred after an inflammatory speech by Trump in which he repeated baseless claims that he won the presidential election.

Democrats in the House of Representatives introduced an article of impeachment on Monday, charging Trump with “incitement of insurrection.” The House is likely to vote to impeach on Wednesday.

The academics’ letter calls Trump a “clear and present danger to American democracy and the national security of the United States.”

“By fomenting violence against the Congress and seeking to subvert constitutional democracy, which resulted in the killing of a Capitol police officer and the deaths of several rioters, Trump has violated his oath of office to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” it reads.

As of Monday evening, the 12 Harvard-affiliated signatories to the letter include faculty in History, History of Science, and African and African American Studies departments, the Law School, and the Kennedy School, in addition to University Professor Laurence H. Tribe and award-winning historian and journalist James Carroll, an associate at the Mahindra Humanities Center.

Carroll said in an interview that he signed the letter as soon as it was sent to him on Sunday.

“Trump simply must be held accountable for the crimes he committed last Wednesday in blatantly encouraging the savaging of the U.S. Capitol,” he said. “If that’s not criminal behavior by a president, I don’t know what is.”

History of Science Professor Elizabeth A. Lunbeck, who signed the letter, said impeachment would be a moment of long-delayed accountability for the president.

“He’s never been held to account in his entire life – he’s gotten away with metaphorically shooting people on Fifth Avenue,” she said. “If he gets away with this, we might as well do away with the option to impeach at all.”

Kennedy School professor Alexander Keyssar, another one of the letter’s signatories, said impeachment would send a forceful message, amounting to “a strong public sanction and something of a drawing of a line in the sand.”

“Saying, ‘you can’t go here,’ whether addressed to him or other presidents,” Keyssar added.

While some Republican lawmakers have argued against impeachment on the grounds that Democrats should seek “unity” rather than stoking a political fight, Kennedy School lecturer and letter signatory Richard J. Parker said he disagreed.

“At some point — whether we’re Democrats or Republicans or liberal or conservative — we have to reclaim the centrality of law and reason,” he said.

Trump became the third American president to be impeached in December 2019. If the House votes to impeach him again, which is likely to occur on Wednesday, Trump would become the first president to be impeached twice.

Even if impeachment does not remove Trump from office before the end of his term, Carroll said it would force the president to “think twice about what he does” for the remaining eight days of his term.

It would also act as a lasting rebuke and a mark on his legacy, Carroll added.

“Just to be impeached is a disgrace,” he said. “To be impeached twice – that will be the first thing said about Trump in his obituary.”

—Staff writer Oliver L. Riskin-Kutz can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @OLRiskinKutz.

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FASHarvard Law SchoolHarvard Kennedy SchoolAf Am DepartmentHistoryHistory of Science