This opinion piece, published in the New York Times, describes President Trump’s order sending the military to meet the caravan of immigrants at the U.S.-Mexican border as an unprecedented abuse of military power. The caravan referred to is that of the thousands of immigrants moving north towards the United States from Central America. President Trump has used the caravan to boost his anti-immigration rhetoric over the past few weeks. Trump recently ordered that 5800 military troops march to meet the immigrants, an action which the opinion piece above theorizes was taken solely to curry political favor. If that is that case, it would be an unprecedented abuse of military power.
Though what Trump did was technically legal, the opinion claims that it amounts to an abuse of military power. To use and move troops for no other reason than to gain political advantage is a first for American presidents. The piece points out that though other presidents have referred to military actions in speeches to increase their popularity, there are no examples of presidents that have taken military action within the United States for no other reason than to curry political favor. It argues politics must be the sole reason for the order because in the past similar border threats have been dealt with by fewer troops and the national guard alone. By treating the situation as a more serious threat, Trump has turned a group of tired immigrants into a national security threat. As such, Trump’s manner of dealing with the caravan amounts to an unprecedented abuse of military power.
Abuse of military power has historically been considered an impeachable offense. Professor Frank Bowman wrote an article about the history of British impeachments (found here), entitled “British Impeachmnets (1376 – 1787) & the Present American Constitutional Crisis.” In it he explores historical British impeachment procedure and specific examples of British impeachments. He cites to several examples of British officers that were impeached for military blunders. For instance, Michael de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk, was impeached for failure to adequately utilize funds for maritime defense and bungling a military expedition to relieve Ghent. In 1626 parliamentary outrage over George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham’s, military incompetence also led to articles of impeachment.
The phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors” is the vague descriptor of what qualifies an act as impeachable. It can be difficult to tell what the founding fathers intended to fall into that scope. However, the drafters of the Constitution would have known of these British impeachments. An impeachment of a president for abuse of military power does not seem out of the realm of possibility, because of the historical precedent already in place for such a thing, and because the enormous power that is placed with the President as the Commander in Chief. Without a way to rectify abuse of said power there would be little balance between the branches of government. Therefore, it is arguable that in moving 5800 troops to the border Trump has committed another act worthy of impeachment.