MU law professor Frank Bowman was in college in 1974 when the attorneys behind Watergate inspired him to study law. In 2001, his small co-contribution to former President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial made it to the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee. Today, he has written his way into the discussion of the current president’s affairs, fascinated with the same subject 43 years later.
Bowman’s blog “Impeachable Offenses” was featured in the New York Times on Aug. 28 and explores the legal arguments for and against the impeachment of President Donald Trump.
“Impeachment isn’t something that happens a lot; it happens very rarely, in fact,” Bowman said. “When it does happen, it’s the center of the political discussion. Those are issues of national debate. It’s kind of fun to talk about them.”
The New York Times article, “Writers on the Right and Left on Trump’s Pardon of Joe Arpaio,” is a compilation of political writings about the pardon of the former Arizona sheriff who was convicted of criminal contempt of court for disregarding a judge’s order and was later pardoned by President Trump.
The piece features various political perspectives, Bowman’s placed in the “center” category and is a part of the series “Partisan Writing Roundup,” according to an MU School of Law news brief.
The featured posts are just few of many posts on Bowman’s blog, more of which are added daily.
“A lot of my writing on the blog has been about trying to do serious, careful, legal thinking about a lot of the issues that have been raised in the impeachment discussion,” Bowman said.
Bowman does not claim to be completely unbiased and did vote for the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, in the 2016 presidential election according to his blog’s mission statement.
“I deeply disapprove of the current president,” Bowman said. “I think he represents an unprecedented danger to the republic. I don't think that’s hyperbole, I think that’s true.”
However, Bowman said he often disapproves of the arguments made by others who share his views because they don’t abide by the law or could be seen as “careless.” Prior to the Arpaio pardon, which he found arguably violated the due process clause, Bowman said he didn’t find any legally viable impeachable offenses.
“If you’re going to make legal arguments, they have to have the same kind of rigor and support that you would use if you were talking about someone you didn’t dislike so much,” Bowman said. “If you trot out a lot of stuff that’s transparently weak, you weaken your own case.”
Bowman said the purpose of his blog is to compile sufficient factual information and sound thinking on the public record so that, if the time comes, serious people could consider moving forward with impeachment if there are solid reasons for doing so.
“A lot of people don’t really understand what impeachment is, how it works, how very indeterminate it is because, in fact, it turns out the procedures are pretty clear but the standards are not for what constitutes an impeachable offense,” Bowman said.
Bowman said the country could become more divided if the discussion and process are not carefully thought out, should impeachment become a reality.
“The backlash from the residual people who continue to support him would make our politics even uglier than they already are and tear the country even further apart,” Bowman said.
Bowman’s first experience with impeachment was through watching President Richard Nixon go through the process prior to his resignation in August 1974. Prior to watching the trial, Bowman was studying pre-med biochemistry at Colorado College but changed majors the semester after.
“By and large, the Nixon affair went as well as it could have gone because the process of investigating what the president had done was conducted in a bipartisan way by serious, intelligent people who proceeded in a sober way,” Bowman said. “When it was all over there really wasn’t a lot of resistance to the result.”
Professional student Samuel Crosby is in his second year of law school and currently working for Bowman, posting daily updates to the blog. These updates involve links to news and law review articles as well as interpretations of each source’s individual application to the chance of impeachment.
“I like professor Bowman’s writings because I think he’s a very centric writer; he’s not partisan, so he gives an even analysis,” Crosby said.
Questioning the impeachment of any public official often brings opposition from supporters of that individual. Bowman said he receives “nasty” emails and threatening phone calls, even at his MU office.
“If somebody's not screaming at me, then I’m obviously not doing a very good job,” Bowman said.
Bowman worked as a federal prosecutor for the Justice Department in Washington, D.C., and has spent the last 12 years teaching at MU. He said his job gives him the platform to do work like that of his blog.
“I get to teach a lot of really smart young people how to be really good lawyers, and it gives me the opportunity to do this kind of thing, to provide some kind of public service outside of the classroom,” Bowman said.
Edited by Olivia Garrett | firstname.lastname@example.org