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U of T experts write opposing op-eds about whether Donald Trump should be impeached for his words in Helsinki

U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands during a joint press conference after their summit on July 16 in Helsinki (photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

At a summit in Helsinki, U.S. President Donald Trump caused an uproar by seemingly agreeing with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who denied that his country meddled in the 2016 American presidential election, contrary to the conclusions of U.S. intelligence agencies.

Trump's comments were characterized as “disgraceful” and “shameful” by U.S. leaders from both parties. John Brennan, director of the CIA under Barack Obama, even said Trump's words constituted “treason.”

Trump later said he misspoke at the news conference, mixing up “would” and “wouldn't be” when it came to describing Russia's interference in the election. 

Are Trump's words grounds for impeachment? Mark Kingwell, a professor in the philosophy department, and Clifford Orwin, a professor of political science, argue opposite sides in the Globe and Mail this week.

On the pro side, Kingwell says it's time to remove Trump from office because his words meet the definition of treason in the U.S. Constitution, namely that it “shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies giving them aid and comfort.”

Orwin disagrees. Although “stupid, shocking and disgraceful,” Trump's remarks don't create a constitutional crisis or amount to high crimes and misdemeanours, the justification for impeachment, Orwin says. 

Unless the Robert Mueller investigation or the probe of Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen reveal evidence of high crimes, “all talk of impeachment is merely an expression of that very hyper-partisanship that Mr. Trump delights to stoke,” Orwin writes.

Read Kingwell's op-ed in the Globe and Mail

Read Orwin's op-ed